Great American Beer Festival 2006

Once again we are going to the GABF. Like last year James Spencer and I are heading to Denver to cover the GABF for his podcast Basic Brewing Radio. We have made contacts and scheduled interviews with some famous names in the brewing world. This year should be even better than last years GABF which was a blast. I plan on blogging and snapping photos with my phone along the way. Come along if you like...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our last full day in Denver

It's Saturday night, and we are looking forward to seeing our families back home. The first thing I did today was call my good friend Ashly Goodwin who was also visiting Denver for the GABF. Unlike James and me, he had driven to the event and had offered to take some beer home to Arkansas for me. I got one of the bellmen to help me load up all my beer onto a cart, and we took it to the main entrance of the hotel and waited for Ash. I got several strange looks as I stood there with a baggage cart loaded with beer. After loading up Ash's truck with my Colorado beer stash, we headed off to the Samuel Adams Beers and Brunch event. They announced the winners of their Longshot homebrew competition and fed us some really good food. We also got to sample some of their $100 a bottle Utopias beer. James got a great interview with Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer company, which makes Samuel Adams. James, Brian and I each got a second taste of Utopias and then made our way to the GABF Connoisseur Tasting and Awards ceremony. Once again we got to taste several unique beers from around the country and got to meet some really nice people. At one point we had someone come up and ask us what podcasting and Basic Brewing Radio and Video were all about. To our amazement, one of the other people we where taking to, Mike from Aurora, whipped out his iPod and showed them part of a Basic Brewing Video podcast. Now that was much easier than trying to explain the whole podcasting thing to them! About this time the connoisseur tasting was winding down, and Brian decided to bid us farewell. I really enjoyed getting to meet Brian on this trip. Both he and his wife, Anna, are warm and generous people who I'm proud to now call friends. They will be welcome in my home if they are ever in Fayetteville. I had been craving some fish tacos from Illegal Pete's, a cool little restaurant we found last time we where in Denver. So James and I walked the 5 or 6 blocks down to Illegal Pete's and got some dinner. This year's trip to the GABF was even better than last year's. We got to meet some really cool people, drink some wonderful beers, and have some delicious food. If you have ever considered attending the GABF I encourage you to start planning now for next year.

Fish Tacos at Illegal Pete's

Fish tacos

Utopias at the Samuel Adams Beers and Brunch

Jim Koch and the winners of this years Longshot homebrewing contest

Bruce Stott, Jim Koch, and Donald Oliver at the Longshot announcement. Bruce Stott won with a Dortmunder Export and Donald Oliver won with his Old Ale.

The Longshot Regional Champions

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday in the mile high city

We moved to the Hyatt Convention Center today to be closer to the event. Wow this place is really nice. Flat screen TVs in the elevator, flat screens in the room, heck flat screens on the wall outside the hotel. The folks at the Hyatt really like flat panels! Our room is on the 32nd floor, and we have a very nice view of the city and the mountains off to the west. We went to a media event put on by the Brewer's Association, where they had several things planned for us. First they had a panel of experts talking about pairing food with beer - specifically pairing beer with the traditional American Thanksgiving meal of turkey or ham and stuffing along with pumpkin pie for dessert. They gave us two beers to sample as we ate a small sample of these foods. The first was Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre and the second was New Belgium's Trippel. They where correct; those beers did go well with the turkey and ham. After that they had us do a mix-and-match taste test, where they gave us three beers numbered 1, 2, and 3. All the beers where about the same color to make the test a little more difficult. Then they brought us the same three beers, but this time they has the letters A, B, and C on them. We tasted them again and had to indicate which numbers went with which letters. This was a bit harder than it might sound. One beer was clearly different from the other two. But, the other two were much more similar. I'm happy to report that James, Brian and I got a perfect score and got some little pins that say "Master Beer Taster" on them. The last presentation they had for us was an example of how a judging round is conducted at the GABF. This was very interesting to me. I have judged beers in homebrewing contests, and they do it very differently for the GABF. In homebrewing contests they usually use a point system, but here they don't. They do read the style guideline at the start of the round, but every judge is a professional brewer, so they are expected to know the styles pretty well. The stewards bring out all beers in the flight, and they quietly tasted each one and make notes. Then they work as a group and eliminate the beers with flaws or don't fit the style. When the group agrees to eliminate a beer, they all pour it out in a bucket at the center of the table. When they have only three beer left, they are done, and the last three beers move on to he next round. While we were at the media event, we got to spend some time with John Palmer, the author of "How To Brew". James had met John before and has had him on his podcast. John is a terrific guy and is an incredibly knowledgeable brewer. The first edition of his book is available online for those who would like to check it out. After the media event, we hung out in our room and chatted with John until time for the "Get back to your roots" Mead tasting event put on by our friends at Redstone Meadery. There where so many meads to taste - sweet ones, dry ones, meads with fruit, meads with spice - it was incredible. After trying all those wonderful meads I think I will have to make some mead again this fall.

Until tomorrow cheers-

Thursday in Denver

Well Thursday was the first day of the GABF and it all started with a party at Great Divide Brewing Compay. The party was already going pretty will when we arrived. They had set out trays of food for everyone and had the brews flowing. We got a quick tour of the place which is in an old building in downtown Denver. They are clearly growing as we could see signs of construction everywhere. James wanted to do a tasting of their beers on camera, and with the party going on the only place we could get away from the crowd was in the walk-in cooler. It was then time to head over to the Convention center to check in and pick up our press passes. We where still feeling the effects of our trip to Boulder the day before, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a little rest before the GABF kicked off at 5:30. We arrived at the GABF shortly before the doors opened. They allowed us to stand at the top of the stairs and video and take photos of the crowd at the bottom of the stairs waiting to get in. They told us that at 5:30 the would "release" beer lovers and they would come running up the stairs to be the first to get in to the event. Some of the very rare beers can run out quickly, so if you want some of them you better get there early. To my suprise when I stepped to the top of the stairs to take some pictures someone in the crowd below shouted my name. It was some of my friends from Fayetteville, AR - Ash Goodwin and Ryan Haley, who had driven out for the festival. As always the festival was a blast. I got to sample so many different beers from all over the country. Some of my favorites where Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company and the Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Company. Unfortunatly I was feeling pretty poor as the evening wore on - allergies, I think. This is the reason this and the next post are hitting the blog a little bit out of order, sorry about that. We headed back to the hotel with a short stop at a drug store to pick up some meds to help clear my head.


We spend time with How To Brew author John Palmer

John Palmer @ GABF

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Party time!

Guess where we are?

Day four in the Rockies and it keeps getting better.

Our fourth day started with us driving to Brian's house to get him then on to Boulder for the day. We arrived at Redstone Meadery around 11:00 for a meeting with the Chairman of the Mead, David Myers. If you have never had the chance to try mead you really need to make that a mission in life. The oldest known fermented beverage it is truly a taste from the distant past. The great folks at Redstone have a big variety of meads to sample so if you are looking for a place to get your mead fix or just try some for the first time I would highly recommend that you come visit our friends at Redstone. After picking up some of their wonderful Black Raspberry Reserve we headed to Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery for lunch. While we where there we got to chat with one of their brewers, Jason Stengl. As with all other brewers we have met on this trip he greeted us warmly and even bought us a round from his newest keg of IPA. We headed over to Avery Brewing for our meeting with the President and Brewmaster, Adam Avery. When we arrived there was a tour bus right in front of the brewery and there where about 50 people standing around drinking samples of Avery's fine products. Adam was busy giving tours to the bus tour so we just made our selves at home until the bus departed. After that we got a chance to sit down and interview Adam for Basic Brewing Radio. We had a nice chat about his business and the brewing business in general. Then it was back to the Avery tasting room for more of their finest. They had two "Oaked" beers on tap, Oaked Salvation and Oaked Reverand and both were wonderful. We asked the folks at Avery where we should go for dinner and they suggested a place called Rumba. Since we have been drinking beer pretty much all day we figured it would be a nice change from pub fare and it certainly was. I got one of my favorites the rare Ahi Tuna and it was as wonderful as it looks. We headed back Denver but we had one more stop to make. We had been told on Monday by Dale of Oskar's Blues that the best beer store around was Superior Liquor just south of Boulder. We when in and asked if they had any of the new double IPA, Gordon, from Oskar's Blues. The guy told me flat out that they did not have any, quite discouraging since that is why we had stopped. Well I still wanted to pick up a few choice brews that I cannot get back home so we went looking around. They did have a great selection of beers and I was filling 1 of my two shopping carts when Brian comes out of the back of the store carrying a case of Gordon. I was shocked since the guy just told me they didn't have any. Brian said there was plenty of Gordon in the back so I asked him to go grab me a couple more cases. When I was checking out the guy at the store told me that he thinks that the beer from Oskar's is good but he does not like the fact that the can the beer is in imparts a metallic taste to the beer. I could not believe that this guy was saying this, the folks at Oskars need to pay this guy a special visit and explain to him why that is impossible. All the cans used by Oskars are lined with a thin plastic film so the beer never touches the aluminum of the can. This guy is just spouting the same lame mis-information about canned beer and one trip to Oskars Blues would set him straight.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

James and Brian at Avery, what a good time!

Brian and James standing next to some of Avery's Fermentors.


Dinner Wednesday night at Rumba in Boulder, Ahi Tuna - Yum!

Kim at Redstone serves up some mead.

Enjoying mead with the Chairman of the Mead

David Myers, James and Brian at Redstone Meadery

Our third day in the land of great beer.

Once again we had a wonderful day. We started with a visit to the Brew Hut and Dry Dock Brewing company. We got to visit with the two Kevins at this Home Brew Shop / Brewery. The Brew Hut is a very well stocked home brew shop that Kevin DeLange bought a few years ago. Last year he and his partner Kevin Kellogg decided to expand their business into the building next door and fire up a brewery. This might be the smallest professional brewery I have every seen, but don't let its size fool you. These guys can make some really fine beer. My favorite was their ESB that won a gold metal in the World Beer Cup. After we left the Kevins we went to find the Apple store in town. There are actually 3 Apple stores in the Denver area, but we went to the one at the Cherry Creek Mall. Even if you are not an Apple owner you can always find some cool stuff to play with at one of their stores. We where getting hungry so we stopped at a little deli for some sandwiches, then it was on to Fort Collins for our tour of New Belgium. First we stopped and picked up John Holder one of our friends and a great home brewer from the Denver area. We had scheduled a tour with Peter Bouckaert the Brew Master at New Belgium but when we arrived we were met by a fascinating and enthusiastic co-worker named Eric Salazar. James got a great interview with Eric while we waited for Peter. Eric it turns out is one of the people involved in the production of their wood aged sour beer La Folie. James is a big fan of La Folie so this worked out great. When Peter arrived he took us up to the bar in Brew House #2 to share some special brews and talk with us about his brewing philosophy. James got a great interview with Peter who is very passionate about what he does. He explained to us that for him brewing is art and that what they make at New Belgium is art. After tasting the fine special brews they had on tap I could not agree more. One of the beer we tried was something called Eric's Ale which was a blend of sour wood aged beer and some peaches, yum! Then it was time for our tour of New Belgium and Peter turned that over to Chris McCombs who is a Project Coordinator for NB. We could not have had a more complete and detailed tour of the place. He even took us up on the roof and all the way to the top of the fermentors where we got to watch a beautiful sunset and check out all the expansion plans they have. After our incredible day at New Belgium we headed off to have some dinner before heading back to Denver for the night. We found a nice place called Coopersmith Brewing company and enjoyed a great meal along with some really nice brews, I would suggest you give it a try if you are in the Fort Collins area.

Until next time, cheers!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stack O'Kegs at New Belgium

Looks like they were expecting us

One of the Kevins at Brew Hut / Dry Dock

Kevin DeLange and James

Monday, September 25, 2006

Night two in Denver

Well today was outstanding! We started the day off early, around 5:00
am so that we could make sure we made it up to a spot just north of
Boulder by 9:00. James and I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed
over to Brian's house. After we picked up Brian we drove north out of
Denver and up to Boulder. After we arrived in Boulder we realized
that we where running a bit early for our meeting so we stopped in a
nice little coffee shop called Espressoria. We got our caffeine and
Internet fix and took off again. Not too far outside of Boulder is
where we were scheduled to meet the subject of our interview, Charlie Papazian. We got a quick tour of his place and then set up for the interview. James did a great job, but Charlie is also an excellent subject. After shooting the video for James' video podcast we moved
outside for a nice chat out by a little stream that runs across his property. After leaving Charlie's house we headed north again to the little town of Lyons Colorado where Oskar's Blues Pub and Brewery is located. We had a little lunch and then got a tour of the brewery by
Dale the owner. Wow, what a great bunch of folks, they showed us around and Dale even pulled full unsealed cans of his "Old Chub" Scottish style Ale off the canning line and handed them to us to drink. To get beer fresher than that you might have to make it your self.

Tomorrow is New Belgium brewing company in Fort Collins I can hardly wait.

Until then, cheers-

Dale of Oskar's Blues Pub and Grill

Dale the owner of Oskar's Blues shows us a cask where he is aging several gallons of their Gordon's Double IPA. He says he plans to bring some of that down to the GABF this weekend. Yea!

James and Brian

James and Brian standing in front of 1000s of new cans for Dale's Pale Ale. A very fine American Pale Ale, yeah in a can!

A beer at Oskar's

Gordon Imperial IPA @ Oskar Blues

James and Brian with Charlie Papazian

James, Charlie and Brian share laughs after our interview.

Espressoria in Boulder, a great cup!


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Our first evening in Denver.

Well we headed to one of the oldest brew pubs in the country for the first evening, The Bull and Bush Pub and Brewery. Our guide in Colorado, Brian Warren suggested we give it a try as it was just down the street from our hotel. Nice little old English pup, kind of dark inside but very pub like. It turned out that tonight they had a Denver Broncos game on the TV and the locals were definitely getting into the game. Unfortunately our waitress, while very sweet was not the beer expert we had hoped. We tried their "Man Beer" which is listed as a IPA and it was tasty, if a little fruity has a nice roasted grain character. Although, in today's world an American IPA should have a little more hop aroma, but I'm a certified hophead so most beers could have more hops. James tried their Saison which he seemed to like just fine, but he admitted that he has not had a bunch of Saisons in the past so he was unsure of how good an example of the style it was. I ordered their "Man Man" beer that is supposed to be a double version of their Man Beer. It was not really very similar to the Man Beer, quite a bit sweeter, which you might expect but not a double dose of hops which I was hoping for. I also tried their Belgian Trippel, a very dark beer served in a special glass. Not what I think of when I think of trippel. To me a trippel should be light in color, a dry finish and a tendency toward a high alcohol finish; this was sweet and slightly roasty.

Well tomorrow is a very special day. We get to spend the day with someone who we all respect very much. I will post clues to the identify of our special guest interview tomorrow. Now it is time to hit the sack as we must get up very early tomorrow to beat the Denver traffic and get to our appointment by 9:00am.

More beer tomorrow!

Beers at the Bull and Bush

First beers in Denver at The Bull & Bush.

James and I catch a couple beers at the airport

A beer before we take off.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The night before the big trip

Wow, it's the night before the big trip and I can hardly believe it's here. We have been planning this since shortly after last years festival. Last year's trip was really a last minute affair with James and I booking tickets less than a month before the event. This year is much different! We have so many cool things planned and so many great beers to try. I have put together a schedule of our events so you can have an idea of where we will be and when we will be there. Hmmm, I think I'm getting thirsty ;)'

More later


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Getting Ready for GABF 2006

Not long now and we will be on our way to Denver CO for the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. To the left is a subset of the breweries in Colorado. It was cropped from

They have a great Denver/Boulder map but I used the US Mountian Region map because it included the breweries in the Fort Collins area. If you plan on going anywhere I would check to see if they have that area "BeerMapped" first! I also suggest that you check out the Beer Fly area of before traveling. That way you can see what the locals think about the breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, tap rooms, and beer stores in that area.