Saturday, October 8, 2022

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!

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