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Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visits the Great American Beer Festival [video]

October 23, 2013 By: mike Category: Funny, Video

As Conan O’Brien’s website put it, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog went to the Great American Beer Festival “to see beer snobs in their natural habitat.”

Hilarity ensues.

GABF recap: Three days of beer, beer and more beer in Denver

November 07, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Travelin'

GABF - sign

The 2012 Great American Beer Festival drew 49,000 attendees to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver on Oct. 10-12.

The festival is the largest commercial beer competition in the world, and for craft beer enthusiasts, it’s heaven.

I was able to go as an entrant in the 2012 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition, thanks to Ghost River Brewing and the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs homebrew club. I had a brewer’s pass and was able to go all three days.

At the festival, I tried as many beers as possible, but ultimately one can only sample of fraction of what’s on tap. More than 2,700 beers were served by 578 breweries in the festival hall.

Among my new favorites: Alpine Beer Co.’s Duet, a West Coast IPA; Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Wookey Jack, an American-Style Black Ale; Redrock Brewing Co.’s Redrock Organic Zwickel Bier; and Laurelwood Brewing Co.’s Organic Deranger Imperial Red Ale.

GABF - sample glassThe sample glasses at GABF have a line showing the 1-ounce mark. The festival is fairly strict about pouring just an ounce, but the pours did get more liberal as the festival went on.

GABF - PBR outfitsAt GABF, you can’t bring in food unless you are wearing it, so you see a lot of people with homemade pretzel necklaces. There were also people wearing bagels, Funyuns and even bags of beef jerky!

GABF - Triple RockThe layout in the festival hall is divided up by region. I spent a lot of time hitting up the California breweries, including one of my favorites, Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse.

GABF - Charlie PapazianOne of the highlights for me? Getting to meet Charlie Papazian, who founded the Association of Brewers and the Great American Beer Festival and wrote The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.

GABF - 21st AmendmentBeers from San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, which is known for its cans and sweet designs, were pretty popular at GABF.

GABF - Silent DiscoI’ve spent some time in the Silent Disco at Bonnaroo, so I skipped it at GABF. But there was always a long line to get in. The concept is this: it’s a disco where people dance to music via wireless headphones. Fun to watch from the outside.

GABF - IdiotsHe’s with the idiot.

GABF - massageThe Designated Driver Lounge offered DDs free chair massages and the opportunity to taste craft-brewed sodas and root beers.

GABF - StoneSan Diego’s Stone Brewing Co. didn’t win any medals for its beers. But the brewery’s booth,  a popular destination at the festival, won the GABF Festival Flair Award for its awesome design.

GABF - Wall of T-shirtsOne of the cooler sites at GABF — the 30-foot wall of T-shirts for sale. I picked up shirts from New Belgium Brewing and Boulder Beer.

GABF - booksThe Beer Enthusiast Bookstore had a nice selection of homebrewing books and featured a full slate of book signings all three days, including authors Charlie Papazian, Garrett Oliver, John Palmer, Ray Daniels and Greg Koch.

GABF - Porter's PridePorter’s Pride, an imperial porter with chocolate, was brewed as part of a collaboration of Colorado breweries exclusively for the GABF awards ceremony.

GABF - governorColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, one of the founders of the original Wynkoop Brewing Company brewpub, spoke at the awards ceremony.

GABF-First AmendmentI met up with a monkey in a spacesuit and Abraham Lincoln, who were representing 21st Amendment.

GABF - Woo Hoo!Woo hoo! Hope to make it back to GABF soon!

2012 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition winners (and a gripe)

October 26, 2012 By: mike Category: Competition, Events, Homebrew, Memphis, Travelin'

Mike at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am

For homebrewers, one of the highlights of the Great American Beer Festival in Denver is the Pro-Am Competition.

Homebrewers from across the U.S. who are members of the American Homebrewers Association team up with professional brewers and scale up homebrew recipes on professional brewing systems. In its seventh year, the 2012 competition earlier this month saw a record number of entries, with 94 different beers. All the beers were served over the three days at GABF, and many of the homebrews were really fantastic.

I was lucky enough to enter this year’s competition with Memphis’ Ghost River Brewing, and my Red Hop Ale was served on the first night of the festival. (Click here to read all about my awesome brew day at Ghost River’s sister brewery, Boscos Squared.)

And while that’s me in the photo above with the pitcher, I didn’t actually get to serve my beer at GABF. The photo, sadly, was staged before the doors opened. Only volunteers were allowed to serve beers at the homebrew booth, a policy I really don’t understand. I was told by the Pro-Am organizer that the presence of homebrewers serving their beers somehow overshadowed the other beers at the booth whose brewer could not make it to Denver — a  really lame excuse. I was told I could stand in front of the booth, if I really wanted to.

One of the main reasons I like brewing for festivals is the opportunity to get immediate feedback — good and bad — from folks who try my beer. And what better setting to get feedback from beer lovers than the Great American Beer Festival? Making it all the way to Denver and being told I couldn’t serve my beer was a real disappointment. Brewers from professional breweries are encouraged to staff their booths and pour beer at the festival, and I hope the Pro-Am organizers re-think this policy for the Pro-Am booth. Homebrewers stand to learn a lot from those brief interactions with beer drinkers.

Anyway, I was thrilled to be at the festival. And to the winners below, cheers!

Gold: More Fun Blonde, New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.

Brewmaster: New Belgium Brewing Co., AHA Member: Jay Shambo

Silver: Pointon’s Proper – An English Mild, RAM Restaurant and Brewery – Wheeling, Ill.
Brewmaster: Lanny Fetzer, AHA Member: Scott Pointon

Bronze: Classic American Pilsner, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, Minn.
Brewmaster: Mike Hoops, AHA Member: Kyle Sisco

Boulder’s Upslope Brewing Co. is canning and expanding in Colorado

October 16, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Three days before the start of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder, Col., was bustling.

Customers were sipping on beers in the taproom, a kettle was boiling in the cramped brewhouse and the canning line was churning out cans of Upslope’s Pale Ale.

On Saturday, the brewers at the upstart Upslope were taking the stage at GABF, winners of their third medal since 2009. Upslope’s Brown Ale took the silver medal in the “American-Style Brown Ale” category, a feat for a brewery that has been around just shy of four years.

Upslope Brewing - exteriorUpslope opened its doors in November 2008 at 1501 Lee Hill Road in North Boulder with a Pale Ale and India Pale Ale, both in cans.

Upslope Brewing-samplerAmong the standout beers at Upslope: the Craft Lager, Brown Ale, Pumpkin Ale and the Thai IPA. The Pumpkin Ale, a special release, won the gold medal in the “Field Beer or Pumpkin Beer” category at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

Upslope Brewing-taproomA view of Upslope’s taproom. Upslope has announced plans to build a new brewery in Flatiron Park in Boulder. The new brewery will be operational in the first quarter of 2013, allowing Upslope to initially expand by 70%, with plenty of room for future expansion. It will also open a 2,300-square foot taproom in the new facility.

Upslope Brewing-barOver the past three and a half years, Upslope has expanded six times in its current location. Once the new brewery opens, Upslope will continue to operate its taproom and brewery at Lee Hill. The Lee Hill brewery will be both a production brewery and an incubator for new and innovative beer styles.

Upslope Brewing-breweryUpslope currently produces just 6,000 barrels a year and brews on a 7-barrel system. Upslope will be upgrading to a 30-barrel system. “Demand for our beer continues to grow exponentially and ongoing expansion at the current location doesn’t meet our future goals. Flatiron Park has the infrastructure that our production brewery needs to take it to the next level,” says founder Matt Cutter.

Upslope Brewing-canning lineMany thanks to Sam for giving us an up-close look at Upslope’s canning line in action! Upslope cans its Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Craft Lager, plus limited-release beers.

Upslope Brewing-canning Why cans? “Cans are better for the beer, the environment and are perfect for the on-the-go lifestyle of Colorado and points beyond,” according to a release from Upslope. “The benefits of canning – protection from light and oxidation and retention of brewery direct freshness – have been well received both through Upslope Brewing’s popular flagship and limited release beers.”