Monday, October 12, 2009

From Dawn Through Dusk: GABF Friday (Part 1)

Though we decided before Thursday's GABF session to take it easy, we still managed to plow our way through a fair amount of samples. That, combined with the fact that our hotel room walls allowed us to virtually share in the lives of the Texans next door, made for a rough Friday morning.

But we had to persevere, as we had a kegful of events planned for us that day. It started with a Media Luncheon at the Marriott, held by the Brewers Association. You can see all the different glassware on the table for the beers served with the different courses. There were also numerous spoons and forks, which is a clue that you are at a classy event. I was so bewildered, I didn't even bother with the silverware. I just used my fingers to eat and used the silverware as noisemakers to let the servers know I needed more beer.

The luncheon consisted of six courses along with seven different beers. The first "course" was a strange but definitely beer themed. It was a mix of Munich and Chocolate malts, as well as Cascade and Saaz hops. We ate the malts to see the contrast of flavors between the two. We were then instructed to crush the hops in our hands and then smell the result. After dislodging the whole hops from my throat that I had already tried to chug before hearing the instructed, I smelled what I can only describe as a cologne I would like to wear for the rest of my life. If you have ever done the hop smushing thing, you know what I mean. If not, I'm sorry, but the Food Network is still working on the smellavision thing.

The real food started coming soon after, with a buffalo carpaccio and Cajun shrimp with corn grits paired with Del Norte Manana Amber Lager and Bend Rocksky Stein Lager. Information on the beers was actually provided by the brewers themselves, which was a nice touch. Rocksy Stein is a collaboration between Bend's World Beer Cup "Champion Brewer" Tonya Cornett and Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur, and uses a hot rock brewing process that looked like a pain in the ass, from the slideshow Tonya presented. She and Tomme had had to rig a pulley and lug 300 pounds of basalt rocks up a pulley to heat and achieve the flavor in the beer. I can't say if it was worth it for them, but I certainly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the next course of The Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, a delicate beer that didn't overpower but complemented the salad of organic greens with Colorado peaches, macadamia nuts, jicama and white balsamic vinaigrette.

Our "Intermezzo" was a Hibiscus flower granita with fresh horseradish, paired with Estes Park's Raspberry Wheat. If you have an intermezzo at lunch, you know you are big time. The entree(my favorite course) was a beef cheek, marinated for three days in Deschutes Black Butte Porter and then paired with the same beer. Brett Porter, Deschutes' Head Brewer, had us smell the beer by putting a hand over the beer, swirling it, and then sniffing it. He then had us swirl it again and then inhale deeply twice, and it was then that the smells in the beer truly came through. Brett explained that this is how they smell beer during testing at the brewery, and I have been doing it at home ever since. Even my tap water gets a swirl. Our dessert course was a "Black and Tan" of molten chocolate cake and Rogue Hazelnut Brown ale gelato, paired with the sweet Rogue beer and offset by Jolly Pumpkin's Maracaibo Especial Brown. The Maracaibo is a sour ale that showed just how different beers from the same "Brown" category of beers can be.

Julia Herz (Craft Beer Director for the Brewers Association), the brewers, and the Marriott chefs all did a fantastic job in putting the luncheon together and stuffing us media types. The food sure beat any lunch along the 16th Street Mall I would otherwise have had, with five extra courses to boot. And the people who actually brewed the beers there to discuss their creations made for a special experience. maybe the logistics of putting on such an extravagant beer luchcheon was not much of a burden for the locals involved: as guest speaker Mayor John Hickenlooper(pictured, right, along with BA President Charlie Papazian) informed us, "In Denver, Beer is part of our DNA."

Next: The Denver Media Beer Tour

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