"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Great American Beer Festival 2012: Pt. 2

The revelry of Thursday night was pounding in my head Friday morning.  It’s good I didn’t buy tickets for Friday’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF) session; the day of rest was much needed.  The fact that I wasn’t at the convention center doesn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying GABF, though.  Far from it, Friday was when Nicole and I experienced GABF at its most intimate.  In The Pinnacle Club, at the top of the Grand Hyatt Denver, looking out over the city, we brushed shoulders with politicians, craft brewing VIPs, and other beer journalists as we dined and drank at the GABF media luncheon.

On top of the world, standing higher than the Mile High City, I resisted the urge to emulate Ferris Bueller by pressing my forehead against the enormous panoramic windows.  I’ve never seen my city this way; I’m used to it at street level.  Nicole and I took in the view, pointed out landmarks, and I wondered if the added elevation would lessen our alcohol tolerance even more than the normal 5280’.  It didn’t take long putting the hypothesis to the test; during the pre-luncheon social hour, we sipped on samples of Paparazzi Pale, a wet-hopped homebrew created by the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Director (and speaker at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Indianapolis) Julia Herz.  The theme of the luncheon was homebrewing and its connection to commercial breweries so it’s fitting we began with such a beer.
Paparazzi Pale

We polished off our samples and were corralled into the dining room.  It was open seating except for a few reserved seats and, as we passed by, I glanced at the names printed on those little paper tents.  Oh.  My.  God.  I was geeking out hard and about to go into convulsions!  Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, Kim Jordan from New Belgium Brewing, president of the Brewers Association and founder of GABF Charlie Papazian, and Gov. John Hickenlooper!  Talk about a cast of all-stars!  If you’re reading this beer blog and don’t realize the importance of those names then do five minutes of research and you’ll understand why I’m fawning like a schoolgirl.  These are giants of craft beer and for me to be in the same room as them is like a basketball fan meeting Michael Jordan, a rock n’ roll groupie brushing shoulders with Mick Jagger, or a chubby-chasing elementary school Casanova getting Honey Boo Boo’s autograph.

I don’t wish to downplay the importance of the small brewery representatives, though; quite to the contrary, I’m a bigger proponent of small breweries than I am of national breweries.  Small, local beer makers are hands-on and experimental resulting in unique, fresh, ever-evolving beer.  Don’t worry, every brewery will get their due mention in this post but, c’mon, those other people are famous; I laud your businesses, small brewery owners, but I’m not going to be star-struck over you.      

After Julia Herz and Kim Jordan gave their spiels on the state of craft beer, Kevin Crompton from Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City took the stage, discussed his brewery, and served his 2011 silver medal-winning Brainless on Peaches (actually, all the beers poured at the luncheon were former medalists; only the best for the media!) which is heavy on the eponymous fruit and that’s a compliment.  I learned a little more on the bass-ass-backwardness of Utah law, too; a beer of certain alcohol content cannot be served on tap thus, if you visit the Epic taproom, all beers must be served from bottles.  We’re in a craft beer renaissance but there are still patches of this country stuck in the dark ages.  He also mentioned something that I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about yet but, hell, he said it in front of a bunch of beer journalists so he can’t expect the secret to stay in the room: Epic is working on opening a second brewery in Colorado.  There.  I said it.

Next was Scott Baer of Telegraph Brewing Company pouring California Ale paired with braised pork belly, caramelized onions, cherry and California Ale jus, and a pretzel smeared with Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy cheese.  The beer was great but I could’ve eaten that pork belly off a heap of garbage and still called it a scrumptious dish.

Randy Mosheranother presenter from the Indy Beer Bloggers Conference—then spoke about 5 Rabbit Cerveceria which seeks to reinvent Latin American beers.  There are beers that come from Mexico and other Latin countries but, despite what Del Norte Brewing Co. tries to tell you, there are no real Latin American beer styles, only Latin American-made imitations of European beers.  5 Rabbits uses authentic ingredients to invent new styles of beers featuring flavors familiar to our amigos down south.  Their “Müerzen” beer Vida y Muerte, brewed with dulce de leche and Mexican Cinnamon, pairs excellently with pumpkin sorbet made with Breckenridge Brewery’s Autumn Ale.
Vida y Muerte

Strolling up to the podium in his trademark, worn-out tennis shoes, Gov. John Hickenlooper—former mayor of Denver and founder of Wynkoop Brewing Company—spoke on craft beer's economic impact.  For example, when he opened the doors to Wynkoop in 1988, his rent was $1 per square foot indicating how rough that part of town was at the time.  Today, in large part due to the brewery’s influence, the LoDo neighborhood boasts an MLB stadium, countless shops, restaurants, and bars frequented by yuppies and hipsters, and metered parking that’ll cost you more than Wynkoop’s original monthly rent.  If that doesn’t impress you, then consider the fact that, each year, the GABF brings approximately seven million dollars into Denver.  Our economy is in the toilet but might craft beer be our savior?  All signs point to “yes.”
Gov. Hickenlooper

Gov. Hickenlooper also discussed a new campaign the federal government is currently undertaking to “brand America.”  To encourage international tourism, the government is promoting natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone to European and Asian countries (although, having had my communion with nature at Delicate Arch ruined by pop-tune-singing Korean tourists adorned with tight jeans, leather jackets, and anime hairdos, I fear this campaign will succeed); they’re constructing an American ideal foreign visitors will feel compelled to experience.  Through similar, international promotions from other countries, Americans assume no trip to Australia is complete without seeing Ayers Rock, no trip to Italy is complete without a wine tasting, and no trip to Egypt is complete without glimpsing the pyramids.  After Gov. Hickenlooper accompanied U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the GABF—a sight more awe-inspiring than the Yosemite Valley—it was decided: craft beer will be a part of America’s brand.  No trip to the U.S. is complete without visiting a craft brewery so stop in, rest of the world, and fork over those Euros/Pounds/Yen/Pesos/whatever. 

To assure the crowd, which was comprised of people from all over the country, that Colorado is the king of craft beer, Gov. Hickenlooper rattled off a few statistics such as the fact that California has 300 or so breweries and that Colorado has 168 but California also has seven times the population of Colorado.  When the numbers are crunched and the population taken into consideration, California is actually five times behind Colorado in number of breweries. 
Todd Steven Boera

The governor was followed by Todd Steven Boera of Catawba Valley Brewing Company who, I surmise from his garb and exceptional facial hair, is the reigning king of the hipsters.  He served La Saison Noire, a black saison with bubblegum-like characteristics, and Loretta, brewed with cantaloupe and cayenne peppers.  These beers were paired with the main course, a Viking-sized portion of Cutthroat Porter braised lamb shank.

Jeff Erway of La Cumbre BrewingCompany also spoke during the main course and served Elevated IPA which certainly doesn’t skimp on the hops; four pounds per barrel!

Left to right: Loretta & La Saison Noire

Charlie Papazian said a few words and passed the mic to Gary Glass, the Director of the American Homebrewers Association, who theorized with convincing evidence that the success and diversity of craft beer in America is directly correlated to the increasing population of homebrewers.  The vast majority of homebrewers (and new brewery owners) happen to be younger than thirty—they belong to the “Millennial Generation.”  People have selective memory: the baby boomers were criticized by the previous generation for being damn, dirty hippies but, when the boomers grew up, they continued the vicious cycle by deeming Generation X a bunch of slack-jawed stoners.  Now, Gen X is all grown up and crapping all over the self-absorbed, technology-addicted Millennials.  Hindsight is 20/20 and we know that much of the criticism said of the baby boomers and Gen Xers was unfair but, unfortunately, society hasn’t yet evolved to the point where it realizes busting Millennial chops is the same story, different era.  Considering this generation is currently driving the craft beer industry and considering craft beer is flourishing in a down economy, methinks it’s time Millenials get their due respect.

Next up were Casey Hughes of Flying Fish Brewing Co. pouring Exit 4 and Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing Co. pouring Liquid Breadfruit paired with dessert: apple crêpes, almond frangipane, and cardamom caramel. 

Lastly, Dave Engbers of Founders Brewing Co. poured Blushing Monk, a delightfully fruity raspberry beer paired with burrata, pear brûlée, and cranberry jam.

Before we left, Julia Herz showed a brief video of Porter’s Pride, the beer awarded to all 2012 GABF medalists, being brewed at Breckenridge Brewery.  Since I was at Breckenridge covering the event for Denver off the Wagon, I had a cameo role in the video and didn’t hesitate to point myself out every time I appeared on screen.  What’s better, we were handed bombers of Porter’s Pride as we left the room!  I reiterate this beer is for the nearly exclusive consumption of GABF medalists: it is not sold in stores and is given to only a very select few.  Nonetheless, Nicole and I have two bottles sitting in our garage refrigerator.  They’re such a rare treat I almost don’t want to drink them.

Stay tuned for posts on the awards ceremony and the Saturday night session.



Lamb shank

Our chefs for the afternoon

A lovely spread of beer

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