Great American Beer Fest – Denver Colorado (Thursday)

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Beer Drinking Adventures
Tags: , , ,

I would like to have believed that I got up at 4am in the morning over excitement and anticipation of the first session of the GABF later this day but that was not the case.  The room that we stayed in the previous night had really bad air quality and I woke up early with a throat full of crap (I have bad allergies).  I went down into the lobby for some water and a couple cups of herbal tea and started working on my previous days blog post but was constantly interupted by my friends who would come stumbling out of their rooms complaining of hangovers and snoring room mates.  As far as I know that only one person booted that morning and complained about eating ‘a bad hard boiled egg’.   Surrreeeee…..bad egg, gotcha.  Well, after some debate amongst the members of the group, we decided to split up for the day and meet at our new hotel in Denver at 3pm later that day.  One part of the group wanted to stay in Fort Collins and go to Equinox Brewing and New Belgium Brewing…while the smart ones of us decided that it would be better to take it a little easier and head up into the mountains.

One interesting thing about going to the Denver area is that from the Mississippi River to Colorado is that it is flat plains with rising elevation the whole way…oh, and it has one tree in the middle of it too.  But when you get to the Denver area, it is flat plains (5000 foot elevation) then BAM, Rocky Mountains (8500+ foot elevation).  We drove back to the Boulder area then headed into the North Range (as known by the locals)…it is truly a picturesque area and we stopped on the side of the road to snap some photos and take in the scenery.

After an hour of driving through the mountains, we reached a plateau in the mountains where the town of Nederland lies.  At first glance, I just throught that Nederland was some mountain hillbilly town but it turned out that it is an artisan community.  The whole town has lots of small shops and tiny museums that give hommage to its mining past and artist/musician populus.  With that being said Nederland CO is also the birthplace of the ‘Dispencery’.  Federal Law prohibits marijuana but Colorado Law allows it to those that have medical conditions and receive permission from their doctors.  Nederland CO had the first state government monitored dispencery and at one time had 9 dispenceries…today, it is down to 5.  I only learned this because I went inside a small shop and saw a shot glass that read ‘The People in Nederland Are High (and we’re not talking about elevation)…the shop keeper explained the dispensery story.

Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery

Wild Mountan Smokehouse & Brewing Company was a tiny little place in Nederland Co but when you have Smokehouse and Brewing in the name, you then have my attention instantly.  They didnt offer a huge tap selection like a lot of the other breweries that we had stopped at the previous day but that was okay…we wanted low key and we certainly found it.  Wild Mountain had about a dozen tables and a small bar area that could hold about 4-5 people, but also had a back deck that overlooked the rest of the plateau on the mountains.  They offered 4 in house taps and 8 guest taps from other local breweries in the area.  The food was really good as I ordered a nice smoked brisket sandwich and the beers were very good for a small place.

  • Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery Hop Diggity (CO) ~ American IPA ~ ABV Unknown
  • Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery 6 Feet Under ESB (CO) ~ Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) ~ 5.8% ABV

We made another stop on the way down from the mountains at a parkng area where we saw a couple of guys rock climbing and spelunking on the vertical rock faces, which were just awesome to see up close and personal.  But, since we were pressing for time, we made our way out of the mountains and to our hotel to meet up with the other half of our group at the agreed upon time.  Well, when you are vacation, sometimes you lose track of time….or in their case, stayed at New Belgium Brewing and got really drunk.  3pm came and went so we decided to check into our hotel and head up for dinner before the Thursday Night GABF session.

Wynkoop Brewing Company

Wynkoop Brewing Company was started by the former mayor of Denver, who then became governor of Colorado eventually (any guy ho opens up a brewery would get my vote too).  Wynkoop is located in downtown Denver and about 4 blocks from Coors Field (home of the MLB Colorado Rockies).  As you can see that it is a huge building but only a couple of the floors on the bottom are used for the brewery and seating area and  they also have a comedy cafe in the basement too.  The interior has a nice sized bar that couls hold between 25-30 patrons plus there are dozens of tables everywhere, with the brewing tanks in the background.  We ordered lunch and a few samplers to warm up with before we raided the Colorado Convention Center.  No one was really happy with their food as it was pretty bland or poorly executed but the beers were decent.

  • Wynkoop Brewing Belgorado Belgian IPA (CO) ~ Belgian Pale Ale ~ ABV Unknown
  • Wynkoop Brewing Drunkin’ Pumpkin Ale (CO) ~ Pumpkin Ale ~ ABV Unknown
  • Wynkoop Brewing Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (Co) ~ American Stout ~ 7% ABV

(Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout was started as a gag about 6 months ago but they decided to brew it as a seasonal.  Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout was brewed with 25 pounds of Rocky Mountain Oysters, which may sound fine until you find out what a Rocky Mountain Oyster is)

More on Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout

530PM was upon us very quickly and it was time to go to craft beer mecca, the promised land, a place where I could be easily led by any dead jewish zombie without question.  But before I go into the Great American Beer Fest, I have to tell this quick little sidebar story.  One of the benefits of being an AHA member (American Homebrewers Association) is that you get to purchase your tickets three days earlier than the general public (and they are mostly sold out by that point anyways).  My buddy also mentioned that ‘members’ also have a special entrance to get into the event before the rest of the shlubs.  As the people with the regular tickets waited in line that wrapped around the entire convention center, literally, we asked for directions for the Members Line.  As we waited in what seemed like a long line, a security guard came wheeling by on his Segway stating to check your tickets for a certain item.  All the tickets in our group said Members Ticket, but only three of our five stated Members Entrance.  Needless to say, two guys in our group were bummed out and sent to the back of the longest line.  From what I had heard was that the first 2000 tickets were granted access to this special line.  This was not the longest line…

We were getting anxious as the clock was winding down but then our line started to move…and fast.  I have to say for the amount of people that were at each session, they have this down to a science.  You blow through one line of someone checking IDs, another for tickets, then another for obtaining wristbands…it is literally almost non stop as you move through.  As you enter the main hall, everyone is walking through with their wrists in the air showing they were good to go.  We were inside the hall, glass in hand, and headed to our first table when the Main Doors opened up.  Membership has its priveledges….the two guys that didnt get to stay with us, got inside 25 minutes later…not bad considering there were about 40,000 people in front of them.

The ‘Members Only’ Entrance Line

The Great American Beer Fest 2012

The Great American Beer Fest is the largest beer festival in the United States featuring this year a record 578 US Breweries offering 2700+ beers (also a record breaking too).  As you walk into the hall, you walk to the side and grab your commenerative plastic cup and the hall is yours to explore.  It is a pretty expansive floorplan with the the regions broken into 18 different sections, plus a Pro Am Section, a Brewpub Pavilion, a Beer and Food Pavilion, and a Brewers Studio.

Great American Beer Festival Hall

Each brewery is located in their designated section of the country, then in alphabetical order from there too.  We immediately headed to the back where the 5 Pacific sections were located and shot for the longest lines first, Lost Abbey, Bruery, Stone, Bear Republic, then headed out across the hall for every other long line (before they got really long).  The volunteers are pretty strict with the one ounce pours, which is fine because there are plenty of beers to try.  After the first hour, we were starting to feel the effects a little bit of the extremely short lines.  It is easy to get lost going from point to point so we decided just to hit one section, walk the entire circle of it, stopping at whatever brewery or trying whatever beer we saw that looked interesting.  From that point, time seems to move pretty fast…and in the end, you are left dazed, exilierated, tired, drunk, and in a really good place…happy.  Everyone patron you talk to is your brother, every volunteer you chat with is a great person, every brewer you talk to is like a mentor.  I drank beer styles that I dont like…and loved it.  I drank from breweries that I have never of before…and loved it.  I talked to brewers that I will probably never meet again…and loved it.  For a craft beer lover, a beer fest is a great time….but the GABF is the ultimate experience for any craft beer lover.  It is something that every person should experience, if just once.

I’d like to say that there was some great follow up story after the GABF but it really couldn’t be topped.  We walked over to Breckenridge Brewing look for some late night food and got shut out.  Needless to say, we stumbled across the street from there to some little faux upscale mexican place, ate, and went back to the hotel room for the night.

The Friday installment will be popping up sometime in the middle of next week…keep reading (and drinking).

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