Three memories from GABF
Now that I am finally back in the friendly confines of Boston and away from people graciously shoving beer into my face, I’ve had the chance to detox a little bit, and I’ve been able to gather some quick memories from a wonderful visit to the Great American Beer Festival. This won’t be some cohesive, extensive recap, but rather the random memories of GABF that I’ll look back on for years and years to come.
Surfing the wave
Everyone says and agrees GABF is overwhelming. I would say that’s an understatement. It’s so gigantic, and there are so many beers with so little separation between each individual brewery that it is like getting hit by a 40ft wave of beer. You can’t possibly try every single one of them and you definitely will not remember most of them. But if you come with a strategy, you just might be able to conquer it. And, as it turns out, for the Friday session, Tristan and I had just the strategy. We would get in as early as possible and kill off as many whales as possible, in succession. We had been a little too casual about greats like New Glarus’ Serendipity on our first session and by the time we got to them, they were gone. So we were determined to not let that happen again. It was the very definition of epic. At the end we just sort of looked at each other incredulously. We had surfed the wave.
Here’s a list of the ones I remember having. Yes, a good amount of them are sours, because that’s just where beer is trending. There’s a good chance I’ll leave some stuff out.
Three Floyd’s – Zombie Dust, Permanent Funeral, and Arctic Panzer.
Cigar City – Hunahpu, White Oak Jai Alai, and Cucumber Saison.
Lost Abbey – Duck Duck Gooze.
Russian River – Framboise For a Cure.
New Glarus – I had heard their sours were incredible so what surprised me was the way they were incredible, because, well, they weren’t very sour at all. I ended up trying Serendipity and Strawberry Rhubarb multiple times and both intrigued me by how naturally sweet they were. I did like them but I wouldn’t open a bottle when I am in the mood for a sour beer, but rather when I am in the mood for a dessert wine.
Destihl – Great sours, short lines.
Macro’s great beer
I have already gotten a lot of shit for this one but here is a confession: one of the best beers in the whole festival was technically brewed by MillerCoors. It was an American Wild Ale brewed by AC Golden, which operates MC’s pilot brewery in Golden, Colorado. My local friends had been telling me that AC Golden has been cranking out very good beers for a while, and I always responded with some variation of “are you trolling me?” I didn’t want to believe them, it just seemed so wrong. But after that beer, I can no longer look the other way. AC Golden knows how to make great beer and, they have a lot of financial support to go out and buy great ingredients. Now here’s the thing: that beer has never been bottled and even if it was, I would never feel okay buying it. I have been very vocal about boycotting brands with questionable marketing campaigns, or with questionable corporate ethics, and MC definitely falls into both categories. With that said, I felt it was okay to have that 1 ounce pour, one time, “for research”, but I would never give them my money. Of course my friends still did what any good friend would do and made fun of me for this for days , “kindly” offering to swing by AC Golden’s booth multiple times an hour and suggestingAC Golden bottles at bottle shops. But if you don’t have any sort of objection with giving macro some more dollars to play with, then you won’t be disappointed with the way some of their beers taste.
But, as amazing as those were, when I look back at that weekend, those are not the Boston victories I’ll remember because, honestly, I didn’t get a chance to watch them until Monday when I got back in town. So the two big wins that will stay with me are our hometown beer heroes, Jack’s Abby and Mystic, bringing home gold medals for Mass Rising and Vinland 2, respectively. It was an amazing moment, especially since those awards were announced back-to-back. When Jack’s Abby won, it was such a huge surprise, and everything at GABF happens so fast, I barely got a chance to react. But after I processed it a little bit, it got me into this emotional homesick state of thinking about how much I love our breweries and in an instant they announced Mystic. I got up fast, dropping my phone (I was live tweeting the results) on the ground and spilling beer all over myself and screamed and clapped like all the folks at Fenway watching Big Papi’s ball miraculously clear the fence. It felt special.
I am not saying you should put much stock in beer competitions because a lot goes into determining winners—I don’t even need to remind you about the ones that got boos and jeers from the audience. But after being in Colorado, and telling everyone that they should stop at those booths and most of all, after writing columns with the intent of showing those good folks of Colorado that our beer scene is worthwhile, I did feel a little vindicated. So if you are reading this and you live around Boston, do yourself a favor and go buy those two beers. They are amazing, and they are this city, medal or not.