"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 28, 2012

Great American Beer Festival 2012: Pt. 3

The last night of Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is bittersweet; beer geeks are in a flurry of activity during the three-day event, meeting new people and drinking new beer but, when Saturday’s nigh,  the sense of the festivals’ impending cessation becomes palpable.  However, as a certain quotable Yankee once said, “it aint over till it’s over”—the party don’t stop till 10 o’clock!

Before the final night of debauchery, Nicole and I attended the GABF awards ceremony for our first time.  Casual drinkers may wonder why anybody would want to listen to speeches from industry leaders, watch a bunch of brewers receive medals, but not actually drink beer.  A beer-less beer event?  What’s the point?  I suppose it’s for the same reason a movie buff might attend the Academy Awards even though no actual movies are shown or why America’s obese go to see live tapings of their favorite cooking shows—in these situations, none of the aficionados are experiencing their passion first-hand but they are surrounded by their heroes and like-minded enthusiasts; that’s where they get their fix and that’s how beer geeks get their fix at the GABF awards ceremony. 

But I lied!  There actually was beer served at the awards ceremony albeit in small quantities.  It wasn’t any old beer, either; it was Porter’s Pride, the beer awarded to all 2012 GABF medalistsNicole and I got two bottles at Friday’s media luncheon but, until the ceremony, we’d yet to drink it.

The ceremony crowd shuffles in

Porter’s Pride is named in honor of Danny Williams, the GABF cellar master who succumbed to cancer earlier this year.  I, like most people in the room, didn’t know Danny on a personal level but there were, nonetheless, quite a few misty eyes when, at the ceremony’s commencement, thousands of hands raised a cup of Porter’s Pride and toasted to his legacy.

The rest of the ceremony progressed much as one would expect: the winners for each category were announced, honorees took the stage, had a picture taken with Charlie Papazian, and were handed a bottle of Porter’s Pride.  As brewers received their coveted prizes, Nicole and I made note of the medaling beers we wanted to try during the Saturday night session and made sure to cheer especially loud for every winning Colorado brewery.  I am Hoosier by birth so I gave my due respects to the Indiana breweries, too, but The Crossroads of America wasn’t representing as well as it did last year

A funny and slightly awkward incident occurred when medalists for the American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager category were announced.  The top three beers were, in ascending order, Keystone Light, Miller Lite, and Pabst Blue Ribbon (perhaps now Pabst Gold Medal?) and, when that information sank in, a rolling chuckle swept through the room; the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of honoring these corporate giants; GABF should be about supporting relatively small craft brewers, not praising their oppressors.

GABF is a celebration of the art of craft beer, why does this category even exist?  As far as I’m concerned, to award a medal for best American lager, light lager, or premium lager is to exalt mediocrity.  Technically speaking, these types of lagers are actually very difficult to brew because their flavorless character means all imperfections are noticeable.  However, difficulty does not automatically equal quality; I imagine there’s a certain level of exertion put forth in deep-frying a stick of butter but that doesn’t mean you should deep-fry butter or that you should to put that grotesqueness in your mouth.  It’s like McDonald’s showing up at a neighborhood burger cook-off and winning “Most Hormonally Pumped-Up Beef”; it’s not a prestigious victory, it just means you’re the best of the worst.
Nicole especially liked the name of the bronze medalist

Of the 51 entrants in the American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager category, I wonder how many were from craft breweries.  For the reasons stated above, few artisan brewers bother with this type of beer; they prefer complexity, flavor, and, dare I say, class when formulating recipes.  Still, I’m issuing a challenge to three craft breweries with mettle; develop and refine the perfect American-style lager, light lager, or premium lager, enter it into the 2013 GABF, and shove the big breweries out of the spotlight.  Just make a small batch, the only people who need to taste it are GABF judges. 

To monolithic, faceless breweries, GABF medals are inconsequential; their sales and public exposure will stay relatively constant regardless of accolades accrued.  They don’t need a medal to be successful, just a population of beer drinkers with undiscerning taste.  This is not so true for start-up breweries; awards can do much in the way of attracting attention from both beer geeks and casual drinkers thus stirring up business.  Beat the big guys at their own game, craft breweries, and keep them out of the top three. 

Our parking meter was running out and Nicole and I couldn’t stay until the end so, unfortunately, we missed Funkwerks receiving the award for Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.  Represent!

Wynkoop tantalizes beer geeks waiting in line 
The Saturday night session wasn’t much different than Thursday night save for the fact that our group was larger (including a GABF virgin who needed to be corralled from time to time) and the crowd was rowdier.  We managed to taste a number of medalists before they got sucked dry (including the gold medalist in the homebrew category) and, once again, Nicole and I ran into these two beer-loving friends that always seem to pop-up wherever we may be.  I forget their names—which is okay because they forgot mine, too—but, for the fourth random time (we also met them at Hops & Pie, last year’s GABF, and River North Brewery), we coincidentally crossed paths in a beer-y location.  Considering the size of GABF, that’s one impressive happenstance. 

The biggest complaint most beer geeks have about Saturday’s GABF is that it’s usually attended by party people, drunkards, frat bros, and other assorted unsavory individuals; it’s supposed to be an event to savor beer and get a little drunk, not a place to slam as many beer’s as humanly possible and make a drunken ass of yourself.  The fault lies mostly in the person acting a fool but, while 99.99% of the GABF volunteers do an excellent job, there was, unfortunately, one subpar pourer.  I approached her booth and, seeing she was pouring from a bottle with the label turned in such a way that I could not see it, I asked about its name and style.  She answered flatly, “does it matter?”  Does it matter?  Yes, lady, it absolutely matters!  I prefer to know what goes into my body.  Nobody expects you to prevent d-bags from getting wasted but your blasé attitude excuses indiscriminate drinking and encourages the negative image beer geeks have of Saturday night.  In so many words, I explained again that I would please like to know the beer’s style.  It turned out to be a red ale of some sort.  Now, was that so hard?  I reiterate, though, that this dingbat was the exception—GABF volunteers, as a whole, rock my socks.

Before long, the lights went up, the doors opened, the pitchers were put away, and the throngs of revelers were ushered outside.  So ended another GABF and, in my opinion, the best one yet!  This was the first time I attended a Thursday session, the first time I attended the media luncheon, the first time I attended the awards ceremony, and, when it was all over, I realized I had delved deeper into the world of GABF than I ever had before.  Thank you, GABF, for another sud-soaked weekend; I’m already looking forward to 2013.



This year, I saw GABF from a different perspective: as the designated driver. Don’t worry, I was still able to sneak a few tiny sips of the beers I really wanted to try such as 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon; I’ve been searching for that beer for years and came so close this summer when we were at Bruisin’ Ales in North Carolina but the store had just run out of it.  I had another opportunity to enjoy Rivertown Brewing Company’s Roebling which I had when we were in Cincinnati on that same trip that took us to North Carolina. It’s definitely a beer for those with a sweet tooth. It tastes like a brownie with vanilla and some roasted quality. Most of the reviewers on BeerAdvocate hate this beer but that’s fine by me—more for me to drink (that is to say, more for me when I go back to Cincinnati since I can’t get it in Colorado)! I sampled as many pumpkin beers as possible, as well.

My official role for this year’s GABF was that of photographer. Putting my media pass to use, I walked up to strangers—usually dressed eccentrically—and asked to take their picture. It was quite an amusing assignment and it resulted in many blackmail-worthy photos.


If you're "Out of Touch" and don't get the joke, perhaps you should hire some "Private Eyes" but only if you're a "Rich Girl."  Otherwise, "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)." 

Magic Hat indeed!

This is how you want to advertise yourself, Sonoma Springs?

At least there was a happy ending

Words fail me

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