Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What the Hell Happened at GABF?

Yeah, the title of this post is a bit misleading because it implies a singular event that might have dominated the interests of those who were in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, when, in actuality, it was a compound of mind-melting events and zany antics for sure -- a festival, in the truest interpretation of the word: a feast of celebrations honoring saints and gods in which the liturgical calendar of everyone in attendance is (mostly) based, and partook by in every angle of the city: convention halls, nationally esteemed beer bars, Beerliners, bottle shops, and extraordinarily enough, ancillary pop-up festivals within the festival.     

GABF is like Christian Mingle for fat, bearded, drunky louts, iffin you can affiliate something like Rio Carnival as something religiously-based at all, which is to say that here, in the center of this country's beer Mecca, amongst the gassy cool dads making their annual retreats and turbo-millennials with at least three others from their Facebook, stand the Monsters of Brewing; the Gods of Fermentation, if you will.

In the center of the Great Hall, amongst the constant droning of its besotted human mass and against the complexions of 3,100 individually imagined beers, resembles the circus of repentant sin before the season of Last Suppers and enlightened reformations -- at least whatever tame mess a Space Shuttle hangar worth of drunks geeking out to something called "Sparkleberry" can get themselves in to.  The enthusiasm is both sweetly infectious and slightly disturbing.  But that is GABF.  It should be their fucking motto.

One of my favorite little occurrences in life -- and I don't want to misrepresent myself here as a person who desperately achieves lumps in the throat from simple, daily routines -- but one of my favorite little occurrences in life is when a beer glass can't take the girth of my 12 fluid ounces, and so to achieve maximum value from the beer purchase, I just kinda slam the final 1oz sip right out of the bottle. Fresh. Cold. 

Its like tricking a life rule -- final sips from their respective vessels are supposed to be sickly warm, not bright and biting, indicative of the beer's pasts and present.  Its a fucking glorious phenomenon.

That too, is GABF.

One ounce samples of greatness, one after the next, as many as your skill for breathing involuntarily allows.  Brisk and tricking life.  Its a world class experience.  Try it at home, then go ahead and book your flight to Denver for 2014.

My absolute favorite thing about GABF this year was the massive and proud representation we had from The Great State.  Texas represented 37 of the festival's 624 breweries, which, according to fuzzy Google calculations, is more than half of the state's active breweries, and like, a shitload more than many other states had there in this massive chamber of dreams.

In that, nine of those Texas breweries took home a grand total of 10 medals, including favorite sons, Austin Beerworks & StepCrew (see reference above) for their Black Thunder Schwarzbier.  A fucking gold medal beer, available right in your living room.  And they're bringing it all the way back to Awstin, Texas, baybee. -- Vince Young.

Beyond that, five other Austin-area breweries took home impressive hardware for their prodigious efforts, especially amazing in the fact that five of the six medal breweries of Austin are in their infancy.

Gold to Namaste Brewing for Bitterama in the Herb & Spice Beer category
Silver to Real Ale* for Brewers Cut Altbier in the German-Style Altbier category
Bronze to Black Star Co-Op for Elba in the Herb & Spice Beer category
Bronze to Jester King for Atrial Rubicite in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category
Bronze to Pinthouse Pizza for Blind Jake in the Brown Porter category

* old ass, Texas flagship brewery

It is clear that Texas is improving their ability to compete, and above that, expecting to compete.  There was a clear and significant buzz around the Southwest Midway -- which in the past several years has expanded from a blinking stoplight town to a megalopolis of beer -- largely on the strength of Texas brewing. Texas Brewing.  I like the way that sounds.

And it was pretty awesome to witness the enthusiasm surrounding Texas' preferable positioning at this year's festival, which was probably not coincidental based on its 2013 hype.  I think everyone there probably delivered on that promise of something special.

I've mentioned it before, but Texas Row, including its satellite branch of free 12oz pours at the Beerliner -- a mobile beer bar driven from Austin, over the mountains, and planted in front of the venerable Falling Rock Taphouse -- resembles more of a Senior Trip than a Beer Fest.  We won't say we are sorry.

And with 5,000 total beer submission for judging between all the competing breweries, it appears that there is a ton -- I mean a fucking ton -- of confidence in craft brewing at the moment, not only with experimental beer, but with, as my pal Mike likes to say, "Keep the Lights On Beer", just as Black Thunder exists so that seasonals and exploratories like Sputnik and Einhorn can go all the way with me.  Oh, and along the way, why don't they  just pick up a Gold Medal while they're at it?

And while there were only a sippycup's worth of flops -- Odell Fernet Barrel Aged Porter stand out as the biggest offender -- there were gallons upon gallons of liquid salve that stopped the hemorrhaging from such a brain beating (Mikey liked it. No he did. He brought a bottle home to kill wasps with, presumably.).

An thus, the collaborate effort of mining GABF's best beers between two dudes on a 9am flight back to Texas with every other brewer and enthusiast and blogger hiding behind their Audio-Technica headphones ignoring hangovers.  Happily feeling shitty.  Knowing that we'd do it all over again.

10.  Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale | Cigar City Brewing | Tampa, FL
09.  White Chocolate Wheatwine | The Bruery | Orange County, CA
08.  Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout | Mother's Brewing | Springfield, MO
07.  Gone Commando Vienna Lager with Currants | Short's Brewing | Bellaire, MI
06.  Lobster Stout | Dogfish Head Brewing | Milton, DE
05.  Empire Spear Beer Asparagus Ale | Right Brain Brewing | Traverse City, MI
04.  Black Note Imperial Stout | Bell's Brewing | Kalamazoo, MI
03.  Duck Duck Goze | The Lost Abbey | San Marcos, CA
02.  Mosaic IPA | Community Beer Company | Dallas, TX
01.  Mexican Chocolate Siberius Maximus Russian Imperial Stout* | Wrecking Bar Brewpub | Atlanta, GA 
(*Major HT to @carlosarellano for pointing us into the brewpub pavilion)

(follow [AA] on twitter @anavenueblog, and @draught_punk for best in life podcast)

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