Tuesday, October 3, 2023

2023 GABF Final Wrap Up

I arrived at the festival early this year because there was such a backup of people waiting to enter the festival floor in 2022 that I almost missed the bagpipers. And you don't want to miss the bagpipers. I needn't have bothered, as the time it took from when I entered the Convention Center to the time I made it through the metal detectors was about 3 minutes. I call them metal detectors but they were unlike any I've been through. You could keep your phone, change, rings, etc on you and walk through with nary a beep. And the people working the detectors were actually friendly.

So I ended up having a half hour to walk the festival floor before the crowds were unleashed. Standing out immediately was how much open space there was. Because of construction at the Convention Center, GABF had 350,000 square feet of floor space in 2022, as compared to over 580,000 in 2019. This year, they were up to 437,000, though that's still almost 150,000 less than 2019. My unofficial count had 367 different breweries' beers being poured either at their own booth or at the Heavy Medal or Wish We Were Here booths. About 340 breweries had a booth on the festival floor. This is down from the reported 800 breweries attending pre-pandemic. As stated in a previous post, Albuquerque favorite La Cumbre did not pour at the fest this year, though their Malpais Stout was available at the NM Guild booth. Boxing Bear is another large Albuquerque brewery presence not at the fest, but they were represented at the Heavy Medal booth. Santa Fe had quite the beer trailer display as one of the featured breweries, and had heavy traffic all fest long. It was interesting to see Albuquerque's 377 Brewery as a Featured Brewery, considering they are one of the smaller NM breweries and don't distribute their beers. It seems to me that one of the reasons you pony up thousands to be a Featured Brewery is to get more people to buy your beer. Will that many people who attended the fest come to Albuquerque and visit 377? Let's hope.

Ironically, the 2023 GABF was not the place to go if you were thirsty. For water, that is, as the water coolers, which used to be dispersed throughout the festival, were all in one large section this year. Ths was a move that makes very little sense to me, as one of the nice features of the fest was being able to take a quick break with water that was always nearby. Those coolers also made for a good place to rinse out your glass of that 13% stout you just drank before trying a pilsner. There were squirt bottles and pitchers of water at every booth for rinsing, but those stouts really coat the glass. You can only stand there for so long rinsing your glass when there's people lined up behind you.

New to the festival this year was the large Gluten-Free beer section, which I joked would also be free of people, though they stayed busy in the times I observed the area. There was also an International Beer section, though the beers being poured were the standard ones you can find at most stores. I like the idea though. Can't expect them to bring in Cantillion. For the first time, the BA allowed seltzers, ciders, mead, and other things I don't want to drink into the fest. Also new was the National Black Brewers section, which garnered large crowds throughout the fest. The state guild section had some nice options from breweries not attending the fest, such as New York pouring Mortalis and Other Half.

On to the beer highlights: At the time the bagpipers marched into the fest (always a highlight for everyone), I was close to the 903 Brewers booth, so I thought it wise to grab a sample while I could. Last year, 903 had the longest lines at the festival at times. Weldwerks was conveniently close by, with their usual giant booth and large selection of barrel-aged goodies. They were one of the reasons I was wishing for a better glass rinsing option. Medianoche=thick. Other thick stouts were brought by Bottle Logic, who get my award for longest line at the fest. Saying that, Russian River probably had the longest sustained lines, but the longest at one time went to Bottle Logic (pictured). I will say that the Weldwerks booth was the only one that I saw two men sprinting for as the festival began. Literally sprinting. My kind of drinkers.

It was nice to see people lined up for The Lost Abbey this year. As I wrote in my GABF preview, I was the only one at Lost Abbey's booth a few years ago while Tomme Arthur was pouring me sample after sample of Duck Duck Gooze and Churchill's Finest Hour. This year I counted a line of 15 people at one point. A brewery that used to have them lining up is The Bruery, but this year it was simple to walk right up multiple times for Scoops on Dunn, which I thought was one of the memorable Stouts of the fest. The Stout with the most hype this year was Wren House's Triple Vanilla King Snake, which was poured at 6 pm. Thursday night, it was gone in eight minutes. On Friday, I watched the crowd start to gather around 5:45 and there was quite a long line to get a pour. It was a lot easier to get a pour of Nobo's BA 2nd Breakfast, the French toast and cinnamon roll inspired Imperial Stout. Best Stout of the year at GABF would have to go to Modern Times' Modem Tones: Samoa Cookie Edition. I needed to run my glass through a dishwasher after that one.

My surprise favorites of the fest are hard to admit, being someone who looks sideways at people adding lime to their lagers. But I have to say, Hoosier Brewing and Yah Brew Co were the most memorable this year, with the least-beer-like beers you could ever drink. First, Hoosier blew me away with Boxo Fruit: Cherry, a bright red fruit punch-type drink (I know, I can never judge another person's taste in beer again); and they also killed it with Fruit Fusion: The Phoenix, a strawberry, birthday cake, and birthday cake soft serve concoction.

And Yah Brew Co only brought two beers to the fest: Hazed By the Bell, a perfectly serviceable hazy IPA, and Orange Sherbet Push Pop, which tastes exactly how it sounds. And it was one of the biggest hits of the fest, with word of mouth spreading about this so quickly that by the time I returned to Yah's booth Friday night, the Push Pop was nothing but a memory! It may have been gone before the end of pouring Thursday night.

As the fest ended I thought of the overall experience, which was quite positive. Organization was on point in all aspects of the event, though I do have two issues: the water cooler section, and the pour size. The water cooler section can easily be changed. Now, the one oz. pours have been in place forever, but that doesn't mean a policy has to stay in place forever. Would the BA consider a glass with two fill lines that allows you to get the standard one oz. pour, but also a four oz. pour if you choose? I can get a good idea if I like a flavorful Imperial Stout from an ounce, but a good German Pilsner deserves more than one ounce (yes, I still appreciate a good German lager even after professing my smoothie love). And yes, you can get unlimited pours at GABF, but do you like to be A) the person standing at the front of a line getting pour after pour while people wait behind you, or B) the person waiting in line, getting your one ounce, then getting back in a line you just waited in for another ounce? With a four ounce pour, you can eliminate the first option, and if you get back in line to try something else, you'll have something to drink while you wait. The BA could sell the traditional ticket, currently at $95, and maybe have a higher price of $125 for an optional pour size ticket. We all need larger pours of peanut butter maple birthday cake push pops. With a lime.

Monday, September 25, 2023

GABF Awards Ceremony 2023- Them's the Breaks

The morning of the 2023 GABF Awards began like so many before, with me scrambling to wake up, brush last night's beer taste out of my mouth, and find some coffee to drink while writing about the awards. I needn't have rushed, as former CO Governor and current Senator John Hickenlooper hit the stage first and gave a not short but very engaging speech on his time in the beer industry.

2,033 breweries entered this year's competition, with 9,298 beers being evaluated by a panel of 250 judges. That's an average of 37 beers per judge. I had about that many pours at First Draft on Friday night after the fest.

On the local front, Marble Brewery took a Silver medal with Thunder From Dortmunder in the Dortmunder or German-style Oktoberfest category. Also, Flix Brewhouse won Bronze in the Juicy or Hazy Strong Pale Ale Category with Tropical Mirage. The two medals were the fewest New Mexico has brought home since the 2010 GABF, when Chama River took the lone NM medal for Three Dog Night Baltic Porter.

Here's some random observations and stats on the awards: As usual, California and Colorado were the big winners, or more specifically, California was the BIG winner, with 73 medals, while Colorado had 36. Oregon did pretty well with 23.

California swept the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category, as well as the Imperial IPA category. And the Imperial Stout category. And the International-Style Pale Ale category. They also took Silver and Gold in the Juicy or Hazy Imperial IPA category. Ironically, they only took one medal in the new-for-2023 West Coast Style IPA category.

And now for a word from our sponsors. Heard that many times during the awards this year. I get it; it's a necessary part of the ceremony in the current climate. Fewer breweries pouring at the fest means less revenue for the BA, who still put on a hell of an event and frankly deserve all the money they can bring in. Locally, Marble consolidated their production and MavLab spots into a single booth, while La Cumbre, a stalwart Featured Brewery, chose not to pour at the fest this year. On the other hand, Santa Fe and The 377 Brewery both paid to be a Featured Brewery. I did appreciate the emcee's subtle (sales) reminder of how gratifying it is to be able to pour your award winning beer on the festival floor after winning a medal. Always be closing.

Quick, what do 1852 Brew Co., Corn Coast Brewing Co., and Side Hustle Brewing Co. have in common? Yes, they all have Co. in their name, but I was going for the fact that they all medaled in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category this year. In the most competitive category (365 entries). And I never heard of any of those three breweries. And none got to experience the gratification of serving their award-winning IPAs on the festival floor.

The numerous breaks for people to "get up and dance" were curious considering that the awards ALWAYS run over into festival pouring time.

Remember when Iron Hill would win a bunch of medals? A lot less cowbell these days.

Lazarus Brewing out of Austin winning Gold in both Bohemian and German Pilsner categories means another lager stop besides ABGB next time I'm in Austin.

Modern Times lives! Bronze and Silver in the new Dessert or Pastry Stout category. Don't mess with a good thing, Maui.

Brett Pack members took Gold and Silver in the Belgian-Style Witbier category, with Adam Avery's White Rascal taking the Gold over Rob Todd's Allagash White, which took Silver. And if you were at the festival, you may have been served a sample by four of the five members of the unofficial group: Tomme at the Lost Abbey Booth, Sam at the Dogfish Head booth, Adam at the Avery Booth, and Vinnie at Russian River. Aaaanndd I'll admit here first that I didn't see if Rob was pouring at Allagash this year, really just f'ing up this whole nice little sidebar piece I was writing. But it was nice to see industry vets continuing to be a presence at their booths, though I'm not mad when there are just volunteers pouring who can't tell you anything about the beer. Even if there are brewery reps at the booth, there just isn't time to stand there and talk when there are 30 people in line and the rep has to pour for everyone.

German-Style Pilsner had the 4th most entries of any of the 99 categories, with 228 entries. And the Light Lager category had even more, with 284 entries. Fizzy yellow beers are for wussies, it was once said.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

2023 GABF Breweries to Visit, T-Z

Here ya go, the final installment of the Breweries to Visit series, circa 2023. Hopefully, there will be some gems you agree were deserving of making the list. There always end up being a few duds along the drinking journey that I expected to be winners, but that's what the dump buckets are for. Keep an eye out for festival recaps in the days following GABF.

Templin Family Brewers I don't get it when people say they can't find anything but IPAs at stores and breweries. That's just lazy talk where people parrot one another but aren't actually spewing facts. There are more lagers being produced now than any time I can remember (I was not alive 100 years ago), and brewed by IPA-centric breweries at that. A recent visit to Green Cheek had Bier, their Helles lager, on tap and in cans. And Monkish, of all breweries, had two Pilsners and a Helles available. What made Cerebral well known? Hazies, right? Check out any of their recent draft and can lists. Tons of lagers. And now here's me writing about yet another lager producing brewery for you to try at GABF: Templin Family Brewers. Templin has taken home three GABF medals for Granary Keller Bier as well as a medal for their Rauch Bier. Oh, and look at that: Their Squirrel hazy IPA won a Gold at WBC this year in the Juicy or Hazy Strong Pale Ale category. Nothing but damn hazies at this fest.

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. ABGB for short, this brewery looks above at the Templin medal count and says, "Hold my beer". With 11 medals between GABF/WBC, ABGB is a lager lover's dream. All five of the beers ABGB is pouring at the fest (Industry Pils, Hell Yes, Rocket 100, Velvet Revolution, The BEEginning) haven taken medals.

The Bruery Ah, the good old days of lining up for some Black Tuesday! No word on whether Scoops on Dunn will be available the entire time during the fest or a dreaded "Tapping at 8!" situation, but I'll try to make it there for this blend of Black Tuesday and All The Cows with coffee, vanilla, toffee, and cocoa powder. And then, a nap.

The Lost Abbey It was kind of surreal a few fests back to see Tomme Arthur standing at his booth with a buspan full of bottles of Duck Duck Gooze and nobody lined up for it. For selfish reasons, I wouldn't mind being the only one there again, as they'll be pouring the 2022 DDG as well as 2012 Angel's share. Kudos to The Lost Abbey for bringing something special.

Third Eye Brewing This brewery makes some interesting fruited Milkshake IPAs, such as Jelly Brain V1 with pineapple and toasted coconut. Got my eye on Double Astral Heaven Hill BA Imperial Stout as well. Not my third eye.

Twisted Pine What do Serrano, jalapeno, habanero, Fresno, and Anaheim peppers have in common? If your answer is, "None of them belong in beer!", then stay away from Twisted Pine's booth. But if you like a damn hot Chili Beer then give Ghost Face Killah a try. Good luck.

Von Ebert Von Ebert does a number of styles well. Their Volatile Substance IPA won Gold at GABF 2021, and their Pils has medaled at both GABF and WBC. Both will be available at their Pearl booth, while their Festbier will be pouring at their Glendoveer booth.

Wayfinder Beer Can't say enough about their lagers. Hell may be my favorite Helles lager in the world. Freiheit was the best Festbier at GABF in 2022, in my opinion. And you can have both, as well as Earth's Eris Cold IPA from the brewers that invented the style.

Wibby Brewing Hot damn, more lagers! This Longmont, CO brewery is bringing five of them, including medal winners Volksbier Vienna and Moondoor Dunkel.

Wren House Brewing The best brewery in Arizona? I think so. They have really come along with great lagers as well as still making quality hazies. I'm looking forward to Prasna Brana Czech Lager, FrankenWally TIPA, and Triple Vanilla King Snake, a Rip Van Winkle barrel-aged Imperial Stout with six lbs. of vanilla beans.

Weldwerks Brewing And speaking of stouts, let the long lines begin! One of the most popular booths, and for good reason. Weldwerks always brings it, and this year they'll have ten beers, including three versions of Medianoche Imperial Stout. Mix that with some Extra Extra Dino Bits and some Strawberry Cheesecake fruited sour and you'll feel real awful. Enjoy!

Monday, September 18, 2023

GABF 2023 Breweries to Visit, R-S

Pure Project Ok, looks like I finished my last post without including one of the important P breweries: Pure Project. This brewery brings us our first Flanders Red sighting of the fest with Roes Red, a Flanders aged in Pinot Noir barrels. I'm also looking forward to trying this year's Corylus, a 13.4% Imperial Stout aged in Breckenridge and Heaven Hill barrels with added Oregon hazelnuts, Peruvian cacao, and Nicaraguan coffee. A melting pot of beer ingredients.

Radiant Beer Co. I don't know how I keep missing out on Radiant when I visit Anaheim. Actually, I take that back. I know why, and it's all Bottle Logic's fault. I always think I can just get a few very small pours at BL and be fine, when the truth is those small 13%+ pours turn me into a worthless mess where I can barely pour myself into an Uber back to my hotel. But next time, Radiant. For now, I'll enjoy small pours of Show Me a Sign hazy IPA (Radiant has twice medaled at GABF with hazy offerings) and the 14% Luxurious Potential, a barrel-aged Imperial Stout inspired by Black Forest Cake. Yum.

Ratio Beerworks Here's a brewery that knows how to do a fest- just look at the fun stuff they're bringing to GABF, including King of Carrot Flowers, a carrot juice and elderflower Saison; Dear You, a Citra-hopped French Saison; Barrel-aged Barleywine; Genius Wizard, a 14.8% barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Oh, and a Mexican-style lager.

Revision Brewing This brewery that has been cranking out IPAs like crazy over the years, but I'm looking forward to trying Coconut Pie Face, an Imperial Stout with toasted coconut, Madagascar vanilla beans, and cacao nibs. Yeah, I know that I'm recommending a lot of Imperial Stouts. Want you to get the most ABV you can get out of that $100 ticket.

Revolution Brewing Ever have a fruited Barleywine? I never even thought about it. Doesn't sound appealing, honestly. But I trust the brewers at Revolution when it comes to high ABV beers, so I'll at least take a sip of the 15% Life Jacket Barleywine. Deth's Tar Imperial Oatmeal Stout is also on the menu.

Right Proper Brewing With a former Allagash brewer at the helm, of course I'm going to recommend Li'L Wit, a Belgian-style Witbier, and Foveal Vision, a foeder-aged Farmhouse Ale with fruit.

River North Brewing I think they're trying to kill us. The 6 beers being served at the two River North booths average out to 11.7% ABV, with a max 16.9% for 2019 Vicennial: Father Time, a barrel-aged English Barleywine. But they are bringing the 5.3% River North Pils as a palate cleanser.

Russian River Brewing You know you were going to visit Russian River whether it made the list or not, and there are plentyof RR goodies to choose from with both the Windsor and Santa Rosa locations represented. DDH Pliny the Elder, STS Pils, and Intinction Sauvignon Blanc barrel-aged Wild Ale with Brett are my Windsor choices, while Docta-Ron (IPA with Nectaron hops) and Jannemie Saison highlight the Santa Rosa booth.

Saint Arnold I feel like there aren't nearly as many Pumpkin Ales as there used to be at GABF. Without Elysian there, that leaves off about 50 alone. Saint Arnold is bringing their 11.3% Pumpkinator Imperial Pumpkin Stout this year.

Salt Road Brewing Feeling sad because there won't be a giant Stone Brewing endcap booth this year? At least you can get a taste of what you're missing with Arrogant Sellout, the 9.3% Strong Ale that is Salt Road's homage(?) to the once fiercely independent brewery.

Samuel Adams It's a given that I'll miss the pouring of the 28% Utopias, which will be available from 8:19 to 8:22 or something ridiculous like that. Haven't been able to get a taste after all these GABFs. But I have to give a shoutout to the reformulated Boston Lager. I was originally skeptical, thinking they were just dumbing down a decent beer to sell to the masses. But the new version is a really nice beer. Wasn't expecting that.

Schnitz Ale Brewery Interesting that a place with "Ale Brewery" in its name has me looking forward to the Poppa Pils, a Keller Pilsner.

Second Chance You Robust Porter fans aren't going to walk by this booth without a taste of the four-time Gold medal-winning Tabula Rasa, are you? Didn't think so.

Seedz Brewery This Michigan brewery is on my short list of must visits for lager specialists, and they'll be representing with a Helles, German Pils, and Keller Pils.

Snake River Brewing If only to drink the Zonker Stout, which has taken an amazing 11 GABF/WBC medals all the way back to 1994.

Sunriver Brewing Looking for some clear beers with good ol' American hop bite? Look no further than Sunriver, who have you covered with the GABF Gold Pale Ale Rippin, and the WBC Silver IPA Bondi Beach Party.

Sun King Of course I have Sun King on the list. With 41 GABF/WBC medals to their name, Sun King is like the Jeff Bagby of breweries. Cherry Busey alone has taken four medals in the Belgian-style Fruit Beer category.

Spice Trade In the "trying it because it's different" category goes this Spa Sidekick Gose, with cucumber, lemon, coriander, and Utah rock salt.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

2023 GABF Breweries to visit, N-P

Narrow Path How come you only write about smoothie sours and not the good kind, someone asked me. Good question. I my have overlooked some, but I am hereby mentioning Restless Seas as a Gose you should try. This beer brought Narrow Path Brewing their first World Beer Cup medal in 2022.

Nashville Brewing And speaking of award winners, Nashville Brewing took home Silver for Nashville Lager in the Helles category at WBC in 2018 and GABF in 2020, as well as a Bronze at GABF in 2018 for NashZwickel in the Keller/Zwickelbier category. Here's your chance to try them both.

New Terrain GABF is about expanding your palate and trying new styles, right? For some people, maybe. For others, it's seeing how much food they can fit on a string tied around their neck. Both are noble purposes, and here's a beer to please both of those types of people: Punky Masala, a beer made with Indian spices and intended to mimic the flavors of the curry soup Pumpkin Masala. Wash that soup down with Mirage, the Sour IPA (so many sours!) that has won Silver twice at GABF.

No Label Brewing Like those West Coast IPAs? Try Cali Boy, the beer that took a Silver in the coveted Imperial IPA category at the 2022 World Beer Cup.

NOBO Brewing Wait, you say, didn't you recommend this brewery's BA 2nd Breakfast Imperial Stout last year? Yeah, and why not again? Aged 14 months in Jim Beam barrels with added cinnamon, maple syrup, and brown sugar, this sounds like a beer worthy of a 2nd mention. And honestly, I can't remember if I liked it last year, so I need a do over.

Other Brother Beer Co. Yet another sour for your drinking pleasure, this time a collaboration with Alvarado St., is Tropic Desert, a prickly pear, mango, and lime kettle sour.

Our Mutual Friend And what about Saisons? Haven't written about a single one at the fest. Well, sorry, Hill Farmstead isn't at GABF and there aren't a ton of Saisons to write about. Biere Ovale is one of the few, and you can tell it's good because it has a fancy name. This foeder-aged Saison won consecutive Silver medals at GABF (2021 and 2022) in the Mixed Culture Brett Beer category.

Perennial Artisan Ales You've seen it on store shelves but didnt want to pay the $30. But with your $100 GABF ticket, you can drink Abraxas for free! This stout is loaded with vanilla beans, ancho chili, cinnamon, and cacao nibs. What's that? You wih it was the barrel-aged version. Sigh. Me too. I just didn't want to sound ungrateful.

Pizza Port Yes, there are four different Pizza Port locations with booths at GABF, but I'm lumping them all together here. Look at the number of medal-winning beers they're boasting at this year's fest: Oceano (Carlsbad, 2023 WBC Bronze in Australian Pale Ale category); Guillaume (Ocean Beach, GABF/WBC SIX-time medalist in Session/Belgian Table beer category); Paloma (Ocean Beach, 2023 WBC Bronze Specialty Berliner Weisse); Oats (Solana Beach, three-time GABF medalist in Oatmeal Stout category); /p>

Prost Sure, you could go to the brewery itself and enjoy a liter of any of these, and you probably should. But stop by for a shot of their Northern German-style Pilsner and their seasonal Festbier.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

2023 GABF Breweries to Visit, H-M

Heavy Riff Brewing Company Dear Agony is a great name for a 13% barrel-aged Imperial Stout with espresso, as the morning after GABF is often agonizing. Nothing some Pedialyte and an IV can't fix. While you're at the Heavy Riff booth, give Quadraphonic Euphoria (port wine-barreled Quad) a sip. Another 13% beer won't hurt, right?

Hold Out Brewing Austin, TX has a number of breweries famous for their lagers. This isn't one of them. But maybe they'll catch a buzz after GABF. I'm looking forward to Ol Gil Pilsner and Hesky Czesky Czech Dark Lager.

Hoosier Brewing This Indiana brewery (duh) is making some talked about fruited sours. BOXO Fruit- Cherry and Roll the Fruit- Fruit Spirit sound fun.

Hoppin' Frog This brewery has always been about the big, bold beers, and they've brought some to prove how tough they are. The 15.1% Pentuple has medaled twice at GABF in Belgian categories. The 14.1% (notice the all-important .1% on these beers) Frogichlaus tribute to Samichlaus has nagged medals at both GABF and World Beer Cup in the Doppelbock/Eisbock category.

Icicle From the Great state of Washington comes a brewery that's easy to say but hard to spell. Seriously, you ever try to spell icicle? Well, Icicle has a World Beer Cup Bronze medalist in their Premium Pilsner, and they'll be pouring it at their booth.

Kern River Can I just take this opportunity to say that I'm disappointed that Kern River isn't bringing the beer that made a relatively little brewery in a relatively remote area of California famous? Talking about that Citra DIPA. That was a beer that was hard to get back in the day but worth the chase.

King CongA couple of Czech style beers here I'm gonna sample from this Sacramento brewery: Prague at Night (Dark Lager), and Dzungle (Bohemian Pilsner).

Liquid Mechanics Not every stout has to be over 12% to be worth drinking, I tell myself. Now to test that out with the 8.5% Coconut Milk Stout from Liquid Mechanics, with 10 lbs. of toasted coconut per barrel.

Lock 27- Dayton Taproom I'm far from a beer purist anymore (though I could do without rice and corn in lagers, thanks), so sign me up for a taste of the Go Bananzas! Milkshake Hefeweizen, made with lactose, vanilla, and banana puree. Barrel-aged Aplheus Affogato Imperial Stout and GABF Bronze Witbier Wolk will be there as well, but can't pass up that unique Hefe.

Maplewood I've been a fan of this Chicago brewery's IPAs for years but never had the pleasure of trying their stouts. That ends on Sept. 21, by God! Barrel Aged Cuppa- Neat is a 13% Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. The question is, which barreled version are they bringing: Blanton's, Elijah Craig 18, or Rip Van Winkle?

Modern Times Yup, they're still around. And they're still making great beer, though I prefer the old Ice Pilsner to the current MT Pils. And they always bring big beers to GABF, such as Monsters' Park: Vanilla and Modem Tones: Samoa Cookie. And possibly the best beer I had in Denver during GABF last year was Modern Times Chaos Grid: Coconut, though that was at First Draft, not at the fest.

More Brewing They made the list last year for the big stouts they brought, but they only are bringing one this year. But when it's Mehndi Special Reserve, a 16% Imperial Stout aged two years in Eagle Rare 10 barrels, that gets them on the list. Bummed they aren't bringing any of their underrated DIPAs this year.

Morgan TerritoryThis brewery has taken home three medals for their Old Diablo Barleywine, including a Gold in 2008 at World Beer Cup and 2019 at GABF. In fact, they've taken home 25 medals at the two fests over the years! Aside from Old Diablo, they'll be pouring HopTomic, which won Gold at the 2023 World Beer Cup in the Imperial IPA category, Metalmark Marzen, 2022 Bronze for Oktoberfest, and The Cushman, GABF Gold in 2021 for Dortmunder and Bronze in 2022 at WBC for Dortmunder. Interesting thing about The Cushman is that it's only 5% and is categorized by Morgan Territory as a Helles. Well, not the first time I've been curious about competition judging.

Friday, September 1, 2023

2023 GABF Breweries to Visit, A-G

Last year we went in-depth with a preview of breweries I'm most excited to try at GABF. There were a lot of great, a few duds, but mostly solid beers that made the list. Gonna give a go again for GABF 2023. Be forewarned- a lot of these are high ABV, many are hazy. But I'm also after the best lagers I can find (like those from Brieux Carre last year). Many of these on the list will be breweries you have heard of, but I can't help it if they make the beers I'm looking forward to. And of course it's a given that I suggest you visit the NM breweries representing at the fest: Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, Ex Novo, etc. And don't forget to look at the non-aloholic beer booths like Ceria and Gruvi. Always good to rehydrate. So yeah, hope this guide helps you find a few gems. Here's the A-G installment.

3 Floyds May as well start off with one of the OGs. Though their line at GABF isn't what it once was, they still make solid beers. And this year, they're pouring the fabled Dark Lord Imperial Stout at their booth. No Zombie Dust (boo), but Zombie Ice (yay).

903 Brewers The longest lines of 2022 went to 903, which isn't necessarily fun when your waiting in it, but the "beers" 903 serves up are fun. Looking forward to the Blueberry Donut Slushy Supreme and Finer Things Club, a 13% Imperial Stout with Nutella and salted cookie flavor.

AleSmith This is why I can't have more than 15 or so samples at GABF- beers like BA Speedway Stout. Gotta stop by and try this classic.

Avery Another booth that I list possibly just for nostlgia (Saturday post GABF Avery tappings at Falling Rock, anyone? Yes, I definitey need that pour of Rumpkin after hours of sampling!) You don't have to worry about getting wrecked off of Rumpkin. Tweak, yes. Thirty, their Strong Ale aged in Stranahan Whiskey barrels? Definitely.

Bearded Brewers Heard good things about the Memories series of Triple IPAs from these guys. Now I'll get to try them.

Black Market Worth a stop to try Gold, their New England DIPA that won Gold at the 2018 GABF. A Grungeist and Crystal hopped DIPA wins a medal? Yeah, I'm pretty skeptical too.

Boneyard Beer Notorious TIPA is always worth a sip, and they brought Wooden Femur too- a rye whiskey barrel aged English Barleywine.

Bootstrap Brewing Their Wreak Havoc Imperial Red is a three-time medalist at World Beer Cup. They're also pouring Stick's Pale ale, a 2021 Gold medal winner.

Bottle Logic Not passing up Fundamental Obsevation, Bottle Logic's BA vanilla Imperial Stout. May as well stay for a taste of Voltaic Stack, BA Stout with walnuts, bananas, maple syrup, and cinnamon.

Chuckanut Yawn. Another year, another medal, this time a Gold for Chuck Light in the Light Lager category. Oh, and throw in a Bronze for Pilsner in the Bohemian-Style Pilsener category at World Beer Cup. And they be pouring bo.th at their booth. They've amassed 32 medals at the two competitions.

Dogfish Head Really reaching to try some obscure breweries, huh? I know. But listen- Oloroso Sherry Barrel-Aged 120 Minute IPA. I think I'll hate it. But I want to try it. And I'll admit, it's always cool to see Sam in person.

Dostal Alley This under the radar Colorado brewery has medaled three times for Shaft House Stout in the Irish Dry Stout category.

False Idol This Texas brewery is bringing some big beers, including the 13.5% E.H. Taylor/Blanton's Barrel-Aged Helm of Awe Imperial Stout with Madagascar and Ugandan vanilla beans. Got room for more? Another ounce won't kill you, so may as well go for the 17% Monstro Imperial Stout with pistachio and vanilla.

Ft. George Matryoshka Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout may be the big draw here, but I'm looking forward to Half Liter, the Festbier collaboration with Stoup Brewing.

Fieldwork Watermelon Pulp? I would have been more than fine with regular Pulp. Why mess with a great thing? But I will stop there to try Guardians of a Loveless Isle, a 9.8% passionfruit and kumquat Sour Ale aged in oak barrels.

Ghost Town Winning the Imperial IPA category in both 2021 and 2022 at GABF is a huge feat, and Ghost Town accomplished just that with Nose Goblin, their 9.2% DIPA. Give Geisterfaust Pilsner a try while you're there.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Dog's Day of Summer

When was it decided that there had to be a day for everything that ever existed? And who decides which are national and which are global? Does World Radio Day carry more weight than National Hot Dog Day? I'm more inclined to celebrate National IPA Day than either. And National Beer Day must look down upon IPA day, right? So many more styles to celebrate. And now every dog has its day with National Dog Day, apparently celebrated every August 26. Even the cynic in me can get behind this one, especially knowing that Boxing Bear is holding an adoption event on Dog Day to hopefully bring some dogs the best days of their lives. The Corrales location will host the adoption part of the event from 12-3 with the Cross My Paws animal rescue. There will be more than 18 pups available to take home and love. Every pint sold between 12-3 means $1 donated to Cross My Paws, so get out there and drink until you feel you've donated enough. Dogs not adopted by 3 will still hang around to make you happy, so give them a scratch. As a bonus, Bridges Breeze Photography is donating their time with a photo booth where you can get a FREE professional photo taken of your dog from 2-5 pm. Make a donation to Cross My Paws via their Amazon wish list or Chewy wish list and be entered into an hourly drawing for some fun stuff. Dog in photo definitely not avalable for adoption, but always accepting of treats and pets.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

NM Brew Fest Ticket Party

What's your favorite beer festival in New Mexico? To me, they're all like the kids I was smart enough not to have: they're all my favorite. But I can say that the NM Brew Fest holds a special place in my heart because I remember how impressed I was by the very first one back in 2010. I had never been to Villa Hispana at Expo New Mexico and I was blown away by how spacious, shaded, and green the area is. It was so nice to be able to take a break and relax in some grass rather than being shoved in a stuffy building with sweaty drinkers, as I have at some out of state fests. And that was back in 2010, remember, so there wasn't even Covid to consider. There were just a million other viruses to catch. NM Brew Fest did have to take 2020 and 2021 off due to Covid, but had a successful return last year.

And they'll be back at it this year on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the same great venue. And if you show up at Marble Brewery's downtown location this Thursday, August 17th between 6 and 8 pm, you can score yourself some discounted tickets to the festival! The NM Brew Fest peeps will be on hand to get you set up for this fun festival that promises 20+ booths pouring wonderful alcoholic beverages. Beer purveyors range from the likes of larger breweries you all know such as Ex Novo, La Cumbre (who doesn't participate in festivals much, so this is a rarity), Tractor, Turtle Mountain, Marble, Boxing Bear; but also smaller and newer to the fest scene breweries like Gravity Bound, Downshift, and Sunday Service Motor Co. Cider and spirit booths will also be at the fest. Festival entry gets you a commemorative pint glass, samples, and the nice touch of being able to buy full pints rather than just getting samples. NM Brew Fest has always had good food served up over the years, and this year's lineup includes food trucks Umami Moto, Gourmet Donor Kebab, and Phat Stax Burgers. You like music with your beer fest? Well, tough, because you're getting it anyways. Hooks and the Huckleberries and Hello Darlin' For you out of towners visiting for the fest, or in-towners who just don't wanna be at home, the Ramada Midtown is offering special rates on both Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th for those attending the fest. More info on the festival can be found at www.NMbrewfest.com

Thursday, August 3, 2023

National IPA Day, Today and Back in the Day

Couldn't let the day go by without posting something about National IPA Day. Held the first Thursday in August, this holiday is one I can firmly get behind. I've benn writing about it since 2012- somehow, I missed it in 2011, the first year of celebration. I took a look back at the post from 2012, and it was funny to see some of the suggestions I threw out there for people to drink on IPA Day back then: locals like Canteen Exodus (Il Vicino Exodus back then!) Marble IPA, La Cumbre Elevated, Santa Fe Happy Camper. All still going strong, though 7K has blown out Happy Camper in popularity. Also got one of my worst hangovers after a night of Happy Camper at a concert in Santa Fe in 2011, so won't be revisiting that one even after all these years. I also threw in the suggestion of a growler of Chama River's The Big Lebrewski. Who made that one? That must have been a Justin Hamilton beer considering the year, right?? R.I.P. Chama River! For national brands, I suggested Odell Myrcenary and Sierra Nevada Hoptimum. Surprised these two high-alcohol beers haven't joined 90 Minute and Voodoo Ranger in those big cans with the alcohol prominently featured. The 40s of the 2020s. But those two are now classics that have stuck around even with the hazies coming on strong from about 2016/17 on through today. Who would have thought of such a style being so popular way back in 2012? Wish I had. Look at all those beautiful Monkish beers (pictured). I'd be riding around on yachts with Machine Gun Kelly and Post Malone. Who would have thought back in 2012 that I'd still be driving that 2008 Volvo in 2023? Wish I wasn't.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Where the Craft Is, Downtown Denver Edition

Remember when downtown Denver was awash in craft beer destinations? Euclid Hall, Freshcraft, Lucky Pie, Falling Rock Tap House? All share the common theme of being places where I drank too much, but also are all just fond memories of beer bars who have departed. On a recent visit to the city, I was lucky enough to share hotel elevator space with crowds from both a tattoo convention and some big karate event, so there were plenty of visitors to the city. But the 16th St. Mall was a shell of its former self with the major construction going on there. Used to be you had to go back and forth between homeless people asking for money and SPCA/Greenpeace etc. asking for money. Hardly anyone asking for money there anymore. So where are people going, and more importantly, where are they drinking?

Surprisingly, or maybe not, most craft beer choices in downtown Denver are down to regional or national chains. You have Rock Bottom, who deserves credit for being one of the originals in Denver and staying alive all these years. Mellow Mushroom, the pizza chain with a multitude of taps, does a good job of supporting local and doing events with breweries. Yard House is still always one of the busiest places in town. Rhien Haus, a mini-chain with locations in Colorado, Kansas, and Washington, reminds me of a frat house dropped into a German beer hall. They usually have a decent selection and also serve up good goulash. So the few outliers are places such as Stout St. Social, with a mostly Colorado tap list, as well as beers brewed at their Boulder Social location. I guess Tap Fourteen should be mentioned, though sometimes it has a feel of a frat house that was dropped into a frat house. With a better beer selecton. Also should mention One Up, which is unbearable on weekend nights but a great arcade bar with some decent beers.

Most of the action is going on in the RiNo district, with places like the divey Star Bar putting together great tap lists and some fine GABF events as well. Finn's Manor was hosting a Belgian beer fest this past weekend, complete with bottle pours of Cantillion. Improper City, First Draft (where else can you pour your own Maine Dinner, Lawson's Sip of Sunshine, and Russian River Pliny the Elder???), and breweries like Ratio, Our Mutual Friend, Bierstadt, Odell, round out a few reasons RiNo is drawing the crowds. Cohesion Brewing isn't technically in that official area, but close and worth a visit for a mliko pour. And of course there's all the fun historic bars on Colfax, as well as Cerebral Brewing. If you have extra time, I recommend driving up to Niwot, just outside Boulder, to Fritz Family Brewers, for some of the best lagers being made in the state. Though the Denver beer landscape is changing, there are still many reasons to drink there. You just have to venture further from that Convention Center hotel than in the past.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Drinkin' in the Moonslight

Flock Of Moons opened quietly on Friday, July 14, and though the craft beer world is in a slump overall, Albuquerque craft beer fans flocked to the new brewery. People are already giving it rave reviews on Google, save for the person who won't be coming back because "one of your guests was harassing me." That's a tough thing to hold against an establishment. Guests are a lot like family: you can't just pick 'em, and they're not always welcome guests. Here's hoping she'll give Flock Of Moons another chance. After all, the brewery opened in the former Winnings Coffee space that was notorious for having the most annoying crowd. I had to leave Winnings more than once because someone struck up a one-sided conversation with me. No, I'm not looking for life advice from someone who sits at a table outside this coffee shop every single day, all day. And who carries a sword.
And everything at Flock Of Moons is nice, which should be enough for warranting a second visit. I don't expect much when visiting a new brewery for the first time, but this place had nice touches abound, from the obviously thoughtful logo'd glassware to the snack choices available for purchase (from locally made Cornivore popcorn to mini bags of Snyder's Honey Mustard and Onion pretzels... haven't seen those at a beer bar since Cologne, Germany). There is seating at the bar for about ten, and hightop and table seating throughout the space, as well as six picnic tables on the sizeable patio. Your non-beer drinking friends can even get mixed drink suggestions from 505 Spirits patrons who are just a fence across from 505's patio, and then sneak over there for a quickie while you enjoy your beer.
And will you enjoy your beer? I'd say yes, as all were very nice, especially for a first batch. Lagers are an ambitious endeavor to showcase in the grand opening of a brewery, yet two of the three Flock Of Moons offerings were lagers: a (New) Mexican and a Vienna, along with a hazy IPA. They also currently feature six other NM brewed beers and a Sandia cider on tap. I found their NM lager to be very drinkable, with a bit of welcome hop bite I'd associate more with a German Pilsner. The Vienna had a nutty richness to it, and the hazy, while lacking the opaqueness I prefer for the style, shined from the dominance of the Mosaic hops. Tropical Stout is soon to debut, and a west coast IPA and Czech Lager are in the works. Flock of Moons is a welcome addition to the Albuquerque Beer Scene. I look forward to their upcoming beers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Break Out That Christmas Ale Early

But not because it's time to celebrate. In yet another craft beer shocker, Anchor Brewing has announced its closure. For many of us, Anchor holds fond memories of drinking Liberty Ale (first IPA-like beer for me), the iconic Christmas release Our Special Ale (annual since 1975), and Anchor Steam (confession: I never liked it! So maybe that's not a fond memory). But the writing may have been on the wall back when Sapporo bought the Anchor brand back in 2017 for $85 million. Trying to refresh legacy breweries is a tricky business. New Belgium caught lightning in a bottle with their Juice Force, but nothing Anchor tried to do really caught on. It seemed to turn into the beer you'd see languishing on the shelf at Cost Plus. And now the brewery staff has been given a 60 day notice. Maybe I'll pop open this 2006 OSA tonight and toast the memory of Anchor Brewing, and lament this closing as a further decline of civilization.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Green City Fest 2023, Pt. 2

The use of Other Half's original taproom was a nice touch, and that area hosted some of my favorite beers of the fest. Human Robot even brought a stitchfass (gravity-pour keg, pictured) of their Hallertau Pils of from Philadelphia. Others were Long Live Beer Works from Providence, RI, who brought The All Seeing Eye Extra DIPA, and Fidens, who brought Triple Jasper TIPA. I would have to give that Triple Jasper my vote, if anyone asked for my vote, for best beer of the festival. Fidens also gets an extra nod for bringing more than one beer. They were also liberally pouring samples of Socratic Questioning 57, Broccoli's Axe, and Deeper Purpose Imperial Stout, as well as handing out stickers like crazy. The Fidens guys seemed to be having the most fun at the fest, or maybe I was just having fun because of how many different beers they poured. No, they were also having a good time. They did have competition in the fun category from the Human Robot guy, who at one point implored everyone to, "Make some fuckin' noise!!! This is a beer fest!!!!" As a jaded pourer at many beer fests where you have to watch for the slightest signs of intoxication, I can really appreciate his enthusiasm. Plus he started some E-A-G-L-E-S chants, which in turn got the New York guys going. Good times.

Another group that was enjoying the spirit of the fest was Tin Barn Brewing out of Chester, NY, who brought some cleverness to their booth. They poured their Dropacana #3 orange, mango, and banana fruited sour out of a familiar container (pictured) over ice and garnshed with an orange slice. Does all that theatre make it taste better? Absolutely! I can't even remember what it tasted like, honestly, but I remember how much fun they were having putting it all together.

More fun was this Other Half employee tasked with going around and pouring liberal amounts of lager directly into people's mouths via some genie bottle/bong-looking thing. Nice palate cleanser, and a nice touch by Other Half. It wasn't extreme heat in New York at the time, though lingering area storms had upped the already considerable humidity and being in some stuffy areas of the fest didn't help. A few water stations scattered around were helpful, but I think we need more people doling out lager shots at festivals. Think that would fly in NM?

The main taproom area was crowded at times, as this was the area with the restrooms and food offerings (did not get any food, thugh the brisket looked awesome. Made many trips to the restrooms. The taproom had a good setup for beers: you lined up in one of four lines, marked A,B,C, and D. The first two lines were dedicated to Other Half beers, including eight released for Green City. The other ten taps were for breweries such as Cerebral, J Wakefield, Alvarado St., Cushwa, Green Cheek. And while we're speaking of Green Cheek, I wasn't necessarily disappointed, as I've been fortunate enough to be able to visit their taprooms directly a number of times, but I felt they missed an opportunity to show off their skills at hazies. For the two days of the festival, they poured a Pilsner and a west coast IPA. Both good beers, to be sure, but I feel Green Cheek is producing some of California's best hazy DIPAs and TIPAs, up there with Monkish and North Park. Other than that, I thought all the breweries brought interesting, and in some cases, rare beers to be consumed. This fest isn't the easiest to get to every year, but I look forward to coming back next year.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Green City Fest 2023, Pt. 1

As a relative Luddite when it comes to social media sites, I tend to miss out on a lot of releases and festivals. Take, for instance, Other Half's Green City Festival, which I found out about about two weeks after it took place in 2022. After looking at the guest brewery list and then kicking myself for about 20 minutes, I vowed that I would not miss it in 2023.

And I didn't. Scaled down from 2022's larger venue that boasted over 80 breweries, this year's was held at Other Half's Centre St. location and hosted 38 breweries. I was initially disappointed in that I wouldn't get the variety from the previous year and also apprehensive that the Other Half venue would be too small to host a festival. But I bought tickets anyway, to both the Friday 6-10 and the Saturday 12-4 events, since it was promised that each brewery would be pouring a different beer each day. And can I just give out kudos to Other Half from a lifelong night owl for starting a festival at 6? I'm rarely ready for a beer before 9 pm, but 6 is doable for me.

The flight into LaGuardia was surprisingly on time, and the NYC skyline never disappoints. The wait for baggage at LaGuardia always does. They should look into hiring a second person to unload baggage in the future. Once the wait for luggage was over, the wait on I-278 began, though that was to be expected with a 5:30 pm arrival time. I just can't fathom how people spend day after day in this traffic to and from work. Can the payoff be that great, especially with what you're paying for NYC rent?

If you've got enough money leftover after rent, the answer may be yes, especially if you throw craft beer into the mix. Countless options for food and drink abound, though we decided to go light the night before the big festival...so we started out at Other Half's Domino Park location, a prime waterfront in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Then rode bikes over the bridge to drink some IPAs at The Grand Delancey bar in Essex Market. They only had about, gosh, 8 or so that were worth trying, so had to do all of them. Then walked to Proletariat's new-ish location, where more IPAs called our names even though we tried to tell them we had planned on going light. They didn't listen, just kept calling. We eventually ended the night the proper way, at Joe's Pizza's Union Square location.

Fest day. After hitting a Brooklyn BBQ spot to fill up, we did some pre-gaming with lagers from Schilling and The Seed at Queue Beer. Located right around the corner from Other Half, Queue is from the same people who run Manhattan's fine Carmine Street Beers. Seemed like half the brewery reps had the same idea, as Queue was busier than I've ever seen it. Finally, it was time to head to the fest. Lined up about 15 minutes prior to doors and there were a good 40 or so people ahead. Other Half did the smart thing and had people scanning tickets and giving wristbands to those in line for faster entry, and it worked well. once in, there were three areas pouring beer: an outdoor tented alleyway, Other Half's original taproom (pictured), and their current taproom. In addition, the sidewalk connection the three areas was roped off so you could get away from the crowds and drink out there with more elbow room. First beer? Went big with Root and Branch Chainsaw TIPA. Big beers were predominant at the fest, and I'm not complaining. I was disappointed, however, to see that each brewery only had one offering. I thought they were going to each have one unique offering per day, as well as others that they'd pour both days. Lines in the alley space were only two or three deep for most pours, except for the Monkish line, where there were usually about 20 people waiting, but the line moved quickly.