Sunday, October 16, 2011

GABF Friday Fun

If you absolutely must get out of bed the morning after the first night of GABF, the Media Luncheon is a good reason to do so.
We left our hotel and made our way over to the lower, lower level of the Marriott Hotel, which I'm pretty sure is near the center of the Earth. The table held an impressive display of glassware that would be used to serve our TEN courses of beer paired with six courses of food. Our table mates included beer writers Pete Brown, Tim Webb, and Stan Hieronymus. It felt like the time I thought I was cool working at All-American Burger until fast food legend Brad Hamilton came in and took over the fryer from me.

The fare was a cut above the menu at All-American Burger, starting with the first beer, served as a "Welcome Craft Beer" before the first course: TAPS Fish House and Brewery's Belgian White. The first course of a Carpaccio Beet Salad with fennel, green apples, goat cheese and bacon was so good I didn't even miss the dressing that sat in a gravy boat, unnoticed. I initially felt cheated, then I just felt stupid. Then I drank The Chuckanut Vienna Lager and McKenzie Saison pairings and forgot about it- until now, where I am chugging Hidden Valley Ranch. You may be reading this at work, with vending machines being your only source of sustenance, so I'll skip describing all the courses (I'll just showcase the photo of the grains of paradise seared lamb loin with ginger forbidden rice with apricots and cranberries). I'll also tell you that the theme of the luncheon was GABF medal winning brewpubs. This was a great idea, as smaller brewpubs win a large percentage of GABF medals but are often passed over by fest goers who are looking for more celebrated breweries. We only need look at our local brewpubs for examples of breweries that should never be skipped. In fact, Scott Metzger, Founder of Freetail Brewing (who's Bandito Sour we enjoyed with our "American Artisan Cheese Plate", sorry) told the story of how he made the decision to take the risk of starting his brewery while drinking at our own Chama River Brewing Company.

We bridged the gap between the 2 pm end of the Media Luncheon and the 5:30 start of the Friday GABF session with unofficial beer courses 11, 12, etc. The Friday session at GABF has the same amped-up energy that a local bar does during a Friday happy hour. That is to say, more people looking to get drunk as heck because they don't have to get up for work the next day, and that's not a bad thing at all. Even though I was being good and sampling slowly, there is always that background roar of thousands of people enjoying the best craft beer in the country that urges me to hit every brewery (and brewpub) that gets in my way. GABF has so much more going on, though- from free massages (the "happy ending" is that you get to go sample 2,378 beers after your massage is over, I was embarrassed to learn), to celebrity chefs teaching beer/food pairings, to beer book author signings, to the coolest exhibit at this 30th anniversary of GABF: a recreation of the scene of the first 1982 GABF, held in 1982, with an area the same square footage as the first serving beer from the same 22 breweries at the initial fest. That small area was just a dot on the map of the 2011 fest that took up the entire Colorado Convention Center floor with 466 breweries, and it put into perspective just how far this fest and American craft beer have come.

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