Tomm Carroll’s 2010 Great American Beer Festival Adventures (Part 1)

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Beer Festival Denver

Through September 18, beer writer Tomm Carroll is filing quick-hitting dispatches from the Great American Beer Festival on his iPhone. Read his reports from the Super Bowl of beer.

GABF Bound!
Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Wednesday morning, GABF eve, LAX. It’s becoming a tradition: a Gordon Biersch Märzen at the Southwest Terminal bar. Drinking a little vinous and grapey, but the young guy from Houston sitting next to me, a former Bud man, tried it for the first time and likes it a lot. As usual, I presume it will be the last mediocre beer I’ll have in the next five days. Stay tuned.

Beer LAX

Lunch at Rock Bottom Denver
Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Arrive in Denver 1:35 local time — 30 mins ahead of schedule; more time for beer! Share a cab to downtown with Kevin Brand, owner and brewer of (512) Brewing in Austin, TX. Promise to visit his booth at the fest.

A few beer geeks milling about on this sunny, unseasonably warm, upper 80°s day, but it’s not (yet) obvious that the nation’s beer fest is only 24 hours away. Find my way to the surprisingly uncrowded Rock Bottom brewpub on the 16th St. mall for lunch. With my grilled chicken sandwich a la a Philly cheese steak, I have short pours (gotta vet my “beer legs,” drinking a mile above sea level) of:

Dream IPA, brewed with oats and dry-hopped with Cascade. 8%. Golden colored, big piney-citrus nose and a taste that follows thru. Oats add some sweet graininess that belies the alcohol.

Black IPA, made with Simcoe, Nugget, Amarillo and Cascade hops, 6.8%. Despite the veritable hop army, they provide the nose and the bitter finish, but the de-husked Carafa Type-I dark malt holds its own in the flavor with a chocolately, malty counter offensive. Tasty beer, but not the best of the style (first time the style is in the GABF competition, I believe).

Schwarz Hacker, a 4.8% Schwarzbier. Chocolately and mild. OK beer but nothing out of the ordinary.

Raspberry Bourbon Porter. Aged for 9 months and 9.1%. Wonderful candy nose. And a super-sweet raspberry-vanilla sugar bomb. Nice blend of flavors but where’s the wood? Better as it settles, but definitely dessert fare.

I’m outta here. Time to rest up for this evening…

Beer Festival Denver

Pre-GABF Brewers Gathering
Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 10:52 PM

The pre-eminent pre-GABF event is the Brewers Gathering at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. Not known as much for its beers as its wonderful historical 3-level pub, the Wynkoop hosted the event again his year with a free feed and 20 breweries each featuring one of their rarer beers for brewers and press.

Among the ones I got to taste were:

Alaskan Brewing’s Bourbon-Aged Smoked Porter: Mild vanilla notes to the smoke soften/sweeten the taste without overwhelming it; very nice — my fave of the tasting.

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout: Creamy, almost bourbony, and a tad chewy.

Iron Hill Saison: Spicy, herbal and floral, but gets lost with all these other strong beers.

Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald: Nice qnd semi-robust, but not enough to get wrecked on (for you older fans of Gordon Lightfoot).

COOP Ale Works Territorial Reserve Oak-aged Imperial Stout: Rich and dried fruity, but ultimately thin in mouthfeel and one-dimensional.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin (neé Merkin): wonderful, as usual, and holds up well with the other strong beers here.

Bell’s Hopslam: oh yeah, a hop-syrupy IPA to cut thru all the malty goodness.

Ran into there were Patrick Morse of Eagle Rock Brewery, Jonas from The Bruery, Jay Brooks from the Brookston Beer Bulletin. Glen Payne of Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, UK and British beer writer Melissa Cole (neither of the latter a fan of fellow kingdom mates BrewDog, whom they acknowledge as “great self promoters” — altho Melissa admits to liking the 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin), Ron Kloth of Papago Brewing of Scottsdale, AZ (who was dissing L.A. beer culture and pooh-poohed L.A. Beer Week despite my protestatons; just wait, we’ll show him.) and the newly Belgian Brewers Guild knighted Sir Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, whom I followed out the door to…

My Dinner with Sir Greg
Thurs, Sep 16, 2010 at 1:45 AM

…join an entourage heading to Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen, where there is a Stone pairing on the menu. It was built in 1883.

The Marlin Crudo, with caper, lemon, pine nuts, argon oil, parsley and deviled egg, went pretty well with the Stone Levitation Ale. But the dessert match-up of a Sourdough Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich of salted Butterscotch ice cream and praline with Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard was a pair to remember.

Sir Greg of Stone went on the record on a few things over dinner.

He said the Stone Vertical Epic 02.02.02 was still drinking good, that Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous is exactly the same as Stone 11, that he favors the designation of Black IPA over Cascadian Dark Ale — which he finds “just silly,” and that Stone’s search for a European outpost is considering sites in Germany and France; he says that there’s a 75% chance right now that the European invasion will occur.

Beer Festival Denver

Also in the house was Stone-distributed Maui Brewing‘s Brewer/owner Garrett Marrero and his youthful mom, Anita, who heads up his mainland operation. Garrett reports that his Abbey ale, Father Damian, as well as Heaven and Hell, a hibiscus-infused Belgian-style Tripel, will soon be making their way to the West Coast, and that kegged Maui beers will be coming to LA — possibly for L.A. BEER WEEK!

Missed Falling Rock, but will likely be there every other night…

Tomm Carroll is a feature writer and the L.A. correspondent for the Celebrator Beer News, the oldest beeriodical in the United States. He has also written about beer for the Ale Street News, Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Today, and is an experienced Beer Judge in homebrew and commercial competitions. An avid beer drinker, enthusiast, collector, writer and traveler, he drinks locally and globally. He can be reached at [email protected].

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[…] Through September 18, beer writer Tomm Carroll is filing quick-hitting dispatches from the 2010 Great American Beer Festival on his iPhone. Click Here to Read About His First Day at the Super Bowl of beer. […]

Good start to the trip! I love the Gordon Biersch photo. Nice framing.


Tomm’s Gordon Biersch photo could easily be used in promotional materials.

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