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).