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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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Entries in Beer (37)


Interview with Alaskan Brewing Company

Jennie and I interviewed Charlie, Ashley, and Eric of Alaskan Brewing Company during GABF in Denver. They talked about their contribution to the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting, the barrel-aged Smoked Porter, brewing with spruce tips, and what beers they looked forwards to tasting at GABF.


Three Beer Trends: Old and New

Barrel Aged Beers

Barrel aged beers are the leather seats of the brewing world. The normal beer has a competitive price, but the beer aged in wood barrels costs a few bucks more. Nobody buys a car with cloth seats or crank windows. Why would you buy the beer without the liquor barrel aging?

Some of these barrel aged beers end up with more of the liquor flavor than the wood flavor. If the bourbon barrel still had a puddle of Maker's in the bottom, is the result a barrel aged beer, or an aged beer cocktail?

This trend seems to have culminated in breweries like Rogue and Dogfish Head distilling and aging spirits. Want some wood and rum flavor in your Rogue Chocolate Stout? Just add some Rogue Rum to your Rogue Beer.

I expect more large craft breweries to try their hand at distilling. If they can invent a cocktail using their existing beer, they might just kick off a trend. 

What are the other brewers of note who are distilling too?

India Black Ale / Cascadia Dark Ale

The name of this beer is a topic of political discussion that I'll skip, but this style seems to be going more mainstream. Sam Adams awarded Blackened Hops a winning slot in the 2010 Longshot competition. 21st Amendment Brewery is canning their Back in Black.

This will give us beer nerds a fun time introducing our friends / bartenders to a new style.

"What do you mean you haven't heard of an IBA / CDA?" you'll gloat to your buddy, "there were 53 entries in the GABF this year!"

Anyone have a good pairing suggestion?


The trend towards canning is slowly growing, but that doesn't mean that the debate is over.

Can you age beer in cans? Sure, less oxygen is able to break into in a can versus a bottle, but how much gets in the beer during the canning process? How big is the difference in environmental impact between cans and bottles? What are the cost differences?

I expect the canning trend to keep growing, although I expect bottles will always have their place. A nice big bomber just looks nice on the shelf.

Oh, and can someone please explain to me why beer wouldn't age well in cans?


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.

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