The Great American Beer Festival, Part Two “Into (And Out Of) The Den Of Elixirs”

Anyone can drink beer, but it takes intelligence to enjoy beer- Peter Cogan

I know you have all been waiting with bated breath and body a-tingling for the much delayed Part Two. As you will recall (or if you would care to re-read-, Part One took me up to the entrance to the Colorado Convention Center steps and the GABF. As I stepped into the cavernous exhibit hall, this feast for the eyes and ears (and soon my taste buds) slowed my walk. After all, it would be the only first time. I picked up my taster glass and proceeded to orient myself as there were nearly 700 breweries pouring at this year’s festival.

The tickets for this particular session are only available to members of the American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA), so I believe it is a generally more knowledgeable crowd, although, as I observed later, it was not without its share of  noticeable over-imbibers. And because of the special nature of this session, participants are given an actual glass for tasting, not one made of plastic as in the other sessions. Of course, this leads to readily perceived gaffes when a glass is dropped, shattering to the near simultaneous ovation from bystanders. Membership does have its privileges, but also its opportunities for embarrassing faux pas. I heard several breaks throughout the afternoon and was wondering if I would shatter mine from a grip too tight.

I am far from an obsessive type when it comes to planning for beer festivals. I peruse a particular festival’s website and prioritize a few breweries and/or a style of beer. I locate those first and then meander about and see what is interesting, drinking plenty of water and eating pretzels throughout. However, I felt the massive nature of this festival required much more forethought. Fortunately, a clearly designed map was available and, by choosing a style of beer (stouts), I was able to plot a course through the hall. 2277 As you can see from the map, the breweries are organized into rectangles with 30 some breweries per rectangle, grouped by region. I mapped out my route from the entrance to the farthest brewery on my list. This did not include several visits to the long line of porta-potties down an access ramp and through a mass of smokers. If a particular brewery had a huge throng, I would simply move on to the next one on my list, always keeping an eye out for a return to a skipped brewery or for something intriguing. I figured I could taste about 25 beers at 1 ounce per taste before my palate would be dulled. At a festival this size, I see no reason to wait in a line of more than ten people unless there are extenuating circumstances (of which there were two).

Throughout my two hours of active tasting, I sampled 24 beers (1 ounce pours)- 2 Porters, 19 Stouts, 1 IPA, 1 Saison, and 1 Pumpkin Ale. My favorites were

The Bruery’s Black Tuesday

Weasel Boy’s Cabernet Barrel-Aged Anastasia

JAFB-Wooster’s Russian Front Imperial Stout

Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout

My two digressions which do not include tastings where friends of mine were volunteering.

  1. I broke one of my own rules by standing in a long line at Three Floyds Brewing. There is history here which you can read about ( Suffice it to say that I grew up in Munster, IN and, years after I left, a phenomenal craft brewery developed there. Although the brewery produces beer that attracts near fanatical devotion, the stout they were pouring didn’t appeal to my palate.
  2. I waited at a table to take a selfie. I am an ABD’er (all but dissertation). Playing a part in my decision to change careers was Garrett Oliver’s book, The Brewmaster’s Table. the-brewmasters-table-1When my route took me by the Brooklyn Brewery where Garrett is head brewer, I popped over to quickly relate my story. When informed that Garrett had just stepped away momentarily, I waited with giddy anticipation. For me it would be the equivalent of seeing the Beatles, and, although I knew I wouldn’t be reduced to screams of mania, I was worried about getting out a few coherent sentences. When he returned, I repeated the story and he remarked about the “beauty of digressions”. 20141004_145711                                                                 That brief, but meaningful encounter was the signal for my grand exit from the GABF. As I walked outside into the warm autumn afternoon sunlight I spied a deserted taster’s glass. I picked it up and looked around to see if anyone was returning for it. After a brief time I put it into the outside pocket of my messenger bag, for easy retrieval if someone caught up to me to claim it.

There was still a full hour left in the afternoon session as I reached the bus terminal. Thankfully, I was able to sit on the ride back. I hadn’t even finished expanding on my hastily scribbled notes when we arrived at my stop. A little tired from the intensity of the entire day, I ambled homeward

I was a mere 400 yards from home when the strap broke on my messenger bag. The second taster glass flew out of the bag and shattered on the ground, my thoughts about sharing brews with dual mementos vanishing with it. No one was even around to cheer. Ah, well! I picked up the pieces which I still have in a plastic newspaper bag. I still have my original taster glass which is now tucked safely in the back of my beer glass cabinet. I have repaired the strap on my messenger bag and am looking forward to my second GABF on Saturday, September 26th, 2015, hopefully with some BF’s in tow.2276

Wanna come?