A mountain-town taste of the Great American Beer Festival
October 17, 2016
Denver — My mission was simple: taste beers from nine mountain-town breweries serving up their best suds at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
But with nearly 800 breweries from across the country pouring 3,900 different beers over three days, Oct. 6 to 8, it was easy to get distracted.
First, there was a Denver brewery bus tour; and trust me when I tell you there are a lot of breweries doing some really cool and cutting-edge things in the Big City just down the hill from us. Of course this should come as no surprise when you consider that more than 10 percent of the nation's craft breweries can be found in Colorado, which is an impressive statistic when you consider our state is home to less than 2 percent of the country's population.
Then there was "Paired," a craft beer and food tasting event where 22 restaurateurs and breweries joined forces to show that there's more to drinking beer than washing back a hot dog with a Bud Light.
One example to whet your whistle: A duck liver mousse served in a picked peach macaroon (Shift FLG, Flagstaff, Arizona) served with a carina peach sour ale (Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Oregon); and, for dessert, carrot cake with juniper cream orange and maple caramel (Arcana, Boulder)paired with an Alaskan Cran-Spruce (Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska).
And finally, there was the 379,000-square-foot Great Hall at the Denver Convention Center, which can only be described as a rock concert with some 60,000 beer geeks, beer lovers, beer experts and regular Joes just looking to get a good beer buzz in attendance.
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As a passholder who perhaps embodies all of these qualities, I felt like a kid in a candy story. But alas, I has an assignment to complete. And thus, with just a few diversions — Cannabis beer? Yes, please. Sunglasses that can open a beer bottle? Let me check those out. The Don Jalapeño beer guaranteed to set your mouth on fire? Bring it! — I set out to find my mountain-town beer buddies.
Bottom line: They all rocked it, bringing their individual flair to the tasting tables.
Two breweries came out as winners.
Broken Compass Brewing Co. out of Breckenridge won a silver medal for their Ginger American Ale in the Herb and Spice Beer category, which attracted 114 entries, and Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. won a silver medal for their St. James Irish Red Ale in the Irish-Style Red Ale category with 80 entries.
Two other purveyors poured their blends under the "featured brewery" category, which gave them prominent placement at the end of the aisle. A long line wrapped around Breckenridge Brewery's taps, where 10 beers were being served, while Breck reps filled in drinkers on what they were tasting. Over at Crazy Mountain Brewing Co., out of Edwards, the team was serving up a mix of brews from their reserve series, as well as their core four.
Rounding out the Vail Valley's presence was Vail Brewing Company, which may well take the prize for top beer name with its Brother From Another Udder. And, not surprisingly, Summit County was an uber-force with Backcountry Brewery — whose Breakfast Stout really is made with coffee — and Pug Ryan's Brewing Company rounding out their power of four presence.
And in the one-off category of mountain-town breweries were the guys from Carbondale Beer Works, with three different offerings, and Steamboat Springs' Storm Peak Brewing Company, which was throwing a party — and got my pick for favorite taste with its Gallagher Watermelon Gose.