More than an hour before the first pour, the thirsty were lined up almost the full length of the Colorado Convention Center along Stout Street in downtown Denver. A light rain had begun to fall, but it did not seem to dampen any of the enthusiasm if those anxious to get into the sold-out first session of the Great American Beer Festival on Oct. 10.
Once the doors opened at 5 p.m. and after ID and ticket checks, the convention center’s main exhibit hall, a space the size of more than five football fields, was soon flooded with brewers, volunteers, media and thousands of imbibers. The Brewers Association, organizer of the event, expects 50,000 people to attend over four sessions that end Saturday evening.
More than a few attendees dressed for the occasion in kilts and monk’s robes added to the festive tone of America’s premier beer festival, now in its 41st year.
Queues quickly formed at a handful of top breweries, Avery, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Odell’s and Crooked Stave, to name a few. By the time the announcement to let the taps flow was made, some of these lines were 30 deep times two. And they would last that way for the entire evening.
I found myself queued up at Russian River, anxious for my first sample of the much-hyped Pliny the Elder. With a just a one-ounce pour—the fest’s standard—I was convinced the hype was justified, even though it was not among my preferred style of beers. A golden-hued double India Pale Ale, its sniffing it was like sticking your nose into a bag of hops. The Intense hop flavor continued on the palate, but melded quite nicely with the malt. It was almost winey and the finish dry. Yes, it is a winner.
Other notable beers of the evening included a dunkel called dark Cloud from Mother Earth Brewery in Kingston, NC; the amazing tart, refreshing lemonade-like Ching Ching American Sour from Bend Brewing in Oregon.
Fal Allen, brewer at Anderson Valley and the author of the book, “Barley Wine” urged me to try his sour Burbon barrel barley wine. Aged for a year in the burbon-soaked out, it was port-wine like and quite nicely done.
Twisted Pine Brewery in Boulder, CO., which I knew for its Ghost Killer chili pepper beer, presented. two unusual brews, a Cucumber Cream ale and its Roots Revival carrot IPA. The cucumber was evident in the light, refreshing hybrid-style beer, but the carrot could not be detected in the IPA.
The were many others, but as some point, weariness prevents me from taking notes. More in future reports.
On a personal note, it was a pleasuring running into Pete Slossberg, founder of Pete’s Wicked Ale, a pioneering craft brewer in the 1990s. Slossberg sold the brewery and went into the chocolate business. Now, he’s consulting with Half Moon Bay Brewery near San Francisco and brewers in South America.