Food & Beverages October, 19 2012

Wandering Alone at the Great American Beer Festival

As you can see, the full title for this post is “Wandering Alone Under Sepia Tones at the Great American Beer Festival.” The big event goes down in the massive, dimly yellow-lit main hall of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver each year as the leaves turn amber, and I’ve covered it for four years in a row.

Each time it elicits a weird blend of excitement and despair. It’s hard not to fall in love with the camaraderie and artistry that brewers pour into their work, but once the celebratory fizz goes flat the crowd is thick with confused folks who didn’t think they’d get drunk from 70 1-ounce pours of beer.

Wander some more after the jump.

This is the Belgian Golden from New Plantet, a Colorado outfit that specializes in gluten-free beer. My wife has been eating hardly any gluten lately as part of a paleo-esque diet, which means I’ve been eating less gluten as well. The side effect of this seems to be that whenever I eat a handful of pretzels, I have thunderous farts on the five for 90 minutes. This beer was light and soft with a needling finish that pricks in an acupunctural manner. I also had a very decent gluten-free IPA from Redstone Meadery of all places.

Speaking of pretzels, about a fifth of the attendees wear string necklaces laced through a bunch of large twists. Salty things and beer do go together magnificently, but it becomes a melancholy festoon once the consecutive gulps pile up and the over-zealous sit reeling in folding chairs, wringing their hands and gazing into the face of some invisible god—baked goods dangling like sacrificial jewelry.

I enjoyed the hell out a crisp, bitter, beautiful BIPA from Funkwerks. I think that’s Belgian IPA, but my notes are halting on this. This brewery’s excellence in label-making is matched by the lackadaisicalness of their website.

I was moved to sit down by the Menage à Trois Braggot from Crabtree Brewery. Braggot is a riff on mead that includes beery ingredients like malt and hops. This one was fruity and smooth—threatening to turn syrupy berry right before a tingle of bitterness unfolded like origami.

Oskar Blues is an awful big deal out here, and they were serving beer in kegs submerged in big steel tubs from inside a fancy glowing shed. I took a pour of their Leroy but found no corresponding info. Without looking it up, I’ll say, “mellow brown ale with a streak of sour.” Extra dry and extra good was  the Ghost Dog Extra Pale Ale from Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, RI, which I must have sampled nearby.

Here’s something called Fiat Lux from Brooklyn Brewing that was floral, spicy and light, with near-visible stalks of lemongrass blowing in the breeze of meandering thoughts. It was also getting late.

Much like I imagine Flint, MI to be, this cream stout from their Redwood Brewing Co. was a little burnt but full of resolve. Worth mentioning that their Sweet Stout won silver this year.

And speaking of sweet, I closed the night with something 10-percent and wicked from the Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery in Ste. Genevieve County, MO called Box of Chocolate—as in you never know what you are going to get. What I got tasted like cheap liqueur-infused milk chocolate poured over romance novel regret, which might be compliment.

This is the big blue bear outside of the convention center. Looks like he forgot his ID. Maybe next year, old buddy.