GABF has come and gone, friends. And while the focus of the beer festival was, as always, the beers – we were fortunate enough to work with a brewery that had facial hair nearly as impressive as their brewed creations. For all four of the Great American Beer Festival sessions we poured for Fitger’s Brewhouse from Duluth, Minnesota. If like us you’ve never been to Duluth, then that may not impress you much. We had never heard of them either, since the crazy Minnesota blue laws mean they can only sell their beer from their own establishments and there is no distribution. But now that we’re in the know we can tell you that Fitger’s rocks! The beers they offered at GABF were unique and delicious, and just a drop in the bucket compared to the varieties they offer at their brew pub. From what we have learned from the fans they attracted at GABF they make a lot of excellent beers and serve great food, all in a fabulous brewhouse that features live music and breathtaking views from the shore of Lake Superior. I tell ya, it’s enough to make you want to take a road trip to Duluth. Best of all, the entire gang from Fitger’s were awesome. We had so much fun working with them that we ended working a session more than we planned, staying for the crazy Saturday night session just to keep pouring for this great group. And of course, they rocked the most spectacular beards….
Since we poured for Fitger’s, we sampled all the beers of Fitger’s – often! They brought five: Their 1100 Wheat Wine, Timmy’s Edelstoff, Hoppelujah IPA, Big Boat Oatmeal Stout and Gooseberry Gose. All were great, honestly, but the Gose was a big favorite and was the first to blow. We weren’t familiar with Gose, but the Fitger’s brewers were happy to tell us about the style. Gose is an ancient beer known to be from the city of Leipzig, Germany. It’s a wheat beer with a nice soft tartness and a slightly salty and spiced flavor. Words cannot do it justice, so suffice it to say it was a damn good beer. If you didn’t get it early, you didn’t get any. That’s the way it is with good beers at GABF, you snooze, you lose. They were robbed when they didn’t get a medal, in my humble and completely unqualified opinion.
We blew the Gooseberry Gose quick, but fortunately all the other Fitger’s beers were good as well. I really dug the Oatmeal Stout and IPA, while Jeff couldn’t get enough of the IPA and Wheat Wine. Don’t take that to mean we didn’t like the Edelstoff, it’s just with the other big flavors available we didn’t opt for this lighter lager too much. Those who liked more of a session beer couldn’t get enough of this Munich-style Helles, so yes, it was tasty too.
Since we worked all four sessions, we didn’t get to go to GABF for fun this year, but had plenty of breaks to walk around and sample. We found a few new favorites while working in the Great Lakes section of the festival – such as Shorts Brewing Company and Great Lakes Brewing. We also sought out beers from old favorites, like Harpoon and Cigar City. Overall though, we didn’t find anything out there better than what we were pouring, so we tended to stay put and drink from Fitger’s and those surrounding us with no complaints.
GABF is such a blast. It doesn’t matter what side of the table that you’re on, it’s just electric in that convention center when the bagpipes start to play and they open the doors. We went through periods of time when it was slow and we got to chat up the brewery folks around us, and periods when we were totally slammed and we couldn’t fill those little tasting glasses fast enough. We dealt with beer geeks who had to know what types of hops were used in the Hopallujah IPA (Sorachi Ace, Galaxy, and Mosaic if you must know) and how they were able to sour the Gose (lactic bacteria.) We also poured for more than a few people who just pointed at the beer based on color and said “I’ll have that one” with no regard for the style. You get all types, but overall everyone was having a great time and it was fun to be a part of their GABF experience. Only one guy had to be cut-off (and it was hilarious, by the way.) Yep, it’s a crazy fun fest and if you have never been, you should put it on your bucket list. Or make us a deal — we worked enough this year to earn 4 tickets for next year’s fest.
On a side note, we didn’t make as many of the Denver Beer Fest Week events as we’d have liked, since volunteer obligations kept us from visiting places with big crowds and long lines. One highlight of the week was going to Star Bar before the Friday session to enjoy some Cigar City beers on tap. What a hidden gem Star Bar is…. they had several rare beers on tap, beers that are impossible to find in Colorado, yet you didn’t have to wait in line to try them. There I was able to have two Cigar City beers: the Common Porter, and possibly the best pumpkin beer ever, their Good Gourd. YUM. Jeff had Dogfish Head Sixty-One, and the Short’s Brewing’s Huma Lupa Licious IPA. Yep, you heard it here first — GABF week, head to Star Bar. In fact, go there even when it’s not GABF, and you won’t be disappointed. We (heart) Star Bar so hard.
So that was our GABF week. It was a long weekend of drinking, standing, pouring, drinking and learning. And drinking. We met some great folks from Duluth, and had wonderful beers from all over this country. We even had a Charlie Papazian spotting! The whole weekend is an awesome, beer-soaked blur, and we cannot wait to do it again next year.