"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!

Friday, October 10, 2014

GABF 2014: The Media Luncheon

Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has once again blown through Denver and, once again, Nicole and I were on-hand to experience the wonder that is America’s premier beer festival.  How does one encapsulate the essence of GABF in a blog post?  Not easily; the festival is multi-faceted, nonlinear, and inconsistent to the narrative storytelling format.  Ergo, I shall recall my experiences via vignettes separated into broad categories: The Festival Itself, The Media Luncheon, and The Awards.

The Media Luncheon

·        This was the second time Nicole and I attended the media luncheon; first in 2012 then skipping 2013.  Held on the 38th floor of the downtown Denver Grand Hyatt, this summit of journalists, Brewers Association (BA) reps, and brewery personalities offered networking opportunities, exclusive facts and figures from the BA, and all while perched in a lofty tower, overlooking the city and mountains.  An awe-inspiring view, certainly, and I couldn’t help trying to spot my favorite breweries from that sky-scraping vantage point.  No luck; from that height, all the buildings blur together.

Drinking beers a mile high (plus 38 floors)
·        The reasons a beer writer should want to attend the GABF media luncheon are myriad but, for me, the food and the beer pairings are the strongest siren call.  As I write, I’m remembering our luxurious feast and making that Homer Simpson gurgling noise.  Check out the menu, keeping in mind each beer is also a past GABF medalist:

Smoked Trout Fuille de Brick, Grapefruit and Chervil Persillade
paired with:

Granny Smith Apple with Ginger and Grapefruit
paired with:
Napoleon Complex Berliner Weisse from the BA homebrewing team

Grilled Ribeye Filet, Roasted Shallot Demi, Salsify, Yukon Gold Potato and Horseradish Gelette, French Green Beans, Horseradish Chip
paired with:

Dusty Miller Semifreddo, Warm Toffee Sauce
paired with:

For those not schooled in culinary terminology, a more prosaic description of the food would be as such:

Yummy fish eggrolls
paired with:
A citrusy, tart beer and a dry-hopped saison

A thin slice of apple folded over ginger and grapefruit and then held in place with a toothpick
balanced on the rim of:
A shot glass of bready-more-than-sour Berliner weisse

One of the best pieces of steak you’ll ever put in your mouth sitting atop a hash brown
paired with:
Two very decadent porters

A weird sphere of chocolate mousse encased in a hard, chocolate shell
paired with:
A robust altbier and a gut-filling stout

Fit for the snooty, rich antagonist of a 1980’s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy, the meal was several sumptuous notches above the stereotypical beer geek fare of dripping hamburgers, pizza, and pretzel necklaces.  

The intermezzo
·        Quick!  Picture a beer geek.  What do you see in your mind’s eye?  A beard?  A flannel shirt?  An epidermis hailing from the Caucasus region?  Basically, a white dude who’s doing well financially, right?  That demographic is the majority at any beer festival but, according to the BA, there’s a cultural shift happening in the world of craft beer.  A rising number of women, Hispanics, and people in lower SES brackets are joining the party.  Women age 21-34 account for 15% of craft volume, the lower 60% in terms of income account for 40%, and Hispanic craft drinkers are quickly becoming a target audience.  On one hand, this is awesome news; diversity benefits the industry as a whole.  A wider customer base equates to more money generated.  The world tends to be a more pleasant, tolerant place when people of different backgrounds share a common interest, too.  On the other hand, the statistics remain paltry; it’s still a European-descended male’s world.  The BA’s figures seem “token,” like Photoshopping a minority student into a BYU newsletter.  Perhaps I’m just cynical.  Perhaps craft beer is truly experiencing the onset of a major demographic change.  I don’t know if that’s true but I hope it is; beer is for the people—all the people.  I do know, however, my wife, who boasts Hispanic roots, didn’t like beer until she met me.  You can thank me for bumping the BA’s percentages up by a decimal or two.

Get in my mouth!

·        75% of Americans age 21 and up live within ten miles of a brewery.  There’s no excuse why you shouldn’t be drinking local.

·        Beer is a $100 billion market, the subset of craft beer is $14.3 billion, while wine is at $36 billion.  Meanwhile, craft is steadily eating away at the mega-brands’ share—craft, like Pepé Le Pew pursuing his object of affection, is slowly but surely overtaking the remaining $85.7 billion.  My point: I’m not sure.  But it’s an interesting bit of data.

·        Throughout the luncheon, brewers expounded on their stories of origin, successes, failures, and future plans.  Kevin DeLange of Dry Dock Brewing Co., for example, told an anecdote of when he won his first GABF medal.  When they announced his beer as the winner, the first thought that ran through DeLange’s mind was “who stole my name?”  Of course, Dry Dock’s used to hearing their names called now; they have 20 career medals, after all.  Additionally, the folks from Piney River explained their unique situation: they’re way out in the boondocks of the Missouri Ozarks.  If you survive the snaggle-toothed opossums and similarly dentally challenged backwoodsmen, you’re rewarded with award-winning beer!  Fun side note: Piney River, since 2011, is the only brewery in the Missouri Ozarks that cans their beer.  However, it’s such a localized operation that they have no liquor store presence in the state’s two major metros, St. Louis and Kansas City.

DeLange et al speaking to the crowd
·        The website for your next favorite brewery may not end in .com, .net, or any other dot whatever to which you’re accustomed.  Rather, it may well conclude with .beer.  I’m not much of a techie (as you may assume from this blog’s primitiveness) but this new format seems like a natural progression befitting the dramatic rise of craft beer’s popularity.



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