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  • Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company
    Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company
    by John M. P. Knox

    "Definitely worth adding to your collection – it’s as good a visual record of the brewing process as I’ve ever seen." -Dave of

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GABF Day 3 - Saturday In Denver

Sam Adams Longshot Competition

I woke up Saturday morning feeling a bit less than awesome. Actually, I was totally hung over from trying to keep up with the brewers the night before. Lesson learned: never go head to head drinking against a brewer.

Even more so: don't even try to look like you're keeping up with a room full of brewers. Accustomed to having one or two beers with dinner, my tolerance won't stack up with any brewer.

Still, I managed to mope to the site of the Sam Adam's Longshot Competition awards ceremony. I had a few bites of their delicious catered breakfast, lots of water, and Jennie helpfully forced an Alka-Seltzer down me. Plop plop, fizz fizz!

The Long Shot competition is structured to have one employee brewer and two outsider amateur brewers win. All three of the winning beers will be scaled up and brewed by Sam Adams for a period of time. This year the rules specified that the beers fit within category 23, the wildcard slot for beers that don't fit into the other beer judging categories.

The awards ceremony started with brunch and offered up a fine selection of Sam Adams beers on Tap, and a few of their rare beers in bottles. They also had three of their employee finalists pouring samples of their beer for a final vote.

After everyone had time for breakfast, Jim Koch himself announced the Longshot winners. Rodney Kibzey, Richard Roper, and Caitlin DeClercq all took the stage to have a beer in a giant trophy mug with Jim.

Member's Session at GABF

Next stop on the agenda was the Saturday morning session of GABF, the member's session. This session is usually the best, and they even hand out glass tasting glasses instead of the usual plastic tasting cups required the other sessions.

The first order of business was the awards ceremony, where the actual GABF medals are announced and handed out by Charlie Papazian. Some great breweries and great beers pulled down medals this year.

After the awards, the next step was securing seats in the Beer and Food Pavilion. The first session was paring exotic wood aged beers with food, featuring Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Sean Paxton. Sean is popular and Sam is a beer rock star, so the seats were already filling up 30 minutes before the event.

We were treated to a humorous presentation which included actually smoking meat on the stage. Awesome. I'll have some video of this in the future.

The final big event I stopped at was the Fire & Ice throwdown in the Food and Beer pavilion. Here Maui Brewing faced off with Alaskan Brewing in a pairing competition. Garrett Marrero paired his Maui beers with Hawaiian cuisine, which means in this case poke. Curtis Holmes of Alaskan paired his beers with salmon and crab.

The highlight of the night was Garrett's wild pairing. This poke dish was intended to be sprinkled lightly with crushed hop pellets, but a misunderstanding with the culinary students modified the recipe. My tiny cup of raw tuna had at least two hop pellets sprinkled over the top (see photo at right).

What bitter decadence, chewing on raw ahi tuna and maybe a couple of dollars worth of hops. Some people obviously thought the accidental overhopping was too much, but I rather enjoyed my hop salad. Am I crazy, or just a hop nut?

After this final pairing, Jennie and I called it a night. We packed up a bit early to avoid the notorious Saturday night GABF crowds and walked back to the Bed & Breakfast.

See more of my day 3 photos on my twitter page, and don't forget to check out Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company if you're interested in a visual exploration of the craft brewing process. Cheers!


Great American Beer Fest Day 2 - Friday in Denver

Beer for Boobs Brunch

The morning started right with the Beer for Boobs Brunch. This fun event was put on by the Ladies of Craft Beer, and supports breast cancer awareness. Freshcraft hosted us and provided the food. 

Sebbie of Rogue was at the brunch wearing a mischievous smile. On a completely unrelated note, I think a bit of Rogue Spirits Hazelnut Spice Rum spilled into the Chocolate Stout I was drinking. How did that happen? Oh well, delicious accidents are welcome.

Breckenridge Brewery

Emboldened by the accidental Rogue cocktail, I snuck onto the GABF press bus and hid in the back with the other misfits. Would you believe that they sing songs on the press bus? These media folks are fun. Our first stop was the Breckenridge Brewery. 

We walked on a whirlwind tour of the brewery floor and the coldroom while drinking samples of their beer. As we jumped back in the bus to continue the tour, the 'ridgers tossed us cans of Avalanche Amber Ale for the road. Now that's hospitality.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

Next stop on the bus tour was Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. We saw their copper still, their barrel room, and got to taste whiskey samples on the tour. Delicious. Local craft whiskey is a new concept for me, but I like it.


Returning to The Great American Beer Festival, meant more beer and more food. I interviewed more brewers (video coming in the future) and attended the three Beer & Food Pavilion presentations. These included Adam Avery and Hosea Rosenberg (pictured) pairing street food with craft brews. Yum.


Rounding out the night was the GABF post-judging party at the Marriott. This party was the bomb. Imagine a room full of the country's best brewers. Now imagine bins full of the best craft beer, lining the walls. In the center of the room, a selection of delicious pizza.

All conversations at this party went something like this: "Oh, hi. Have you tried this beer? It's incredible!" Then some interesting new liquid was poured in my glass. Boy was that fun. I didn't feel well the next morning, but it was worth it. I plan to use moderation next time.

Be sure to check out the Flickr page for Friday for more fun photos.


How to Review a Beer at GABF

When I was at the Great American Beer Festival last week, I asked Dave of 33 Beers if he wouldn't mind reviewing a beer on camera for Hop Safari. With no preparation, Dave marched over to a nearby booth and started demonstrating the process by filling out his 33 Beers journal.

I broke the video up into 15 not-quite-serious steps. Watch carefully. With more than 2,000 beers at GABF, you've got to take notes if you want to keep track of the best taps.

Thanks Dave, that was totally awesome! I'll probably show off my own copy of 33 Beers, and a few 33 Beers hacks later.


Thursday in Denver: GABF Day 1


Thursday morning started with another breakfast at Snooze. While we waited for our food, I gave Dan of Bison Brewing a copy of Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company, which he seemed to really dig.

Jennie, Dan, and I each ate our own meals, and also shared a flight of the supernaturally fluffy Snooze pancakes. Snooze makes amazing pancakes!

Alaskan Brewing Company

After breakfast, Jennie and I met with the kind folks of Alaskan Brewing Company. Like many in the craft beer industry, Charlie, Eric, and Ashley are very nice and very down to earth. Unlike most in the industry, they're based out of Juneau, Alaska.

Juneau life sounds a little crazy and a little wonderful at the same time. Juneau is isolated. There is no overnight delivery. There is no road linking them to the rest of the world.

Hearing this, I imagined a grizzled brewer wearing a seal-skin parka. He has a huge knife hanging from his rope belt, and steadily drags a sled full of malt and hops towards Juneau. He slowly marches over hills and through swamps, rationing out his growlers of beer, and guarding the brewing ingredients with his life.

At night, he builds a fire under the glinting green gaze of a hungry wolf pack, and sleeps in a sack of barley. When the brewer finally arrives at Alaskan Brewing Company, the gates creak open, the staff cheers, a band plays, and everyone complements him on his nice new wolf-skin boots.

None of that is true. All of the grain used for brewing is loaded onto barges and shipped to Juneau by water. Everything in Juneau is made there, or floated, or flown in, which isn't quite as amazing as a wilderness brewer trek, but still pretty cool. Alaskan has to work a bit harder to keep the world supplied with their beer.

I suspect the isolation is one reason they use some unusual local ingredients, like the spruce tips used in one beer. Shipping is one unique challenge for their amazing location.

I shot a short video interview of the Alaskan folks, which I should have up in the future.

Great Divide Party

Jennie and I then walked to meet our (512) Brewing Company friends at Great Divide Brewing Co. Every year Great Divide generously hosts a pre-GABF party for brewers featuring their delicious beer and some of the food made with it.

I drank a glass of Rumble and a glass of Yeti. Good stuff! I never turn down a pint of Yeti!

21st Amendment Brewery

On our way towards the conference hall, we all made a quick stop at a condo rented by 21st Amendment Brewery. The 21st Amendment folks were celebrating some new beers, in particular their nicely balanced "Back in Black" Black IPA in cans. Black IPA is trending this year - big time - so this should be popular. I interviewed their brewer about how they make that beer, which will be appearing in the future.

The Beer Festival

The final stop of the day was the actual  Great American Beer Festival. The GABF is a huge conference hall stuffed wall-to-wall with beer and beer swag. Table after table lines up in long rows, containing 455 breweries and 2,200 different beers. Not to mention some interesting vendors, like the X-Communicated Mormon Drinking Team.

When each GABF session starts, the hall is filled with the dull roar of thousands of the most passionate beer fans talking and drinking. The atmosphere is amazing.

I had a few goals for Thursday's GABF session. First, I wanted to attend a few of the beer and food pairing events at the Beer & Food Pavilion. Second, I wanted to meet Dave of 33 Beers and buy a set of his beer journals. Third I wanted to try a few beers on my list. Finally, I wanted to take things slow so I could survive the next 3 GABF sessions on Friday and Saturday.

I'm proud to say that I achieved all four goals. The first brewery stop was New Glarus, one of the breweries suggested earlier by Alaskan Brewing. Those in the know understand that New Glarus is a brewery for brewers. If you pick 12 random brewers off the GABF floor and ask for a beer recommendation, you'll be hearing "New Glarus" a few times at least. 

Even though I entered the conference hall before the general public did, there was already a line for New Glarus. Who was in the line? Those same brewers you asked for a recommendation. By the time the first pour was allowed, the New Glarus line stretched out of visual range. Delicious and popular stuff!

I should have some video footage of the first day up in the future, so keep a look out on this blog, on twitter, or by following the RSS feed.



Dinner with Beer Nerds

I was lucky enough to eat dinner with some of the most intense beer heads and foodies around. BeachBumChris, Charmaine of SpeakEasyKitch, and Jennie of MisoHungry. If you're interested in what we beer nerds talk about, cooking with beer, or what kind of beer we drank before the Great American Beer Festival, this is the video for you.