The older I get, the less enthused I am about penning the perfect prose for your unwavering eyes. Yet here I am, staring at a computer screen, again writing about all things Great American Beer Festival. To cover the scope of the fest would be ludicrous, and much of what I said last year is still correct. There’s a lot of people to see. There’s a lot of incredible places to visit. There is a metric shit-ton of beer to consume. This was my 2nd trip to the GABF, so I’m back for the first time – smarter, sexier and destined to win.
After disembarking our plane (complete with Chauncey Billups in first class, sup dawg), our group of 5 hustled over to Avery Brewing Company in Boulder. It was noon, the sun was shining, and about hundred people were already there, if not more. I’m a huge Avery fan, and their beers did NOT disappoint. They are currently building a much bigger brewery in a different location, which is a very good thing because this place was TINY. Hopefully they’ll build a state-of-the-art facility to coincide with their world-class brews. A monitor showing a skeleton of a building and construction equipment surrounding it was on display. Looks good so far.
Best Part: Tasting PumpKYn for the first time. All their (jealous) neighbors in the industrial park with their obnoxious “NO AVERY PARKING” signs.
Shortly after some killer BBQ at Avery, we traveled a few minutes to Boulder brewing. We abide-d and imbibed in the Dude’s Bane, their limited-release barrel-aged barleywine. Still a little young, this beer hasn’t hit its optimal taste just yet. A nice treat though for sure, along with a sampler of the rest of the taproom stuff.
Best Part: The decadent Shake chocolate porter; also seeing the limited space their canning line uses, yet somehow still gets the job done.
We left to check into the Denver hotel and take a quick nap. One must be well rested and hydrated for the Thursday night GABF session. We arrived shortly after the opening, as to not wait in a silly line to enter. I was behind a tall white monster with 6′ dreadlocks on my way in. Upon inside, I spent most of the time wandering around the pacific and pacific northwest areas, jamming on some Almanac, Cellarmaker, and Speakeasy to name a few. The 2 standout suds for me were the Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin (because why wouldn’t you add pumpkin to a barleywine?) and the Yazoo Caribbean Daydream, an admittedly messy, complex brett beer that had no idea what it wanted to be. Loved it anyways. Bros “Ooooh’ed” when people dropped their plastic cups, the big brewers had huge lines, and mediocre food was had by some. I wandered and stopped at a few places with small or no lines. I did not get drunk. Plenty of other glossy-eyed folks did that for me.
Best Part: Mega hipster Garrett Oliver served me a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. He looks better in suspenders than I do. :(
We woke up too early to attend the Gospel Brunch at the Oskar Blues Hops & Heifers farm. It was a religious experience. Go on this if you can, it’s worth the money. Ate the food, pet the goats, and drove back to their Tasty Weasel taproom when it opened. Grabbed some merch and beer to-go.
Best Part: Getting a Wayne’s World inspired shirt. Sipping on an extremely rich Coconut Porter, “Death By Coconut”.
On to Left Hand. A brewery also in the process of buying the land next door and across the street for a major expansion. Forgot how good their Oktoberfest is – a great representation of the style. Warrior IPA was fresh and pungent.
Best Part: Trying to wrap my head around their machine that carbonates/nitrogenates their bottled brews. I can’t even explain it properly. Engineers are smart people.
Back to Denver. We have more to drink, obviously. A quick stop at Breckenridge Brewery downtown location. Right next to Coors field, and in walking distance to many other places on our list.
Best Part: Sorry, but the awesome booze selection here wins out. Their Agave Wheat was simple and easy like Sunday morning, but I noticed the great Colorado whiskeys and bourbons. Also, the guest taps here were pretty impressive as well.
We decide to walk to The Source. The route takes you under a sketchy overpass or two, but within 30 minutes you’re standing outside a massive brown brick warehouse. Within the Source are the magicians who work for Crooked Stave, masters of brewing sour brett infused morsels of delight. Our group of 5 probably had every 4oz taster of what was available, each being better than the last. Blueberry, Pomegranate, Cherry; whatever your heart desired, they create a sour funk fruit beer to quench your thirst. It was mind-blowing, as was the line of beer nerds 5 deep at the small bar for the hour+ we stayed. 4 bartenders handled the majority of the parched dogs barking requests at them, but not well enough as our tab was probably $100 cheaper than it should have been. Thanks Denver, you’re the best.
Best Part: The beers, and the overall vibe in Crooked Stave within The Source. Well done.
Uber, you beautiful bastards, come get us, take us to Falling Rock! It’s around 8pm at this point, and with GABF night 2 in full swing, we decide to take advantage of the (possible) space still available at the mecca of beer bars in Denver. Like a hawk on a field mouse, we preyed over a table until we no doubt scared a gaggle of girls away. Victory was ours, and soon Firestone Walker DBA was mine. Yet another brewery that doesn’t make a bad one. Chicago rebels Revolution had an outdoor tap event around 9 or 10, so I had a Bean Gene porter that I liked very much. A fun-loving Sam Calagione was next to me at this point, but was getting mobbed by fun-loving drunk folks, so I missed my opportunity for some DFH wisdom or a joke or something. I am once again not drunk, just extremely tired, slightly dehydrated (even with the numerous pints of agua), and dreaming of a night that doesn’t involve sleeping with tiny throw pillows under my head. Some old friends I went to college with swung by around 11pm. Let me tell you that 11pm is a poor time to be at Falling Rock during GABF.
Best Part: The drunk couple that sat next to our table and gave me a few ounces of Firestone Walker PNC, a crazy tequila-bbl-aged imperial stout. Thanks drunk San Diegans.
Fort Collins. Had never been there before. Will definitely go back. A great area code.
Lunch at Choice City Butcher & Deli. If I owned a place, it would be a mirror image of this. Amazing tap beer aside some huge-ass sandwiches. What’s not to like?
We check out the juggernaut New Belgium Brewing. It’s large. They brew a lot of beer. The tour is 90 minutes.
Best Part: Tour guide Tara, and being in the same room with the Foeders that contain La Folie and Le Terroir. Tasty.
Onward to Odell, where I finally could get my fix of Myrcenary. Myrcenary is possibly my favorite double IPA on the planet. It’s a sticky, resinous hop poltergeist that’s sent to destroy your esophagus. If ever a beer could be described as grapefruit without actually having grapefruit in it – it’s this one. A stunning outdoor seating area encompassed most of the brewery surroundings. Dogs, kids, families, old senile folks – people of all ages enjoyed this spot. Killer vibe, and the 90’s Pandora (I’m assuming) blasting from the speakers didn’t hurt either.
Best Part: Tupac’s “How Do You Want It” providing a stellar backdrop for busting a cap in Myrcenary’s ass.
Picture us rollin’ to The Mayor of Old Town (how did this go from a Ludacris theme to ‘pac?), where we gawked at 100 tap lines and ordered some decent bar grub. Too much fun stuff to have here, so we all ordered a sampler flight of 4 brews. Not sure why I do this to myself. Still not sure exactly what it was, but there was a New Belgium Quad Shandy (not a typo) drank. It was oddly satisfying.
Onward to Funkwerks. It’s a dark night out now, and I have no idea where we are or how we got there. Extremely small brewery perfecting the art of saisons & belgian ales. I decided to go with their Dahlia, a strong Belgian Dark Ale that tasted like burnt raisons alongside some malty sweetness. Should have stuck with the raspberry brew that everyone else was raving about. Ah well. Let’s go somewhere else while we’re still coherent!
Best Part: The plethora of to-go bottles from Funkwerks. That Raspberry Provencal was dynamite.
The hippies were camped inside Equinox Brewing, gently swaying to some vocal-deprived rock-jazz-fusion ‘band’. I was not on enough hallucinogens to understand what anyone was dancing to, so our group basically sat around a table and didn’t talk to each other. We cropdusted the place a few times, shared a few chuckles, and left hour into being there.
Best Part: Laughing at the few locals who were so high they could barely function.
We came home the next day. We watched football in the airport. I reminisced about visiting 10 breweries in 3 days on top of attending GABF. I needed water.
Here are some pictures.