October 1, 2013

2013 GABF Strategy Guide

It’s that magical time of year again. The days get shorter, the crisp air nips at your nose, and the trees begin to show off their brilliant colors. Most importantly though, it’s the time that all beer geeks look forward to most, the Great American Beer Festival; our Christmas in October. Tickets sold out in a ridiculous few seconds this year, so hopefully you are one of the lucky few to obtain them. I will note that if you got shut out, tickets can often be had at face value or less from disappointed scalpers, around 30 minutes or so after the festival begins. I’ve never actually done this, but have heard about it from multiple sources.

With over 3,000 different beers being poured, a game plan is a must and each year I spend the weeks leading up planning out my strategy. To me, the best thing about GABF is getting access to beers that aren’t available for purchase in CO. If you think about it, there’s not much point in paying $80 to drink beer you can buy at your local liquor store.  With that in mind, here are my choices for top breweries to seek out at the 2013 GABF:

Snake River Brewing: A perennial GABF favorite, their cherry-infused Flander’s red ale, Le Serpent Cerise (8% ABV), is a blend of cherry pie and vanilla, and finishes with a refreshing acidic tang.

La Cumbre: Located in nearby Albuquerque, their Elevated IPA (7.2% ABV), with its masterful balance of malty richness and hop intensity, wins my vote for best IPA in the world. No kidding.

Three Floyds: This brewery makes just about every style of beer and does them all excellently. I personally think their best beers are their hoppy ones though. Check out their citrus-intense pale ale, Zombie Dust (6.4% ABV), and their ultra bitter, tropical fruit-laced double IPA, Arctic Panzer Wolf (9.0% ABV). Be sure to take a look at their fantastic label art.

Pelican Brewery: Probably the best brewery in America you’ve never heard of. Their Mother of All Storms barley wine (14.0% ABV), is aged for a year in bourbon barrels and is an absolute legend in the beer world. It’s never been served at a festival before. A must try.

Lost Abbey: Ok, they do distribute in CO. However, there beers are none-too-cheap and they always bring tons of goodies to GABF that you can’t buy off the shelf. Founder Tomme Arthur is a genius when it comes to creating Belgian style ales.  Don’t leave until you’ve tried everything.

Russian River: Brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo, beer geek’s Golden Child, has the Midas touch. Like Lost Abbey, they too distribute in CO, but they are just so good you still have to check out everything they bring. Their Hoptime Harvest Ale (6.8% ABV), is made with this year’s fresh hop crop and will win over hop lover’s hearts; while their Framboise for a Cure (7.5% ABV), a Belgian blonde ale aged in chardonnay barrels with heaps of raspberries, is sublime.

Cambridge Brewing Company: Their Shadows & Light (10% ABV), is my most anticipated beer of the fest. Made from various vintages of barrel-aged barleywines that have been stressed to the max (temperature fluctuations, sun exposure, and more), the resultant blend resembles a fine Maderia or Amontillado more than it does beer. There is nothing else like it in the world.

The Brew Kettle: Best known for their White Rajah (6.8% ABV), a fruit-forward (mango, pineapple, grapefruit) yet still bitter IPA. Their booth is well worth seeking out.

Shorts Brewing: A mad-scientist sort of operation, famous for their creative, unusual ingredients. Check out Gone Commando (4.5 % ABV), a Vienna Lager brewed with black currants, and Bourbon Woodmaster (10.0% ABV), an imperial brown ale fermented with maple syrup and toasted pecans, then aged in bourbon barrels.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery:  This Minnesotan brewpub serves world class beers of all styles. Be sure to ask for Cherry Eye of the Storm (10.0% ABV), a barleywine brewed with buckets of MN honey and aged on local cherries.

Live Oak Brewing Company: Their Hefeweizen (5.2% ABV), is better than most of the “authentic” ones being brewed in Germany. Seriously.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales: David Logsdon, the original brewmaster at Full Sail, opened this little brewery in the midst of cherry orchards in the Hood River valley. The beers are Belgian-based and delectable. Try both the Seizoen (7.5% ABV) and Seizoen Bretta (8.0% ABV), the same beer but the latter spiked with brettanomyces (a la Crooked Stave).

Jack’s Abby: A lager-only brewery, their Hoponius Union IPL (India Plae Lager) shows just what those clean crisp lager notes can do when paired up with expertly selected hops. Unique and delicious.

Have fun, drink plenty of water, and be sure to thank the beer gods that the world’s greatest beer event happens every year right in our backyard.

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September 22, 2013

And A Few More GABF Pour Lists

A couple more pour lists trickled in when I was finishing my article. I’ll continue to post more as I get them, but this is all she wrote for the newspaper piece.

Jack’s Abby

  • Jabby Brau, Session Lager, 4.5% ABV
  • Hoponius Union, India Pale Lager, 6.7% ABV
  • Mass Rising, Double India Pale Lager, 8.0% ABV
  • Fire in the Ham, Rauchbier, 5.4% ABV
  • Copper Legend, Oktoberfest, 5.9% ABV

 

Logsdon

  • Seizoen, Saison, 7.5% ABV
  • Seizoen Bretta, Saison, 8.0% ABV
  • Oak Aged Bretta, Saison, 8.0% ABV (Farm to Table Only)
  • Far West Vlaming, Flander’s Red, 6.5% ABV (Farm to Table Only)
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