Thursday, September 20, 2018

GABF 2018-Ten Years of Covering the Best Beer Fest in the World

I thought last year would be the year of the hazy IPA, but after looking over the list of beers being poured at GABF today, I was way off. Seems like everyone has some beer with a pun playing off milkshake or hazy. And that would be just fine if I hadn't hit the yearly classic Melvin East Meets West IPA event at Falling Rock Tap House. 21 IPA/DIPAs to choose from. $40. 6 10 oz. pours. So if you break it down, that's $40 for what amounts to less than a six-pack. Of course I paid for it- what else am I gonna do with my time and money? Besides, we have it down to a science: a group of four of us had tickets and just kept going up through the very, very manageable line (sure we're talking about Falling Rock here??) until we had a table filled with 21 of the best IPAs one could ask for. Well, if you leave out #2 (Beachwood DDH Melrose, which was a malt bomb) and #11 (Melvin Bogan, a Nelson and Galaxy DIPA that sounded good but was a mess. It is a coincidence that both of these beers fall into the clear IPA category and both were singled out as subpar? Probably not. I'd have to say that two other traditional IPAs on the list, Alchemist Focal Banger and Three Floyds Lazer Snake, were among my least favorites. Crazy. There was a time when I would have felt privileged just to even try an Alchemist or Three Floyds IPA, you know? Before you call me a"Hazebro", as is the social media trend to lump in the idiots along with people who recognize a great beer, listen: another traditional West Coast style IPA, Cannonball Creek Project Alpha 25, was excellent. I kept going back to that one. Happy now?
Let's see...Kane was the one brewery who sent a Brut IPA. Not good. Funky yeast and spritzy. Finally got to try a Moonraker beer, Electric Lettuce. Great. The other top beers: Revision Reno as Fuck, Great Notion Ripe (which was my standout beer of GABF last year) Fieldwork Blur in Stereo (28 IBUs, HOW IS THIS AN IPA!! Relax, buddy), and Springdale Good and You. This Massachusetts brewery is new to me. Good stuff.

So here we are, with the Thursday session of GABF looming. And me, never wanting to touch a hazy IPA again, though hopefully that feeling is gone by 5:30. I have a lot of sampling to do in the name of journalism. A lot has changed since I first covered the fest in 2009- notably my tolerance. And the fact that there are now 800 breweries and 4,000 beers, compared to just over 200 breweries and 2,000 beers in 2009. There is also 100,000 more square feet of festival space than in 09. My job now is to figure out which brewery will have the honor of hosting my first sample of the fest. In 2009, I went with Ballast Point Dorado. Now you can buy that beer in the supermarket. The smart choice is to start with a palate-opening Pilsner, so Pfreim Pilsner, Sandlot Barman Pils, Troegs Sunshine Pils, or Rockyard Primadonna (World Beer Cup gold medal winner this year) would fit the bill. But I usually end up hitting the places where the lines will be longest later in the evening, which are usually the places with the rare/barrel/aged/ high ABV beers. So that probably means something along the lines of Modern Times Devil's Teeth BA Imperial Stout with NOLA coffee. Or Kane's A Night to End All Dawns. Or Lost Abby Duck Duck Gooze. Or anything J Wakefield. But probably Weldwerks, which I predict will have the longest lines, thanks to a list including Quadruple dry-hopped Juicy Bits, Medianoche, Coconut Medianoche, Mexican yeah, that line will be out of hand. A sleeper will be Flossmoor Station, who is bringing back Wooden Hell, one of the original whale beers from 2008 that people were trading $$$$ or their children for. And there's Bottle Logic, who is pouring Fundamental Observation, Darkstar November, Number Crunch...
It's going to be a long night. To all who are going: stay hydrated. Bring snacks. Though the GABF rules state no outside food is allowed, they mean they don't want you bringing in a pizza or foot-long sandwiches. Pretzel necklaces will always be welcome.

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