Tomm Carroll’s Great American Beer Festival Adventures

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Beer Festival Denver

From September 23 – 26, 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.

Coors Field/Sandlot Brewpub
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 5:55 PM

A gorgeous Denver afternoon at the ballpark. Like Saturday, Sunday has temps in the mid-80s, so with some time to kill, we score some tickets on the street and watch the Colorado Rockies squeak past the St. Louis Cards.

Beer Festival Denver
Not a rabid baseball fan, but always wanted to visit The Sandlot brewpub at the Field. Coors’ experimental brewery where Blue Moon was born.

The Sandlot is pretty spacious with inside seats and a patio facing Market Street. Flat screens are all around — and even audio play-by-play is piped everywhere, from the elevators in the stadium to the restrooms. Okay, time for some beer…

A flight at the Sandlot: Blue Moon Honey
Moon, left, Pilsner, Hefeweizen and Right Field Red. More beers than the Cards scored runs.

Beer Festival Denver
Blue Moon Honey Moon had honey notes in the nose and mouth, but also some complementary spices. Kinda a cross between a honey wheat beer and a saison.

Pilsner was a damn site better that the Coors (or Bud or Miller) basic beers posing as the real thing. A definite hop presence but nicely balanced.

Hefeweizen was pretty decent. Unfiltered and lotsa cloves in aroma and flavor. Not much banana, tho.

Right Field Red had a medium body and a caramelly malt flavor. Not a fan of the beer style, I nonetheless found it enjoyable.

Now of course these beers pale in comparison to the Sandlot’s best brews (see earlier posts), let alone the majority of beers at the fest, but I don’t think I’ve has more agreeable beer at a ballpark — especially given the summer-like temps.

The Rockies win, I get a pleasant buzz and before I know it, I’m off to the airport for th flight home. Another great GABF.

We now return you to your regular Food GPS posts…

The Morning After GABF
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Managed to get over to Argonaut Liquors in Denver to load up the beer suitcase with some Colorado, Kansas City and Dutch (de Moelen!) brews not otherwise available in SoCal. Also found canned six packs of my fave IPA of the fest, Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing in Durango. Here I am in the lobby of my hotel, The Curtis, lightening the load for home.

Beer Festival Denver

GABF Saturday night after party
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 4:26 PM

The feeding frenzy ensues at Dr. Bill’s (foreground) annual rare beer tasting at Falling Rock.

Beer Festival Denver
Leaving the final 4th session of GABF to the amateurs (who typically turn it into a frathouse party) I opt omtead to have dinner with the folks from Library Alehouse. Sullivan’ s Steak House had some amazing steaks and seafood, and definitely provided me with my best meal of the visit (ahi tuna steak, seared rare). However, despite their excellent food and impressive wine list, the beer list wasn’t much better than what you’d find at a local LA 7-Eleven. They wouldn’t even let us pay a corkage fee to drink some of the rare beers I had along with me. Hello, Sully, this is Denver during GABF! What’s the deal?

Tom Kelley from the Library and I are the only ones with the stamina to head over a block or two to (surprise) Falling Rock.

The total beer geeks (including many mentioned in this blog already) were there Quaffing the rare pours. My contributions included Dogfish Head Pangea ’05, Russian River Damnation 23 ’09, St. Bernardus Abt 12 Special Edition ’06, and Chocarubbica, the carob and cacao beer from Italian craft brewery Grado Plato.

Impressive beers tasted/remembered: all 4 versions of The Bruery’s Papier (regular, bourbon-, brandy-, and rye whiskey-barrel-aged Papier, Lost Abbey Sinners Blood, Alesmith barrel-aged Wee Heavy ’04, Oude Beersel Oude Gueuze and Oude Kriek, Hanssens and 3 Fontein Gueuze…

GABF session 3 part 4 final
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Larry James of Wine Warehouse Distributors, left, Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Steve Grossman and your trusty beer blogger enjoy another taste of that barrel-aged Sierra Nevada Porter that I had at the Pints for Prostates tasting. It was not available at the fest, but hey,it helps to have friends who are connected.

Beer Festival Denver
Larry, and I also visit Rob Tod at the Allagash booth to talk about the Allagash beer class I will be teaching for Learn About Wine in LA on Nov. 14. As bad luck would have it, Rob is in LA that week, but must leave town two days before. We discuss a special video message he might produce to screen at the class. Rob and his brewmaster Jason Perkins are game. Larry should be there in the flesh.

GABF Session 3 part 3
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 2:09 PM

When there are over 2000 beers to sample and only 4 hours, who has rime to eat? Attendee Ray here has the right idea: Wear your food.

Beer Festival Denver

ABF Session 3 part 2
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Two exceptional sours from Captain Lawrence Brewing in NY. The Cuvée in particular was a standout. Neither was medaled in the awards.

Had less beers (only about 25) but more outstanding ones, regardless of whether they won medals. Aside from the 2 pictured above, they were:

Ommengang Adoration (a seasonal spiced version)
Brooklyn’s Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfenweis ( a Silver winner in the Traditionally Brewed Beer category)
Brooklyn’s Cuvée de Cardoz (made with 12 Indian spices, not unlike Italian craft brewery Troll’s Shangri-la)
Ska Brewing’s Modus Hoperandi (one of the IPAs I tasted at the fest)
Iron Hill Brewing’s Mahalo Apollo (lemongrass, grains of paradise, other spices)
Brugge Brasserie’s Bad Kitty (Bronze winner in Heman-style sour category)
Sandlot Brewing’s Where the Helles Bill? (Silver winner)
New Glarus Belgian Red (sweet and sour cherry)
New Glarus Raspberry Tort (Silver winner in American-style sour category)

GABF Session 3
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 9:04 AM

Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing pours some of his Cuvée de Cardoz, an ale made with 12 Indian Spices, at GABF Saturday afternoon.

Beer Festival Denver
The Saturday afternoon session of GABF is the Members Only Session, for Brewers Association members and their guests. It has less people and is the only session where you get a atasting glass made of glass. It’s also the session during which the awards ate announced.

Speaking of which, I was watching a bit of the awards announcement when my pal and fellow Pacific Gravity Homebrew Club member Jonathan Porter, brewmaster of Tustin Brewing, struck Gold with a first place finish for his Golden Spike in the Blond Ale category. Cheers, Jon!

This is also the first GABF that the ubiquitous Twitter played a huge part in on-floor communication among beer geeks. Someone watching the awards would send out a tweet when a beer won, and suddenly, hordes of Folks would show up at that brewery’s booth to sample a winning beer.

Up Your Reinsheitsgebot!
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 7:40 AM

Beer Chef Bruce Paton, left, and Allagash Brewing topper Rob Tod at the after party. They did a beer and food pairing demo in the Food and Beer Pavilion at the Saturday evening GABF session.

Beer Festival Denver
Friday’s after party was at (yet again) Falling Rock. Entitled Up Your Reinheitsgebot! — An Evening of Impure and Illicit Beers,” it featured a quartet of brews that flagrantly (and fragrantly) flaunt their violation of the German Purity Law of 1516.

They were:

Allagash Victor (made with chancellor red wine grapes)
Dogfish Head Red & White (a wit fermented in Pinot Noir juice and aged in Pinot Noir barrels)
Dogfish Head Black & Blue (blackberries & blueberries)
New Belgium Tart Lychee (self-explanatory).

GABF Session 2
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 2:00 AM

Drake’s It’s Fity. One of the better beers I sampled during the Friday session. Thanks for the tip, Logan.

Beer Festival Denver
Wasn’t gonna, but decided to pay a short visit to the Friday GABF session to meet with some friends from DC who were attending that session. It was louder and more crowded and had a noticably enhanced security and police presence.

Still, hadda have a few beers. My faves:

Drake’s It’s Fity (wonderful sour blend)
Sierra Nevada Estate (hops and barley grown on the Chico estate.
He’brew Jewbelation 13 Bar Mitzvah (rich and complex)
Maui Brewing Smoked RIPA (where there’s smoke there’s hops, apparently. Never thought that would work. But it was exceptional).

A couple favorite beer names:

Sandlot Brewery’s Where the Helles Bill? (a Silver medal winner)
Maui’s Milk of Amnesia Stout (which ran out before I could taste it)

Philly Beer Week Reception
Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 1:08 AM

A Couple of Chouffes Celebrate Philly Beer: Martin Svab of Naja’s, left, And Tomm Kelly of Library Alehouse.

Beer Festival Denver
Grabbed a cab from Wynkoop to catch the end of the Philly Beer Week Reception and, with LA beer buddy Dean Bochner, sampled the following Philly area beers that were still being poured:

Yards’ IPA
Yards’ ESA (“Extra Special Ale” – kinda ESB)
Landcaster Milk Stout (pretty mild)
Iron Hill Imperial Stout (rich and chewy; best of the lot).

Run into Martin from Naja’s and Tom Kelley from Library Alehouse — bedecked in chouffe hats from a D’ Chouffe promo earlier that day.

Media Bus Tour Rare Beers served at Wynkoop.
Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 7:45 PM

Beer Festival Denver
– Foothills 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout
– New Glarus Golden Ale – Ale w/Brett Yeast Dry Hopped w/Stryian Hops
– Stone 2008 Old Guardian Barley Wine Aged in Red Wine Barrels
– Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Scotch Ale
– Stoudts Old Abominable Barleywine 2007

We arrive at Wynkoop for the rare beer tasting, a benefit for Pints for Prostates. Got in for the last half hour. Too many good beers to drink and too little time. Who had time to take notes? So I took photos of the beer signs instead (see below).

Only beer I had here that I didn’t get to shot the sign for was Mich Brett from, believe or not, Michelob. Had a nice bretty nose, and seemed to have a similar flavor — until the rubbery off flavor materialized. A Michelob collaboration with Goodyear perhaps?

Colorado Top Winning State at National Beer Competition
Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 12:16 PM

Here is the winners press release from GABF. The individual style winners can be found HERE.

American IPA winners at GABF
Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Breaking into the chronology to report the winners of the American IPA category:

Bronze: Blind Pig
Silver: Sculpin
Gold: Union Jack

Go California brewers!


Blog Comments

Wow like seeing a ghost! Good for you tasting,traveling,and writing about beer! Fred and I just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on Feb.15th. Long time no see!! We live outside Ft.Collins. If you come to Denver do contact us and we will have a beer with you!!


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[…] Through September 26, drink bard Tomm Carroll is filed quick-hitting dispatches from the Great American Beer Festival upon his iPhone. Here have been his ultimate reports from the Super Bowl of beer. Coors Field/Sandlot Brewpub Sun, September 27, 2009 during 5:55 PM A beautiful Denver afternoon during the ballpark. Like Saturday, Sunday has temps in the mid-80s, so with the little time to kill, you measure the little tickets upon the travel as well as watch the Colorado Rockies cheep past the St. Louis Cards. Not the wild base Blog Source […]


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[…] Tomm Carroll’s Great American Beer Festival AdventuresThrough September 26, beer writer Tomm Carroll is filed quick-hitting dispatches from the Great American Beer Festival on his iPhone. Here are his latest reports from the Super Bowl of beer. Coors […]

I do not know how you fit all of that in. Amazing journey through the river of beer that was flowing in Denver!

Great shots and it looks like some even better beer. Cheers!

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