Saturday, October 8, 2022

2022 GABF Awards

The 2022 Great American Beer Festival annual Awards Ceremony took place Saturday morning, the culmination of 2,154 breweries who entered 9,904 beers. And although there were 9,904 beers judged, there were only 235 people doing the judging, an average of over 42 beers tried per judge. I would almost begin to feel a little skeptical that the judges were able to do a completely competent job after that many beers, yet somehow they manage to award Allagash White a gold medal year after year. This competition is legit, folks.

Aside from Allagash, there were a number of familiar breweries taking awards this year, such as Russian River, Pizza Port OB, Left Hand, Chuckanut, and Breakside. There were 18 first-time medalists at the fest, which makes up about 6% of the medals awarded. Of particular interest to me were the medalists in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category, in which three breweries I have never heard of took the top three spots: City Barrel Brewing Co. out of Kansas City, MO; White Rock Alehouse and Brewery from Dallas, TX, and Flatland Brewing from Elk Grove, CA (it's near Sacramento. I looked it up).

Also of interest was the number of entries in the German-Style Pilsener (that's how the BA spells it) category. Sure, you'd expect American-Style IPA and Hazy IPA to be at the top, and they were, with 423 and 375 entries, respectively. But how about that German Pilsener, with 233 entries?? Lagers are cool, man!

And locally, a show of hands for those starting to sweat wondering if New Mexico was going to get shut out of the medals for the first time since 2006? Yeah, I was starting to wonder. And another show of hands from people who had their money on Flix Brewhouse to be the first NM brewery on the winner board? It took until the 40th category in the busy-named Australasian, Latin American or Tropical Light Lager category, where Flix won the silver with Luche Libre, their Mexican-Style Lager. And from there, the medals continued, not at the pace set by, say North Park Brewing Co., but at a very respectable rate. The next winner was Rowley Farmhouse Ales, who took a gold in the Belgian Fruit Beer category with Grandissant-Montmorency Cherry. Finishing up, we had two medalists in the Scotch Ale Category, where Quarter Celtic won bronze for Kill or Be Kilt, and Ex Novo took silver for Sons of Scotland. This was the first time at GABF where two New Mexico breweries medaled in the same category. The four medals earned by NM breweries matches the number won in 2021. Interestingly, it's also the seventh time in GABF history that NM has taken home four medals at one awards ceremony.

2022 GABF: The Saga Continues

Did I neglect to mention in my previous post that the GABF is turning 40 this year? I would love to go back and drink whatever version of IPA was served then, when there were 24 breweries, 47 different beers, and only 800 attendees! That may be fewer than the amount of people that get stuffed into each corral where patrons wait inside the Convention Center from about 5:15 until 5:30, when they are unleashed to descend upon the brewery reps and festival staff. It seems that getting in line early doesnt guarantee you a spot in the front of the line; rather, you may be, say, 300th in line but end up at the rear of one corral while someone behind you in line ends up at the front of the corral right next to yours. This is a reason why they make high blood pressure medication, but everyone who wanted a sip of Pliny got one so it's all good.

One of the highlights of fests in years past, though not at the 1982 one where there might have been a New Albion or Anchor Liberty Ale shirt, was the merch area, where you could choose from a wall packed with t-shirts from probably a hundred breweries as well as BA-issued merch. This year, the shirts were GABF themed only. Most everyone who attends the fest probably has their fair share of brewery shirts already, but I'm sure there were some disappointed patrons.

There were a number of standout beers, but here's my own little awards ceremony: In the Smoothie Sour category, my choice is Peach Pie A La Mode from Peculiar Ales. Many people were talking up the Peach Pie sour from WeldWerks, with good reason, but the peach from Peculiar was the top fruit offering for me. In the wide world of lagers offered at GABF, it's hard to pick a favorite. The Freiheit Oktoberfest from Wayfinder, Hell Yes from ABGB, any of the Templin or Fritz Family beers were worthy. But in the end, I went for multiple samples of You Spund Me Right Round, the Czech Lager from Brieux Carre. All their lagers were top notch, though Head Brewer Charles Hall seemed most excited about Grodz Dammit Bobby, his beachwood-smoked Grodziskie. Brieux Carre gets my vote for best beer names, as they also brought Malcolm in the Mittlefruh, Marza, Marza, Marza!, and the silver-medal winning Crispy Boiz II Men.

For Barrel-Aged Beers, I tried to spread my samples over two sessions, as those can take a toll quickly. I hit the Kane booth early in the Thursday session and started Friday night with the 15% BA Henna from More. And though I was impressed with the Espresso Macaroon Monsters Park from Modern Times, the Kelly's Private Stash Barleywine from Third Eye, and Brew 6000 from Fremont, nothing really came close to the Coconut Coffee Medianoche from WeldWerks. The thickness of this beer was insane. Finally, we saved the IPAs for last, as is the GABF tradition. Favorites included Extra Extra Juicy Bits, the multiple PNW varities from Breakside and Von Ebert, and Double Beezer from Old Irving. But it was the DIPA duo of the West Coast-style Space Lettuce and the hazy Welcome to the Machine by Atlanta's Monday Night Brewing that take my IPA top spot. I could pick either of these as the best IPA of the fest, depending on which style I was in the mood for. Add in a Saison with cherries, a Lambic, and a Barrel-Aged Strong Ale, Monday Night Brewing's GABF lineup takes my overall Best of the Fest. No lagers, but there were plenty of breweries to grab a palate cleansing Pilsner from on the way out to go to Falling Rock...oh. Yeah.

So while we no longer have the Falling Rock Tap House, Euclid Hall, Freshcraft, etc., and now have to venture into RiNo for post-fest activities (and you thought Blake St. got annoying on the weekends!), we do have the triumphant return of the world's best beer gathering: the Great American Beer Festival. Welcome back, old friend. Can't wait for next year!

Friday, October 7, 2022

2022 GABF Thoughts, Part 1

Aaannnddd we're back! Not sure about you, but after two years of virtual fests and wearing a mask while walking outside in an empty neighbrhood, I was beyond ready to go grab a beer with thousands of my closest friends. But first...the metal detectors. A sign of the times that has affected large public gatherings of all interests, the detectors were a necessary annoyance that had me this close to missing the bagpipers who march into the Colorado Concention Center and signify the official start of the Great American Beer Festival. But the 20 minute wait in the security line was entertaining, with someone remarking, "Hey, if I squint, I think I'm waiting in the TSA line at DIA!" (that was me), and also, "Damn it, I knew we should have paid for Pre-Check!" (also me). So I may have been the only one entertained, but we were all in pretty good spirits as we finally entered the festival floor with one minute to spare before the start of the fest.

The festival floor looked different this year than in previous years for a few reasons. First, construction at the Colorado Convention Center forced the BA to reduce the floor space from what was almost 600,000 sq. ft down to under 400,000, resulting in 300 fewer breweries to try. I didn't notice a big difference in festival space or breweries to try, though there were some noticeable absences from the good old pre-buyout days with Stone, Bell's, and New Belgium non-existent. Some breweries beers were being poured from cans and bottles at a special "Wish We Were Here" booth. It did take me a few minutes to realize that I didn't have navigate breweries by region; instead, the booths were set up in alphabetical order. The BA, always keeping us on our toes. Wait until they add Cold IPA as an awards category to join India Pale Lager and Other Hoppy Lager!

Seasoned vets know to go into the fest with a plan, though vets of my reading know that my plan usually goes out the window the second after I try my first sample. This year, I had a general list of breweries to try but I didn't have a particular brewery on the list to try first. A common, and wise, strategy is to go for that first sample at a brewery that will quickly accrue a line and get out of there fast rather than spend the first 10 minutes of the fest in line. I did no such thing, instead stopping at the first booth I saw that was on my list to try, Fritz Family Brewers. All the buzz surrounding this lager producer was merited! And as I noted in my brewery roundup, lagers were everywhere at GABF. Yes, most everyone had an IPA, but the variety of lagers should keep hop haters off ledges for the time being.

By the time I was able to check out 903 Brewers, there were about 903 people in their line that stretched almost to the bathrooms. That's a change from previous years, where bathroom lines stretched almost to the brewers' booths. It's hard to say whether the line for 903 was the longest of the fest. WeldWerks may take that overall title, as their booth had two lines in the front and one on the side for patrons, and a very thoughtful one for industry people. Honorable mention for longest line goes to the Los Dos Potrillos food truck. GABF once again brought back the food trucks, which is great because we've all become accustomed to food truck prices from having them outside breweries. And it certainly beats wasting hours trying to mastermind a way to sneak into the Paired event every year. Back to lines for a sec, I'm still not sure why one brewery I observed that didn't have a crazy line had four beers kicked by 6:30. Was it poor planning, or was the plan to bring a few cans, "sell" out, and then hit the fest like everyone else?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

GABF Breweries of Interest, T-Z

Here it is, the final installment of all you need to carry you through to last call at GABF. And if you've made it to last call at GABF, congratulations! I think I may have done that twice in twelve years, though to be fair I was usually trying to get out and start a story, though I also usually just ended up at Falling Rock drinking something I didn't need...cue Chris Black on the PA system..."Ok everyone, get ready for tappings of 2007 through 2010 Full Sail Barleywine!"

Templin Family Brewing How could I leave out the brewery that medaled the last two years in the Kellerbier/Zwickelbier category at GABF? Taking bronze in 2020 and 2021, Granery Kellerbier is on my hit list.

The Austin Beer Garden Brewery Looking back at these GABF choices, I think I've suggested more lagers than anything else. Whoever is complaining that all you can find anymore is hazy IPAs should buy a ticket to GABF. And again, here is a lager factory you need to try. They're also a medal factory, having won seven medals with four different lagers, all of which will be pouring at GABF (Industry Pils, Rocket 100, Hell Yes, Velvet Revolution).

Third Eye Brewing Like Weller barrel-aged beers? Who doesn't?? Third Eye takes their Kelly's Private Stash Barleywine and ages it in two different Weller barrels, Full Proof and Antique 107.

Three Floyds Brewing Will the Three Floyds booth be a mass of adoring fans as it was back in the day? Well, for one, there's no Zombie Dust (yesterday's Heady Topper) being served at GABF. And Three Floyds distribution has expanded, taking from the rarity and therefore some of the lore of this brewery. However, these guys still do barrel aging as well as anyone, and they'll be pouring Crushing Mass, a 15.1% barrel-aged Coffee Stout.

Tonewood Brewing How many New Jersey breweries have you had beer from? For the most densely populated state in the country, there must be a lot of breweries so you'd think I would have had more than just Kane or Carton. And must have, but I can't think of any others right now. I plan on adding to my New Jersey ticks at Tonewood, who is bringing a Saison, Pale Ale, IPA, and DIPA.

Troegs Brewing One of Pennsylvania's largest breweries, Troegs is still cranking out high quality beers. Sunshine Pilsner is one of my all-time favorites, as well as being a five-time medalist at GABF and WBC. That's nothing, says Troegenator Doppelbock, which has taken an astounding eleven medals at GABF and WBC.

Von Ebert Brewing This Portland, OR brewery will be flexing their IPA muscle with Nothing Noble, bronze winner in the IPA category at GABF 2020, and Volatile Substance, the 2021 IPA gold medalist.

Wayfinder Beer A multiple medal winner for their lagers Hell and Freiheit Oktoberfest Wiesn, Wayfinder became even more well known after "inventing" the Cold IPA style. Try all of these beers at the Wayfinder Booth, as well as a Firestone Walker collab.

WeldWerks Brewing Oh, you know there's gonna be a wait to try all the goodies WeldWerks is bringing. Eleven beers spanning a variety of styles, from the Smoothie Sour Peach Pie to two BA Medianoche varities and of course some hazy IPAs, including Extra Extra Juicy Bits and Transmountain Diversion, a collaboration with Casey Brewing.

Wren House Brewing If you've been to Phoenix, chances are you've checked out this little house that could. The gold medal winning hazy IPA Spellbinder is their flagship, and yeah they'll be bringing a variety of their Wally hazy Triple IPA series (Good Boy Wally), but they also make some underrated lagers. Try their Kellerbier and Little Spill Pils.

Yards Brewing Raise a sample of Philthy IPA to the Philadelphia Phillies, who made the MLB playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Yards founder Tom Kehoe used to be a fixture at GABF in his Phillies gear back when the team was a perpetual contender, so if you see a guy in a Phillies shirt give him a high five. Or the finger, if you're a Mets fan.

Monday, October 3, 2022

GABF Breweries of Interest, R-S

My plan was to wrap up the GABF breweries in one final shot here, but it turns out there were a lot more breweries from R on than I had anticipated. I'll try to get the T-Z finished before the bagpipers begin their march through the Colorado Convention Center.

Radiant Beer Co. An Anaheim Brewery that isn't nearly as known for its adjunct stouts as that other Anaheim brewery. And how could they be, with an operation so small that they won the Brewery of the Year in the 0-250 Barrels category at last year's GABF. I wonder how you could win by making 0 barrels of beer? Well, we really liked their logo, so... Anyway, I was talking about adjunct stouts, as Radiant has one worth checking out at GABF: Comfort Blanket, aged in both 17 yr Wild Turkey Master's Keep and 8 yr Elijah Craig barrels with added pecans, cacao nibs, and maple syrup. Makes me wish IHOP would start offering alcoholic syrups.

Reuben's Brews Big surprise that I'll be in search of IPAs when I hit up the Reuben's Brews booth. How could I resist the Seattle brewery that's bringing Fresh Hop Double Crush (Hazy DIPA with fresh Citra hops) and Hazealicious (WBC Gold Hazy Pale Ale)?

Revision Brewing Remember back in 2018 when Revision won both a gold for IPA and silver for Imperial IPA at the World Beer Cup? You can taste part of that history as Revision will pour their classic IPA at GABF. They also brought Reno as Fuck, their hazy DIPA that I enjoyed at the Falling Rock Tap House East Vs. West event

Revolution Brewing It wouldn't be fair for Revolution to show up without bringing some fantastic stouts. Thankfully, they are bringing Coconut Deth BA Imperial Stout (15%...Lord help us). Still alive? Then get a sip of Thundertaker, the 16.2% BA Imperial Rye Stout.

Russian River (Windsor, Santa Rosa) You thought there'd be a list without Russian River? That's like going to GABF and skipping the New Glarus booth...oh, right. Anyway, Russian River will pour at two booths this year, representing their Windsor production facility and their Santa Rosa taproom. Standouts include STS Pils, Sauvignon Blanc barrel-aged Intinction, Beatification (waited 2 hours in line in Santa Rosa in 2012 for bottles of this. Hopefully the line for a sample won't be quite as long) and a DIPA, Pliny something or other.

Shades Brewing Who wants Thai? You'll be hard pressed to find a more interesting beer list than what they're pouring at Shades brewing, where Kveik yeast is the star. You can try Kveik Nelson, Kveik Peach Cobbler, Kveik Pina's like the Bubba Gump of beer.

Short Fuse Brewing You always wanted to try beer from the GABF Brewery of the Year in the 2001-5000 Barrels Per Year category? This is your chance! Don't get nervous as you approach the booth. Act like you've been there before when you ask for a sample of their Tropical Hurt Locker, silver medalist last year in the Fruited American Sour Ale category. also be sure to try Vocal Jam, another Fruited Sour that also took a silver, this one in the Experimental Beer category.

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico facility Line up, fanboys and girls, to be the first one to try this year's version of Celebration Ale, the beer everyone in the world loves. It's a little malty for me, but it deserves respect for being an iconic seasonal that still remains talked about and sought after. I'm curious about the three barrel-aged beers they're bringing: a BA Coffee Stout, BA Maple Blonde, and BA Bigfoot in EH Taylor barrels. They're also bringing some other one-offs or little known beers, so big props to them for that. A brewery with the notoriety of Sierra Nevada will draw a crowd no matter what, yet they chose to put together a thoughtful lineup of beers. Their Mills River facility will also have a booth, this one hosting the "Applebee's Lineup": Hazy Little Thing, Big Little Thing, and Sunny Little Thing.

Snake River Brewing It's probably time for a pick me up, so head over to GABF vets Snake River for some Speargun, the 2018 GABF gold winner in the Coffee Stout category. Another gold winner they're pouring is Dark Horse, the International Style Dark Lager. And you can't leave without a sample of Zonker Stout, a 10-time GABF medalist!

Spice Trade Brewing I can't vouch for their quality, but Spice Trade is bringing beers that stand out sheerly for their unique ingredients: Basil IPA, which, you guesed it, incorporates basil into an IPA, and Thai Tripel,a Belgian Tripel with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, coriander, and ginger.

StormBreaker Brewing You say you and all your friends agree, there's not enough British styles represented at GABF? Huh. Bet you're a fun bunch. Well, here ya go: ExtraStormBreaker in the house, fresh off its 2022 gold medal at World Beer Cup in ESB category. Party on, lads.

Sun King Brewery Rumor has it that Sun King has won so many medals at GABF, Jeff Bagby is asking the Sun King team for tips on which pants to wear to the awards ceremony. 29 GABF medals and 9 World Beer Cup medals is quite a feat, and Sun King is nice enough to bring three medal winners to their booth this year for your drinking pleasure: Pachanga, a Mexican-style Lager (bronze, Light Lager; 4 time GABF medalist Cherry Busey, Flanders Red; Barrel-Aged Churrolicious, BA Scotch Ale (WBC gold, Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer).

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

GABF Breweries of Interest, N-P

Almost 3/4 of the way through the breweries once this post is done. Probably a good time to stop for some water that's supposed to stave off that hangover yet never does. Also would be smart to get some food in you, but you don't have time to sit around and eat convention center pizza when you could smash a Clif Bar and be on to the N-P breweries in this list. Or be like the smart person pictured here and hang a sandwich around your neck big enough that it might last you through two GABF sessions.

Nashville Brewing Company This brewery won a bronze medal at the 2018 GABF for NashZwickel. Zwickel is my favorite lager style, in case you're already thinking Christmas gifts. They also took silver in the 2020 in the Munich-Style Helles category for Nashville Lager. My only complaint is that they're not bringing Zwickel My Pickle, their pickle Zwickel.

Nebraska Brewing Melange a Trois is a four-time medalist at GABF. Belgian Strong Goldens are not my favorite but this chardonnay barrel-aged beer is always worth a try. They're also pouring a BA Imperial Brown Ale, in case you're ticking that rare style.

New Terrain 2019 silver for Mirage American-Style Sour, for all you sour fans out there. I can only do so many straight up sours before I start throwing up bubbles, and nobody wants that on their pretzel necklaces.

NOBO Brewing Company I know I said I was going to go after all the smoothie beers this year, but I keep gravitating towards the BA Stouts. The BA 2nd Breakfast, aged for 14 months in Jim Beam barrels with cinnamon, maple, and brown sugar, sounds pretty darn good. May as well try the Jalapeno Honey Blonde while I'm there.

Old Irving Super excited for this booth: for one, they won a silver in 2021 in the Kolsch category at GABF for Della. Wait, they're not bringing that? Ok, well they're bringing Beezer, the 2019 GABF gold winner in the Hazy IPA category. Now, I realize I'm listing a lot of medal winners in my recommendations, and sometimes we try these winners and wonder what the hell the judges saw in the beer in the first place. Fair enough. But you've gotta be excited about Double Beezer, the 8.5% version of Beezer. And it hasn't won a damn thing, so it must be good. And then we have Barrel Aged Gammelhjarted, which is a blend of a Barlwywine that was aged in maple and port barrels with an Imperial Milk Stout that was aged in rum barrels. Ridiculous!

Our Mutual Friend You can stop by the booth and try Inner Light, the Pale Ale that has picked up multiple medals at GABF. Or you can just go to their taproom and have a whole pint of it. But all the beers are free here, if you don't count that $100 you paid for your ticket.

Peculiar Ales Time to take a dessert beer break with Peach Pie A La Mode, a Smoothie Sour with white peaches, cinnamon, vanilla, graham cracker, and candied ginger. How all that is going to fit into a one oz. sample is beyone me. Save room for 305 Pineberry, a Fruited Sour with strawberry and pineapple.

Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey Yup, they're still in business. I don't know that their beers carry the same weight that they did years ago, but I'm showing up for that Duck Duck Gooze 2022 Anniversary Blend. Amazing how little of a line there was last GABF for their world-class beers.

Pollyanna Brewing Boo to a brewery that won two GABF medals in 2021 but isn't bringing either to pour at the fest. Yay for them bringing Fruhauf, a 2016 Marzen medal winner, and Lite Thinking, 2019 medalist in American-Style Lager category.

Port City Brewing They've won medals four years straight at GABF. Not blow your mind styles, just beer done well. Worth a visit.

Prison City Brewing This highly regarded brewery isn't bringing as much as I would like, but they are bringing Mass Riot hazy IPA.

Prost Brewing Because their Pilsner is in my top 3 draft Pilsners in the U.S.

Pure Project I love any of the murky IPAs that Pure Project produces. I also love that they're bringing Cup of Gold, their collaboration DIPA with Alvarado St. Brewery, another brewery I love. Don't skip Corylus, the 13% Imperial Stout aged in Breckenridge Bourbon barrels with hazelnuts, cacao, and coffee.

Friday, September 23, 2022

GABF Breweries of Interest, H Through M

Continuing on with my choices of breweries to visit at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival, I submit to you a number of interesting choices to try in the H through M-named breweries.

Handmap Brewing How does a Jim Beam Barrel-Aged Rauchbier sound? Different, for sure. Gotta try BA Daryl's House.

JAFB Wooster Brewery This Ohio brewery took silver in the American Style IPA category at GABF 2021 for their JAF IPA. They'll also be pouring a Mosaic single hop IPA.

Kane Brewing It's a no-brainer that I'll be visiting Kane's booth early and often just for their A Night to End All Dawns BA Imperial Stout. But they're also bringing Dripping Maple, a French toast inspired bourbon and cognac-aged Imperial Stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, and maple. Wouldn't hurt to try Bierhalle, their Marzen, while I'm there.

Kilowatt Brewing Speaking of maple, Kilowatt will be pouring their GABF gold Maple Smoked Maibock. Very curious to see how all those flavors work together.

La Cumbre I drank their Dortmunder until it was all gone...or so I thought. They saved some for GABF.

King's Court Brewing Company Missing that local Imperial Red that was so good? Come to this booth for Frogs Like Possum, the 2019 GABF silver medal winning Imperial Red Ale.

Launch Pad Brewery Not in the smoothie realm, but Strawberry Moon Blonde Ale with strawberries, lactose, and vanilla is worth a taste. I hope.

Live Oak Brewing A classic brewery doing classic styles that will have people lining up for their Pilz, HefeWeizen, and Oaktoberfest. Pretend you're drinking it on a sunny summer afternoon in Austin for the perfect sip.

Living Waters This Nashville brewery is bringing two sought after BA Imperial Stouts, which of course I'll force myself to sample, but it's the Triberg German-style Pilsner that I'm really interested in.

Maplewood I love those Chicago breweries. Maplewood is pouring two DIPAs I can't wait for, as well as Fizzle Drizzle Cherry Limeade, a fruited sour with sweet and sour cherries and lime. It's Sonic for adults.

Marble Brewery-MavLab Attack of the Keller Bs is another local lager that I couldn't get enough of. You non-NM residents reading (anyone, besides Russian bots?) should try this one. And High Plains Pilsner from Canteen. And Ex Novo. And all the other NM Breweries.

Metazoa Brewing Rosie the River Otter won gold in the Herb and Spice category at GABF last year for a Blonde Ale with hibiscus and plums added.

Modern Times Too many people pissing on Modern Times for their poor planning and not enough people lamenting the fact that we could be losing some of the best barrel-aged stouts if Maui messes with the MT formula too much. For now, we'll at least be able to drink the Monsters' Park BA Espresso Macaroon Edition Imperial Stout.

Monday Night Brewing Staying on the heavier stuff, I'm also ready for some Tie Xi, the 11th anniversary Strong Ale from this Atlanta, GA brewery that blends Stout, Quad, Brown, Barleywine and Dopplebock.

Moontown This little Indiana walked away with two bronze and one silver at GABF 2021, along with Brewery of the Year in the 501-1000 Barrels category. Two medal winners will be at their booth: Fortieth Parallel Pilsner (bronze in Bohemian Pilsner category) and Moonlite (silver in American Cream Ale category). I'd also like to try Cecil, their hazy IPA.

Mountain Cowboy Brewing I'm a sucker for any Caddyshack-themed beer, so I'll be stopping here for That's a Peach, Hon, the peaches and cream sour ale with peach puree, vanilla, and lactose. Mrs. Haverkamp would approve. Think those two are still alive?

MORE Brewing Did I mention I love Chicago breweries? Perhaps none more than this one, whose DDH Space Boots was my IPA of the fest in 2019. Sadly, they're only bringing Morever for their hoppy offering, but I'll be happy drinking Barrel-Aged Henna: Birthday, the 15% Imperial Stout with pecans, vanilla, coconut, and cacao nibs. I won't turn down a chaser of Watermelon Chula, a spiced Gose with added watermelon. Friday morning could be a rough one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

GABF Breweries of Interest, A Through G

As the 2022 GABF looms closer, I thought it was time to start making plans on which breweries to visit first. Of course, I always go in with a plan and then everything becomes a mad frenzy of samples, interviews, more samples, bathroom breaks, samples, interviews, and so on. Well see how I do this year. Here is a sample of some booths I intend to stop by, A-G.

903 Brewers Yeah, I'll admit it. 2022 is the year I start searching out all the smoothie sours I can find. Go ahead and judge me while you drink your sweet corn adjunct Pre-Prohibition lagers. These "beers" are fun, but we'll see how fun after 30 or so examples. I'll start with the pineapple, lactose, vanilla, and marshmallow Pineapple Magic from 903 Brewers.

All Season A Los Angeles brewery I've yet to try, but will be seeking out the Pilsner, Dark Lager, and Dunkel they're pouring.

Avery Gotta go for the 2018 Rumpkin, if only to honor when Falling Rock would pour the BA Avery beers on Saturday after the GABF Members Session. Ah, the hangovers!

Barebottle My standout brewery a few years ago. They'll be bringing their 2021 GABF Gold Cryo Chemistry hazy DIPA.

Boston Beer Co. I'm not waiting in line, but will this be the year I walk by as they're pouring Utopias? Chances are I'll miss it, but I always try.

Bottle Logic They always go big for GABF. Pistachio ice cream BA Stout? Check. Coffee caramel rye BA Stout? Check. Fundamental Observation? Check!

Brieux Carre Can't wait to cleanse my palate with the lagers from Brieux Carre, especially You Spund Me Right Round Czech Pilsner.

Chuckanut Any lager is worth trying from this perrenial GABF medal winning brewery. I intend to try mutiples of them all.

Corporate Ladder I'm excited for Tiki Sour: Zombie and Purchase Order: 002, the follow-up to 001, which was a Stout aged in both bourbon and brandy barrels.

DankHouse Heard good things about the IPAs from this small Ohio brewery. DDH Couch Kush'n is on my list.

Deicpher Looking forward to trying the Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged Artemis Wheatwine. The non BA version won a medal at the 2022 World Beer Cup.

Deadwords Want to check out the Florida lager game and heard the Westphalia Dortmunder from this brewery is very good.

Forbidden Root I've liked all the hazies I've had from this brewery in the past, and they have three slated be be at the fest.

Fremont Their Brew 4000 made my best of GABF back when there was a GABF. This year, they're bringing Brew 6000. Oh, and Rusty Nail.

Fritz Family Brewers Will tastes at the booth here keep me from driving the 30 miles from my hotel to this brewery? Depends on how many samples I'm able to snag of the lagers that are reputed to be as good as Bierstadt's.

Gnarley Barley I've had Jucifer and liked it. But it's the Diamond in the Fluff DIPA I'm going for here.

Gravely BrewingThis Kentucky brewery won gold in the German-Style Pilsner category in 2020 for Sprockets. Can't miss this one.

Great Notion Blueberry Muffin Fruit in the Can? Over Ripe? Yep to both. They're bound to have a long line, but can't pass on these.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Myrtle Beach: Beer to Be Had

Can you expect to have a beach vacation that includes great beer destinations as well? It certainly works in a city such as San Diego, where craft beer spots are easy to find throught Ocean, Mission, and Pacific Beaches, as well as further up into Carlsbad, Ocanside, and San Clemente. But what if you find yourself in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where over 100 golf courses attract retirees and groups of dudes armed with cigars and Michelob Ultra in the spring and fall, and where summer is a destinaton for families from all over the east coast who will wait two+ hours for all you can eat crab legs. Not much room for craft beer there...Or is there?

There is, of course. A number of breweries are spread throughout the Grand Strand, which runs roughly 60 miles from Georgetown to Little River. I'm focusing mainly on beer bars for this piece, places you can go to at night while the non-delinquent tourists go to bed at 7 pm so they can stake out a good spot at the beach at sunrise, though there are many breweries worth a day visit, including New South, voted "most likely to be found anywhere on tap" by me. Started in the late 90s, their White Ale and IPA are stalwarts in the area. Grand Strand Brewing, Tidal Creek Brewhouse, Independent Republic, and Crooked Hammock up in North Myrtle await your judgement. Also in NMB but not featured here are beer bars Main Street Taphouse and World of Beer, both with lots of draft offerings.

Let's start in the city proper, where small but rowdy spots dot the streets between Highway 17 Business and the high rise hotels overlooking the beach. Atlas Tap House has managed to serve those looking for their craft fix since 2014. A homey atmosphere awaits, along with 30 beers on tap. There is always a mix of local, national, and taps you wouldn't expect to find. For example, on a recent visit I found beers from Coast in nearby Charleston, a pickle sour from Prairie, and a DIPA from The Veil. Their taps often have a number of stouts available, and if you're lucky you might be there when Westbrook Mexican Cake is on tap.

A short walk from Atlas, (and I mean short: 164 feet) Bumstead's Pub is a favorite of locals and sports fans, and sports fans who are locals. That doesn't mean you're only going to find buckets of Bud Light or Corona; rather, as Bumstead's caters to craft beers fans as well. The beers lean more on the macro side as far as draft but there are over 100 bottles and cans to choose from, with a varied import selection. Become a local and join the Beer Around the World Club, where you try all the offerings Bumstead's has within a year and get a t-shirt and a plaque on the Bumstead's Wall of Fame. Better yet- try to achieve the goal while visiting on vacation.

Looking for cans to drink in your room? Myrtle Beach has a few places. Green's has a smallish selection but there are usually a few things worth taking home. Total Wine has the best singles selection by far of anywhere in the area, but as you already know, check the dates!! I went away with a can dated 8/10 and the IPA was awful. Looked again and it was canned 8/10/2020! IF you don't mind traveling a bit from Myrtle Beach, the Lowe's grocery store in Carolina Forest (pictured) has a good craft selection as well as a bar with growler fills available.

Staying south of the bustle of Myrtle Beach? Stop by the Gordon Biersch in the Market Common area (kind of like what Winrock is supposed to eventually be, though Market Common actually happened) for decent lagers. The now closed Piggly Wiggly used to be the go-to for diehard craft fans but closed a few years ago. That same beer manager ended up at the Surfside Beach Pig, but I'm sad to say the selection pales compared to the old place. It still beats the heck out of the Food Lion and Kroger down the street, but a larger singles selection would be a bonus. You can still find plenty to keep you busy here.

Marshwalk, anyone? Drinking abounds along this boardwalk in the sleepy yet lively at the same time town of Murrell's Inlet. The Marshwalk allows you easy access to many restaurants and bars, though only one place really is a craft destination: Inlet Beer Garden. THere are 60 taps of local-centric with some national beers as well, with a good showing from the Charleston breweries. Recently had a Telstar XX from Charles Towne Fermentory and thought it was the best beer of the trip. Note: The Beer Garden is only accessible from the Marshwalk. It is located behind The Claw House restaurant.

New to the Murrell's Inlet as of November 2021. Cap'n Cork is a combination wine shop/bar and beer bar. Don't let the location in a strip mall scare you off; this place features a well thought out beer list with a variety of styles. and my last visit had beers from Charlotte standouts Resident Culture and Olde Mecklenberg, as well as VA's Triple Crossing and NY's Equilibrium. You can also entice your beer hating friend to come along for the wine.

Final verdict: It's possible to find decent offering in the Myrtle Beach area, though you may not find the most hyped hazies or BA stouts. Will not, to be more exact. But there's an ocean to play in, and if you're lucky you might catch it on a rough day. I got knocked around pretty good there and had a great time. No beer necessary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Where to Drink at MDW

On a layover in Chicago and deciding you need a drink at 9:30 in the morning? Sometimes I feel the same way. Must have something to do with flying Southwest, where I paid the $25 for early-bird and still ended up in the B group. Another problem with Southwest is the rinky dink airports you're stuck flying into to get somewhere else: Houston Hobby, Dallas Love Field, Chicago Midway. Yes, there is the advantage of not having to take a train to another terminal, but the dining options tend to be limited in both cuisine and hours of operation (looking at you, Hobby, with Wendy's the one place open at 8:30 at night). And at Midway, with the ONLY coffee shops being the world's busiest Dunkin' Donuts at the end of Terminal B and Big Shoulders Coffee at the end of Terminal C, you may have to consume an alcoholic beverage whether you meant to or not. So where are you gonna go?

Reilly's Daughter is one choice; rather, three choices, as there is one in the mini food court location in Terminal A and a two-part location in the main food court area that is separated by a seating area (pro tip- it's supposed to be seating for Reilly's but people sit there with food from other places all the time, so keep that in mind when seating elsewhere is scarce. That main food court has lost the good Greek food place and the Vienna Beef Chicago food place, and the place that sold CDs is gone from the airport as well, which I can't say is a surprise. But back to Reilly's Daughter: The Terminal A location has ten beers on tap, some of which you might even drink. Beers include Bud Light, Goose Island Green Line, Modelo, Hazy Little Thing, Coors Light, Blue Moon, Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', and Sam Adams Summer Ale. There's not much ambience here, but most airport bars are rather soulless places.

The Reilly's Daughter in the Main Food court looks more the part of an Irish Pub. I could see myself forgetting that I was drinking in an airport.Fewer taps than in Terminal A, but they've got Stone IPA like all proper Irish Pubs. And much like a true Irish pub, you're bound to be stuck next to someone telling a story you don't care to hear. Interesting food options, like the $12.39 brussels sprouts with honeyed raisins and an "Irish quesadilla", which must mean it contains ginger.

Located at the beginning of Terminal B in the former Portillo's location, Gene's Bistro is a sleek, well-lit option with lots of TVs and a varied food menu. I don't care for a bar that bright, but at least it might keep you from falling asleep and missing your flight.

Windy City Taproom looks like an inviting bar you might find in any airport in the country. What I found ironic about this place is that this "taproom" has few tap options. Plenty of macro cans to choose from and not overly lit, unlike some of the patrons.

Situated in the middle of the councourse in Terminal A like an Albuquerque ART bus stop, Harry's is the highlight of the MDW beer drinking experience, especially for the draft selection. Bright, cramped, and busy, Harry's is still worth the visit for the true craft lover as well as for sports fans, as there is a huge display of Chicago sports memorabilia that is worth checking out. This is also the only airport bar to offer Chicago area beers that aren't made by Goose Island. Twelve draft beers include the usual found at the other spots, as well as Revolution Anti Hero IPA, Maplewood Son of a Juice hazy IPA, and Three Floyds Gumballhead.

Expect to pay $9 to $11 for most draft offerings. And please, act appropriately once on the plane so they don't take away our drinking privileges again. I miss the days when a water bottle full of gin and tonic was considered a carry on.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Hazy Kings Keep Em Coming

The boys over at Gravity Bound aren't satisfied with being the champions of the NM IPA Challenge. Or maybe they are. It's a pretty big deal, being the first brewery to win in the storied history of the event, after all. But being the champs hasn't stopped them from cranking out quality hazies, though perhaps fans of the brewery wish they'd turn the crank a little faster. Jacinda, Gravity Bound's latest IPA, features a 100% lineup from a country I would love to visit, but have neither the money nor the patience of a 20 hour plane ride for: New Zealand. Pacific Sunrise, Nelson, Riwaka, and Motueka grace the hop bill for this 7% beer that, in typical Gravity Bound fashion, drinks with the mouthfeel of a DIPA. Not sure how they hit that mallowy smoothness in their hazies, and I don't wanna. Let the magicians have their secrets.

NM Brew Fest: Reasons to Go

The NM Brew Fest returns to Albuquerque after a two year hiatus, bringing back the beer, music, and food that made it such a memorable event. Remember?
On the fence about going? Why? Gotta make a Costco run instead? Those aren't the memories you'll be cherishing as the years go on. Drink wisely, and you may even be able to remember the fest. Here's a few reasons to attend the NM Brew Fest: 1. The location. Villa Hispana at Expo New Mexico is a perfect location for an outdoor beer festival, with plenty of man-made shade as well as some big ol' trees you can relax under. The hard part is getting back up. 2. The beers, of course. With 20+ companies pouring, there's going to be festival stalwarts like Marble and Tractor and Palmer, but also newbies like Old Town by way of Ruidoso's Downshift, as well as your chance to try Jun, the alcoholic tea and honey-based drink from Leaf and Hive Brew Lab. 3. The time. With the festival going from 1-6, you have five hours to taste, nap under the trees, and taste again. It's like two fests in one day. And that's for the $30 general admission ticket. Go VIP for $45 and get in at 12. 4. The other stuff. If you need music, food, and games to get you to go enjoy great beer, then this checks all the boxes, big time, with musical performances from The Big Spank and Red Light Cameras. Tickets are available here

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

You'd Be In Much Worse Shape At Wine Festival

A welcome return to the beer festival scene, ABQ Blues and Brews makes its return to Sandia Casino on Sunday, May 29th. The festival that started in a parking lot (as many of us likely did) and grew up to fancier digs is likely the most ambitious beer festival we have in NM with the mix of breweries, bands, and vendors. And it's indoors, with air conditioning. Though the writing of this post is quite last minute, tickets are still available, and reasonable, in this cheap person's opinion. has the breakdown. General Admission is 3-6, with tickets $35 ($40 at the door day of fest), but you can opt for the $55 ($60 day of) ticket that goes from 1:30-6 for that important extra hour and a half of sampling. "Anyone with half a brain" tip: Uber or Lyft to the event, if you can find one. Somehow, Albuquerque has become a the hardest place to catch a ride. It was easier to get one in Amarillo recently. I even got so tired of staring at "searchng for a driver" on my phone while downtown in ABQ the other night that I asked a complete stranger to take me home. And they did. For five bucks. I saved $4.66 off retail rideshare price and lived to write about it. Stupid, yes, but it felt like a safer prospect than being out on the street when the bars on Central all let out. But back to Blues and Brews- yes, get a ride, because you're looking at unlimited 2 oz. samples. You won't find that at any other festival that isn't held at a casino in NM. And two ounces may not seem like a lot unless you've ever been to the Great American Beer Festival, am I right?? One ounce samples, yet it's the rare person who walks out of there sober. Something about the smaller pours pushes all the alcohol into those little sips, I'm pretty sure. It's science. And with dozens of purveyors from both local and national brands, you'll get all the samples you can handle, and hopefully no more than that. Those casino bathrooms are nice, but not when you're laying on the floor with your head hanging over the toilet. Know your limits. There will be the long-timers such as Alaskan, Bell's, Stone, Avery, Founders, Rogue, and Firestone Walker. Intrigued to see what they will bring. Going out on a limb, I'm gonna guess Left Hand will be pouring Milk Stout and Stone will bring some variation of an IPA. Locals that I've admittedly had little of will be there as well, including ReSource, Brew Lab, Enchanted Circle, and Rumor Brewing. And yeah, I'm gonna visit the Hoplark table. 0.0% Double Dry Hopped Citra water? I'm curious at least, aren't you? All of this plus eight different bands performing throught the fest should make for a day to remember, though you possibly won't. Finally, did you know Blues and Brews will be making donations to 12 charities, including locals like All Faiths and nationals like the American Cancer Society and Make a Wish Foundation? That's worth the ticket cost right there. Drinking for a cause is better than just because, though just because tastes pretty good too.