GABF Review

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(Photos © Brewers Association)

DENVER. The Great American Beer Festival is one of those rare instances where beer enthusiasts and brewers come together for a celebration of what is great about this country’s beer culture. We Like Drinking visited the festival with an eye on talking to industry folks as much as sampling. We’ll try to fill you in on some of the details in our GABF review.

GABF Review

We had a chance to speak to many brewers. Check this site soon for our interviews with Elevation Beer Company (Poncha Springs, Colo.) and Saint Arnold Brewing Company (Houston, Texas) at the GABF. The best part of the GABF, in many ways, is the chance to network with people from the industry, whether you’re an insider or not.

We had an interesting interaction with the guys at SlapShot Brewing Company out of Chicago. They’re big hockey fans, and at least one of the owners is a longtime Chicago Blackhawks fan from when he was a boy. Being hockey fans ourselves, that conversation lingered more on the greatest game in the world than the greatest three-day beer festival in the world. McLaughlin’s RedEye from SlapShot is a nice coffee porter.

Oh, and there was the beer. It’s impossible to drink it all at the GABF. Check the winners for all the categories throughout our glorious country. Each year seems to offer some kind of brewing trend in the beers. This year there were a lot of Belgian styles, with brettanomyces yeast taking center stage. Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego — a brewery known for bold, hoppy beers — had an interesting wit. Many brewers come with something special for the GABF.

We’re not going to pin down a specific beer or two that were our favorites, but we spent more time in the Northwest region sampling than any other region outside of Colorado (have to support your home state). Check out the list of winners from this year’s GABF. Some of them may surprise you.

He didn't offer us his pretzels.  (Photos © Brewers Association)

He didn’t offer us his pretzels. (Photos © Brewers Association)

You immediate notice people at the GABF; so many people. They come in costumes and they come prepared with edible jewelry like pretzel necklaces. In fact, a group of festival goers graciously offered us pretzel necklaces while we were walking to the Denver Convention Center.

The GABF is not only about sampling the beers. It is also about fitting beer into your overall life. The highlight of our evening was an education session titled “Can you stand the heat?” The session involved pairing peppers with beer and featured Ninkasi Brewing Company from Seattle, Wash. The last pairing (Vanilla Oatis Oatmeal Stout with ghost pepper salt on top of vanilla ice cream) tricked us. Jeff and Jim both saw the ice cream and thought it was to cool the heat, only to get a blast before the brewer told us what was in front of us. Spicy but good!

We had a chance to learn about several of the vendor options in the area. Out of that came some great conversations. We’re checking out the Craft Crawler site and app for you and will provide our review soon. We like what we see so far, so be sure to check it out for yourself in the meanwhile and be prepared to give us your thoughts.

We also scored an interview with the American Homebrewers Association, an arm of the Brewers Association, which puts on the GABF event. Check soon for a video with Gary Glass, director of the AHA.

The GABF is one of those events every beer lover has to experience at least once. Next year’s GABF. Is scheduled for Sept. 24-26, 2015. Make your plans now. Less than nine months remain until tickets go on sale.