Intro | Day 2 | Day 3
Wow! Never before have so many brewers been gathered in one place, and the effect was a little overwhelming. Thousands were gathered outside the doors of the Denver Convention Center anticipating the opening of the festival at 5:30pm. When the doors did open there was a cheer so loud you thought you were at a Broncos game, not a beer festival. Since the festival sold 49,000 tickets in just a few days, one could infer that it has become just as popular as the NFL.
I grabbed my tasting glass and headed into the melee. The festival is arranged geographically with brewers from different regions like the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Rocky Mountains grouped together. I quickly breezed by the Mid-Atlantic section, which included New York City, to see who had come to the Festival. The only NYC brewery in attendance was Brooklyn Brewery, and they were slammed. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver along with other Brooklyn Brewery folks, including our friends Erin and Carla, were pouring Brooklyn Local 1, Local 2, Black Ops, and Sorachi Ace. Garrett was also signing copies of his new book, The Oxford Companion to Beer. It was great to see that they were clearly one of the most popular breweries at the festival along with Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and others.
I slid over to Renegade Brewing Company of Denver, which opened a mere three months ago. They were featuring a Rye IPA called Ryeteous! Local New Yorkers will no doubt recognize the resemblance to our own Sixpoint Craft Ales Righteous Rye. While the Renegade Brewing version was very good, it wasn’t nearly as well done as the Sixpoint version. Sixpoint had a more balanced hop profile and a richer malt character that appealed to me more. However I wish the guys at Renegade good luck in growing their new brewery. They also made a Poblano Amber, which was an amber ale spiced with peppers. The spice was very prominent, and I felt like it was a beer that captured the local flavor of the food out here (I had Mexican for lunch).
The last brewery I’ll mention is the Free State Brewing Company from Lawrence, Kansas. I visited them as a personal pilgrimage. This was the first craft beer I drank in my life. It happened in 1994 on a visit to a friend at the University of Kansas, and he took us to Free State which did, and still does, operate a brew pub in town. That experience changed my beer drinking life and set me on the path which has led to the beer tours and beer tastings that I now lead for Urban Oyster. I think that everyone probably has that “beer life changing” moment, and I always like to think that some have had it on an Urban Oyster tour. At Free State I tried their Ad Astra Ale, which was in all likelihood the beer I had 17 years ago, and it was a delicious, easy-drinking pale ale. Their C4 Imperial IPA was also very good. It was very hoppy, and the hops still dominated the beer, which was refreshing at that moment and somewhat unusual in the Imperial IPAs, where the maltiness is usually significant enough to balance with the hops.
After Free State I ran into Josh Shaffner who organizes New York Craft Beer Week, and he led me on a trek to numerous breweries where we were trying beer so fast I didn’t have time to take notes. This resulted in some end of the night fuzziness in the head, as I’m sure everyone can appreciate.
Read Dave's other blog posts from GABF: Intro | Day 2 | Day 3
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