Tag Archives: Great American Beer Festival

The Future of Beer, as Foretold by the Great American Beer Festival

Photo: Chris Lehault, of the excellent site I Drunk That.

My liver has finally cried uncle. The culprit, as it is every fall, is the Great American Beer Festival. I liken the annual Denver celebration to the Super Bowl of Beer. It brings together nearly 600 breweries from across the country, who come to the Mile High City toting more than 2,700 IPAs, sour ales, barrel-aged imperial stouts and other delicious oddities. Can I interest you in Burnside Brewing’s Sweet Heat, a wheat ale flavored with apricot purée and incendiary Scotch bonnet peppers? Or perhaps you’d like RedRock Brewing’s Paardebloem, which is made with dandelion greens and wild Brettanomyces bacteria? And the Kudzu Porter from Back Forty Beer Company might interest you as well.

Brewers brought out their most wonderful beers this year, and I made it my point to drink as many as possible. You may call this drunkenness. I call it research. As I sipped my way through hundreds of beers — a beer drinker should swallow, not spit—a few trends began to take shape.

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Great American Beer Festival Recap

Sadly, my hat will never get me drunk. Photo: Jason E. Kaplan

Not since that misguided night in college when I decided to double-fist 40-ouncers of Phat Boy, a thankfully discontinued malt liquor made with ginseng, has my liver felt so swollen and abused.

I’ve just returned from four days at Denver’s 30th annual Great American Beer Festival, a massive celebration of fermentation that attracts brew fans as fervid as religious devotees flocking to Mecca. And for good reason. Each year, hundreds of breweries from all corners of the country descend upon the Mile High City en masse, toting thousands of different beers. Some are good. Some are bad. But with each brew served by the one-ounce pour, you have ample opportunity to try any and every beer.

Consider it drunkenness by a thousand tiny cups.

Of course, sampling every beer is foolhardy, especially this year. Scattered across the floor of the sprawling Colorado Convention Center were more than 460 breweries, which doled out some 2,400 dark stouts, sour ales, bitter IPAs and carbonated oddities so curious, so strange, I wasn’t sure whether to dump them out or greedily ask for another glass. Freetail Brewing, I’m looking at you and your green and cloudy Spirulina Wit.

As far as trends to spot, brewers are still riding high on IPAs, with a swell of black-tinted takes on the style — I particularly liked the Blacktop IPA, from New Glarus Brewing, as well as Bear Republic’s Black Racer. Barrel aging continues to sweep the industry (I swooned over Foothills Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout and the wood-flavored treats from Florida’s Cigar City), but what’s got me most excited is the surge of sour ales.

Increasing ranks of brewers are deploying wild yeasts and bacteria with a dedication that would impress a microbiologist. Breweries to keep an eye on include Captain Lawrence, Cambridge Brewing, Upland, Brugge Brasserie and Illinois’ Desthil brewpub, which wowed the crowd with its wild creations.

Though it’s impossible to highlight all my favorite ales and lagers—and my many, many skull-blasting hangovers—a few ales and lagers stood out from the sudsy, crowded field.

Which ones did I like best? Check out my full story at Food Republic.

How to Meet Me at the Great American Beer Festival

I'm ready to travel!

Though it’s early in the morning, I need a beer to calm down the butterflies in my stomach. More than 18 months after the journey to create Brewed Awakening began, the book is ready to be released to the world. Though it’s not officially hitting shelves till November 1, I’m headed to Denver on Thursday morning to pre-release the book at the Great American Beer Festival.

If you’ve never been, the GABF will blow your beer-loving mind—or at least your liver. Over the course of three days, more than 400 breweries dispense more than 2,000 different kinds of beer. Trying them all is a foolhardy mission, not that some attendees don’t give it the ol’ college try.

Last year, I wandered the beer-soaked aisles sampling ales and lagers to my stomach’s discontent. This year, I’m going to be signing books, submitting to interviews and hosting parties. If you’re headed out to Denver and want to nab a book or just say hey, here’s my schedule for the weekend:

Thursday, September 29: Denver, Colorado
8 p.m.–9 p.m.
Brewed Awakening signing at the Great American Beer Festival

Friday, September 30: Denver, Colorado
5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Brewed Awakening signing at the Ghost Plate & Tap. Come get warmed up before the GABF! We’re going to be pouring a special dry-hopped ESB dosed with oak chips and raffle off a not-yet-released, barrel-aged Breckenridge brew.

Friday, September 30: Denver, Colorado
8 p.m.–9 p.m.
Brewed Awakening signing at the Great American Beer Festival

Saturday, October 1: Denver, Colorado
3 p.m.–4 p.m.; 8 p.m.–9 p.m.
Brewed Awakening signing at the Great American Beer Festival

Saturday, October 1: Denver, Colorado
4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
Brewed Awakening signing at the Corner Office, which is right around the corner from the Colorado Convention Center. New Belgium will be pouring special brews, and there will be dirt-cheap deals on delicious food. You will need to eat, yes you will.

Great American Beer Festival Wrap-Up

So. Much. Beer.

Heavens to Betsy, I just returned from a weekend trip to Denver, where I taxed my liver left and right at the Great American Beer Festival. The de facto Super Bowl of American brewing, the GABF features 2,000-plus beers — all of which I aimed to try. No dice. But you can read my wrap-up at Slashfood. Drink it up!