Tomm Carroll’s 2010 Great American Beer Festival Adventures (Part 4)

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Beer Festival Denver

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

Cali cleaning up!
Sat, Sep 18, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Beer Festival Denver

Dave Watrous of Tonys Darts Away, left, congratulates Julian Shrago, brewer in waiting at Beachwood Brewing, on winning Silver for port brewing’s Panzer Pils in the Other Strong Ale and Lager category.

Firestone won gold in Barrel-aged Stout category foe Velvet Merkin (not Merlin yet).

And Ballast Point took gold for the Fanthom IPL in (I think) Experimental category.

More local winners at GABF
Sat, Sep 18, 2010 at 2:06 PM

More good SoCal news:

Patrick Rue and The Bruery’s Oude Tart wins fold in Belgian style sour category.

Jonathan Porter and Tustin Brewing wins bronze in his namesake Robust Porter category for Blimp Hangar Porter.

Some surprises in the usually CA-dominated brewery awards…

Small Brewery of year: Mad River Brewing

Mid-sized Brewery of year: Utah Brewers Cooperative

Large Brewery of Year: Blue Moon?!

And the brewpubs we do much better in:

Large Brewpub and brewer: Pizza Port Carlsbad, and Jeff Bagby

Group Brewpub and Brewer: TAPS Fish House & Brewery of Brea, Victor Novak

Small brewpub and brewer: Pizza Port San Clemente and Noah Regnery.

GABF session 3 (Saturday afternoon)

Beer Festival Denver

Celebrating their Gold Medal win in the Pro-Am category for Red Velvet are Eagle Rock Brewery’s Ting, left, and Jeremy Raub, Patrick Morse and Steve Raub. The group would also be found partying down at the Falling Rock later Saturday night.

Proving that it’s never to early to drink good beer, the 3rd session of GABF got underway at 12:30 pm on Saturday. The Brewers Association “Members Only” session, it is typically less crowded and the only sesssion where the attendees are given tasting glasses made of real glass. It’s also the session during which the GABF awards are handed out.

I reported on the notable Southern California wins previously, but you can find the entire winners list HERE.

Beer Festival Denver

Big Wins for the OC at GABF: Patrick Rue of The Bruery in Placentia, Gold medal winner for Oude Tart, is flanked by Evan Price, left, and Kyle Mann of TAPS Fish House and Brewery of Brea, which won several awards, including Gold for Remy, an aged strong stout, and Bronze for their Schwarzbier, and was awarded Brewpub Group of the Year.

Next, some of the standout beers tasted during that session…

Rest of GABF Session 3 plus Session 4

Beer Festival Denver

The legendary Sam Caligione pouring beers at the Dogfish Head booth during the afternoon session — when most brewers/owners are long gone.

Attended the awards ceremony, but did manage to get to a few great beers in before and after:

Upstream Grand Cru (an amazing oak-aged Belgian Tripel, a style that I find seldom works).
Great Lakes’ Glockenspiel (a banana-creamy weizenbock)
Brugge Brasserie Pooka (interesting boysenberry sour)
Brugge Brasserie Spider King X (a funky American Wild ale)
Iron Hill Pig Iron Porter (robust and gold medal-winning)
Weyerbacher Lima (an excellent, roasty Black IPA)
Weyerbacher 15 (anniversary beer, a wonderfully balanced imperial stout)
Triumph Jewish Rye (like drinking rye bread; is that a caraway seed in my teeth? Just in time for the holidays)
Triumph Zintronenweizen (an unlikey hefeweizen with lemon Zest added, making for a big candy citrus-banana flavor)
Cigar City Hunahpu Imperial Stout (amazingly sweet, roasty and complex, with cacao, vanilla, cinnamon and chilies)
Triple Rock 7-Fity (bronze-winning very hoppy strong ale)
Triple Rock Collaborative Evil (intersting take on a Baltic Porter with licorice and maple syrup)
Gordon Biersch Rauchbier (very nice, if a little phenolic; bronze winner nonetheless)
Gordon Biersch Gose (Who knew? Nice take on the ancient style; rock salt evident)

Didn’t get to all of the beers I wanted to atthe early session, so I did a quick half-hour run thru the second session until it turns into the inevitable frat party. Wasn’t time to take notes on these, but here are my 1 or 2 stars:

New Glarus Red Tart (always a winner, this year bronze in the Fruit category)
New Glarus Enigma (lives up to it’s name with a finish of…cookies!)
Shorts Key Lime Pie (deserved gold winner in fruit category; even the crust makes it into the taste. Astounding. )
Also, Shorts’ orange Peppercorn Beer, Spruce Lager and Wizard barleywine — all exceptional!
2 new ones from Dogfish Head: the ne Bitches Brew, grain to Glass, and Tamarillo Porter.

Beer Festival Denver

The Sierra Nevada pedal bar, Which was taken for a spin (sans beer thanks to liquor laws) thru Denver on Friday.

Got some T-shirts and split for dinner…


Post-GABF: Meet Martin & Lauren and Josh & Serena for a (mostly) non-beer dinner back at Euclid Hall (see Wednesday’s posting for more info thereon). I have Boulevard Brewing’s Tank, a spicy Belgian-style ale as an aperitif, and a Great Divide Milk Stout with my dinner, the traditional Chicken and Waffles with walnuts, which I nurse thru our dessert course (it goes amazingly with the pretzel-fried chocolate pie, as well as the Funnel Cake Fried Bananas with peanut butter caramel).

Next, it’s off to the unofficial GABF after-party at Falling Rock, including Dr. Bill Sysak’s annual rare beer bottle share downstairs, to which we bring a few rarities to share with the masses. Had tastes of The Bruery barrel-aged Coton, De Molen’s Donder & Blicksem, Cascade’s The Vine, and Switzerland’s Trois Dames’ Grand Dame Oud Bruin, and maybe a couple others, before escaping the sauna that was the Falling Rock’s downstairs area and repairing to the outside patio (this being another unseasonably warm Denver night) to hang with most of the remaining LA/OC contigent (Eagle Rock, The Bruery and Julian Shrago celebrating their awards; and the rest of us SoCal folks), as well as Toronado SFs Dave “Big Daddy” Keene, Blue Palms’ Brian Lenzo. Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo, Allagash’s Rob Tod, New Belgium’s Dallas Byerly and more.

Speaking of New Belgium, a whole lotta rare NB beers were tapped that night, including a Grand Cru and the barrel-aged Love with blackberries, first time released outta the brewery. Sour beers for a sweet celebration of SoCal victories at the fest. Another good GABF, especially for our “visiting team.”

Final Post: GABF Post-Mortem
Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 7:16 PM

The morning after: I like to take a late flight home on the Sunday after GABF. Firstly, and obviously, it’s the first chance to sleep in, and so avoid any of those insufferable mile-high hangovers. But also, it allows for some quiet reflection. Plus, 99% of the fest crowds are gone, or heading outta town. The always chock-full-during-GABF Falling Rock is amazingly suddenly spacious. Locals watching the football games (including the Denver Bronco’s winning home opener today) and other fest visitors chilling out with some hair of the dog before hitting the road, or the skies, are the only ones around.

So, after hitting Denver’s great Argonaut liquor (and beer) store to load up my beer suitcase to bring home some otherwise attainable brews, I take a wall thru the 91° heat to Falling Rock for a post-GABF drink(s). Others with the same idea include the aforementioned Brit beer judges Melissa and Glen, and brewer Jeff Horner of Cisco Brewers on Nantucket.

So, after a short pour draught beer (or four, actually: the Mutinous Battle Chai collaboration between New Holland Brewing and Mutineer Magazine, Pizza Port Carlsbad’s golden IPA Kung Fu Elvis, Mikkeller’s Monk’s Elixir, and Petrus Aged Pale — in that order), I got a chance to reflect on GABF 2010.

First off, anyone serious about craft beer in this country owes it to themselves to atend this gathering at least once. From homebrewer to beer bar owner to budding beer blogger, it should be on next year’s schedule if it wasn’t on this year’s.

Secondly, as the U.S. Craft Beer movement grows exponentially, there are more beers, more brewers, more attendees, more parties, more special beer events, and more beer-aware restaurants in Denver every year. Tasting, meeting, networking and learning opportunities likewise increase every year. And besides. Where else are you gonna get to taste 5 or 6 great beers from the otherwise elusive and secluded New Glarus Brewing, who have no interest in expanding their distribution beyond their Wisconsin home?

Speaking of which, the breweries that impressed me the most (not counting the CA and other breweries we have great access to) this year were the perennial fave New Glarus, as well as Short’s of Michigan, Cigar City of Florida and Weyerbacher of Pennsylvania, nearly all of whose beers were exceptional, and nearly impossible to get on the West Coast.

As hops and alcohol levels seem to rise each year (not always in a good way), I found this year that experimental beers, with unlikely ingredients and flavors, seem to be increasing, and with surprisingly delicious results.

So-called dessert beers, in particular, seem to be the trend, and many of them really impressed me this year. From Short’s gold-medaled Key Lime Pie to Cigar City’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie to Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout to Cambridge Brewing’s CaCow to Eagle Rock’s Red Velvet to Hoppin’ Frog’s Double Pumpkin to the Creme Brulee beer whose brewery I’m blanking on, these examples prove that beer can be sweet AND good as well.

Smoke beers, including the German rauchbier style, also seem to be making headway in the craft brew world They happen to be one of favorite styles and i was pleasantly surprised to see there were 38 entries this year with a higher quality level to boot. Gold-winner (again) Alaskan Smoked Porter has become the benchmark for American smoke beers, but I really thought Maui’s Smokestack Lager should’ve at least placed. The appearance of big, rich smoked porters and smoked imperial stouts (see previous mentions) was also welcome, and those high-gravity full-bodied beers really stand up to the smokiness. More of these please.

Beer Festival Denver

Last Call: My final beers in Denver were the Mojo Risin’ double IPA and the Planet Porter at the Boulder Brewing Tap House at the airport, the former paired (nicely, I might add) with the Southwest Salad w/ chicken and a cup of Thai Chicken Soup.

Hope to see you next year in Denver for GABF 2011.

Craft — and Crap — on tap at the Boulder Brewing Tap House at Denver’s Airport.

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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