Last week we attended the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver. Now that the dust has settled and our livers have fully recovered, we wanted to give you our take on the best of this year’s festival. No, we’re not going to judge the beers we sampled – a group of judges far more qualified than us have already selected the best beers. Instead, we’re going to share with you our favorite moments, experiences, and observations, and all the little things that excite us about GABF each year.
Without further ado, here’s a few of our best memories from inside the 2015 Great American Beer Festival. Grab a craft beer & let’s get started!
Best Reason to Wait In Line: Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
It takes a special kind of brewery to cause people to line up for their beer every day of the session, especially when you consider there are 749 or so other breweries to choose from, many of which you can visit without a wait. GABF lines are usually reserved for elusive out-of-state beers, or very rare releases from well-established breweries. But Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is local, and they haven’t even been around a full year – so why did they draw such a crowd? It’s simple, their beers are just hands-down incredible. Black Project is a side-venture of Former Future Brewing Co, and they are making some wonderfully delicious wild, barrel-aged ales, fermented with only wild yeast and bacteria. They poured three at the festival: Lancer, a sour blonde ale fermented with Colorado wildflower honey and aged in oak barrels; Dreamland, a sour golden ale aged in wine barrels; and Blueberry Dreamland, which takes the original Dreamland and ages it with blueberries in red wine barrels. Yes, they were all as delicious as they sound, and yes, they were well worth the wait.
Best Place to Find Rare Beer Without A Line: The Support Your Local Brewery Pavilion
What’s better than waiting in line for a rare and wonderful beer? Not waiting in line for a rare and wonderful beer! The State Brewers Guild man the tables at the Support Your Local Brewery Pavillion, and you can often find them pouring beers that aren’t available at the festival. Many of these beers should have caused a line to form, but you rarely find a line at these tables. We were able to sample some incredible, hard to find beers, with no lines at all. Like Founders KBS, a beer so good it’s rated 100 on Beer Advocate, and so hard to get that people buy tickets in advance for the release at the Founders Brewery in Michigan. Yet you could sample with no wait at the Michigan Brewers Guild booth. Let that be a lesson to you: Never skip the Support Your Local Brewery Pavilion.
Best Attire, Professional: Austin Beerworks
Austin Beerworks of Texas likes to say they’re hell-bent on excellence. Their also “classy as fuck” according to their GABF outfits, and nobody can argue with good embroidery. The front of their outfits were pretty snazzy too, complete with matching ascot ties, but these jackets? These jackets are fucking awesome. Stay classy, Austin Beerworks.
Best Attire, Amateur: Water, Hops, Barley & Yeast
You see a lot of costumes at GABF. There are folks in lederhosen everywhere, more than a few superheros, and you’ll always find a crew of Waldos hiding from the nosey kids always looking for them. However we like the beer themed outfits best, and really loved this creative group dressed as the essential ingredients of beer: water, hops, barley and yeast. They get extra credit for not just showing up with any generic yeast, but instead bringing Brett, their funky Brettanomyces yeast bro. Hops looks a bit scared, though, probably due to all the hop hunters swarming around him. Cheers for such a creative costume!
Best Beard: Eric Brooks of Verboten Brewing
If there is one thing besides beers that brewers can do well, it’s growing facial hair. But Eric Brooks from Verboten Brewing took facial hair to a whole new level with his hop-inspired facescaping. This beard is legendary, and all other beards are lame in comparison.
Best Addition to GABF in 2015: The Meet the Brewers Section
GABF added 90,000 square feet to the festival floor this year, and there were a lot of great perks to this. The festival aisles were wider and far less crowded, and a second entrance was added to help ease the wait for attendees to get into the festival. But our favorite change was the Meet The Brewers section. Meet the Brewers was like a beer festival within a beer festival, with brewery booths arranged by name (not region) and each of them staffed exclusively with brewery representatives. Before the festival our worry was that everyone would think that “meet the brewers” meant “hold up the line by incessantly chit-chatting with the brewer” but we only really ran into that issue once. It was great to see some of our favorite brewery people hanging out, discussing their beers, and we hope they continue this tradition next year.
Best Food For Those Of Us Who Didn’t Get Tickets for Paired: The Beer & Food Pavilion
If you missed out on the Paired (Farm to Table) tickets for GABF, we’re right there with you. But we did console ourselves with a few sessions in the Beer & Food Pavilion, and they were pretty awesome. The food pairing session options offered some great combinations, like how to pair cookies and beer, or beer and stinky cheese. We had no time for a proper dinner on Friday, so we attended the Sam Adams & Red Robin food pairing in the Beer & Food Pavilion. We were expecting samples, but instead received a full meal! We got a Red Robin’s Uberburger complete with fries, paired along with unlimited samples of Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer. The burger was as delicious as it was intimidating, with an authentic pretzel roll, spicy mustard, bacon, and believe it or not there’s even a bratwurst hiding under that bun. Yum!
Best Way To Get People To Vote: Hop The Vote
Once again this year GABF attendees were invited to “Hop The Vote” and choose their favorite of two craft beers, each made by our local Colorado lawmakers. The Ayes Have It Aye-PA (IPA) was brewed by Colorado House lawmakers along with Big Choice Brewing, while the Colorado Senate lawmakers worked with Cannonball Creek Brewing to brew a Senate Shout Out Stout. Both beers were fantastic, and it was a tough choice. We gave our votes to the House IPA, but in the end the Colorado Senate took home the trophy, designed by New Belgium Brewing, with 52% of the vote. I have no doubt the House is already working on next year’s brew recipe to try and reclaim this prize in 2016.
Best Slam of Big Beer: This
Why yes that is a water pitcher labeled “Miller High Life” and a dump bucket labeled “Miller.” Apparently, someone is NOT a fan of Miller.
Best Response from Miller: This
Mr. Miller (most likely not his real name) is not phased by all the haters throwing shade his way. Nope. He’s living he High Life, and all you beer snobs can just back the fuck off.
Best Hangout/Meetup Spot: Brewpub Pavillion
The brewpub pavilion was bigger & better this year, featuring live music, pub games, and plenty of tables and chairs for taking a break during the festival. Located smack-dab in the center of the festival floor, this was the perfect place to hang out, escape the bigger crowds, and meet up with your beer buddies.
Best Use of Taxidermy at GABF: This Angry Squirrel
We count on Black Bottle Brewery bringing two things to GABF each year: great beer and weird taxidermy. Lucky for us all they delivered on both counts once again. We enjoyed our samples of Black Bottle Brewery’s Cerealiously Count Chocula cereal milk stout while getting flipped off by this guy. Sure, he haunts our nightmares now, but it was worth it for the great beer.
Best Totally Self-Promoting Selfie: Team Bottle Makes Three
Who is that looking all legit and shit in their new Bottle Makes Three polo shirts? It’s us, looking all bright-eyed because it’s only 9:00 AM and we haven’t started drinking yet! Big thanks to Jessica Burch of DesignFarm30A for all her hard work with our shirts and other merchandise. Jessica has been a longtime friend and supporter of Bottle Makes Three, and her graphic design and merchandise work is always excellent. If you are looking to hire someone to help up your game, check out DesignFarm30A. And no, we didn’t get any cash or free swag in return for this recommendation. We just like to show off our new shirts!