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The Party At and Around GABF

Everyone knows that the Great American Beer Festival is a giant beer party. Hundreds of breweries around the country bring in their mainline beers and some of their best offerings for the big show. The event is amazing, you enter the convention center with tens of thousands of people as bagpipes overwhelm you with a wall of sound. People rush to the booths where the rarest beers will disappear quickly and then they set off to try beers that they can only get while at GABF. The brewers too come with excitement as they hope to snag a coveted GABF award (Huge congrats to Trinity for their Bronze in the American Brett Ale category!). While most don’t win anything, I imagine no one goes home truly upset, it’s practically impossible to leave GABF without a sense that you’ve just had the best few days of your life. Plus your liver is hurting and you spend one day recuperating, and that’s also one of the best days ever.

But there’s much more to GABF than meets the eye. There are literally a hundred-plus events happening around Denver that supplement the festivities. Some of them are rare beer tappings, or beers that aren’t normally available to Colorado and other markets. Some are fundraisers, some are big cook-outs, some you can meet the brewers, etc. etc. etc. We went to a number of these events. In many ways we enjoyed these as much as the big event itself because they were slightly quieter and slower and that’s just what we needed. So this post really is a look at the party Around GABF rather than a look At GABF.

One of our first stops was a special Deschutes Party at the top of the Hyatt. Deschutes served up seven of their great beers including Collage, Dissident, and my seasonal favorite Jubelale. The views were outstanding. A number of Deschutes brewers were there and there were lots of people that I had only met through Twitter that I got to chat with. Also, a number of old acquaintances from Oregon were there and we did some catching up.

We partied over at 1up because we love video games too. We went over there with Nicole Erny who was not so great at human-sized Jenga but actually kicked ass at the vintage game Burger Time, clocking in second place on the machine’s record! Nicole is a Master Cicerone, one of four people who have reached the highest Cicerone designation so we talked a bit about all the various aspects of what it means to be a Cicerone and what her job entails working through the educational programming of the testing. A cicerone is a person who has achieved credentials for learning about beer and the pairing of beer with food, in many ways it is the equivalent to the sommelier in the wine world.

We may have gone to Falling Rock every single night of GABF week. They had every sort of rare beer tapping that you can imagine. They were serving Cantillion, they had a Colorado Brewer’s Guild fundraiser where all the Colorado brewers packed into downstairs and poured their beer, they tapped new special beers every hour, and they also had a special Stone tapping where I got to try an 04 Guardian and a Green Tea IPA aged in red wine barrels. Fun, fun times at Falling Rock.

And here’s some of our group sipping a few Cigar City beers at Freshcraft. They had a special Cigar City tapping, and since we can’t get the beers here in Colorado a few of us headed over there.

A couple special beers and a delicious tray of food at The Kitchen in Denver. We’ve seen the Crabtree Menage a Trois at the Meet the Brewer event here in COS. Scott also picked up a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s de Vienta, a rare treat, a sour saison brewed with coffee and spices.

Perhaps my favorite time during the whole week was the couple hours I spent at Avery, slowly sipping a couple different aged beers. Avery really went all out with nearly 30 beers on tap and a menu with limited vintage bottles from their Barrel Aged Series. I sat down with four ounce pours of the Bad Apple, Uncle Jacob Stout, Eremita IV (which had blueberry and juniper!) and the 07 Beast Grand Cru. What a treat! Daniel and I ate some barbecue and edited our photos, got a blog post or two up and just savored every moment of those beers. It’s always hard to get all the way out to Boulder but when I do, and I sit down at Avery’s bar I’m always impressed in ways that no other brewery has ever impressed me. Perhaps they are my favorite? It’s hard to say with so many other great breweries, but man they have to come close.

Take a look at this Avery bottle list
A view of Avery’s Barrel Room with Adam Avery talking with Dr Bill of Stone Brewing. 

Another real treat was eating some delicious breakfast every morning. Hands down my favorite was from Choice City Butcher in Fort Collins. We headed out there for a special tour of New Belgium Brewing, and I forced us to go to this place. Well worth the trek, I’d say it’d be worth driving all the way from Colorado Springs for a good S.O.S steak and gravy breakfast and a beermosa.

We were treated to a tour at New Belgium by our pal Michael Bussmann. He gave us the rundown on many of New Belgium’s sustainability initiatives and also took us into the bottling room and we cracked open a Fat Tire right off the line. It was the best Fat Tire I’d ever had.

Here’s a nice picture of New Belgium with this large ass limo parked out front. We thought this was a funny juxtaposition of a thoroughly environmentally conscious business and a Don’t-Care attitude of one of the guests.

And you may have seen our photo recap of our own Beers Made By Walking event but I just wanted to share a few more photos. The event took place at Wynkoop brewing and we had a great time hosting this event that we’ve been planning for nearly a year. Check out our original recap here.

Chris Wright of Pikes Peak and Tim Myers of Strange pouring beer during BMBW
Other: Chokecherry Kriek
Oskar Blues’ Dave Chichura and Dennis de Boer enjoying the night.

I really enjoyed this shot of Strange’s Eldorado Bel-Gin beer. It was made with pineapple weed and juniper and it’s color was inspired by the walls of Eldorado creek.

Another GABF has come and gone. What a beautiful and also taxing week! Looking forward to the next one, although I’ll probably slow down even more for that one.

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Written By

Eric teaches art, loves being outdoors, and organizes beer events around the country. He founded Focus on the Beer and Beers Made By Walking.

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