Quick GABF Thoughts

I have a whole lot of things I want to mention about the 30th Great American Beer Festival, but much of that will have to wait as I have a date with my day job… which involves pouring great beer.

  1. You could not have begged or paid for nicer weather than we saw in Denver last week. Driving up to Boulder was just a magical experience – clear skies, breath-taking scenery and zero regret about my choice in beer-drinking attire (BA-issued shorts, t-shirt and hat… well, they should be BA-issued given that’s pretty much the standard get-up for brewers not named Garrett Oliver).
  2. Denver has grown up a lot over the years. Today the streets are clean, the police are polite and patient, bars are more accommodating and restaurants have seriously upped their game.
  3. I really hate pretzel necklaces.
  4. I really love the spirit some fest attendees have brought to the event. In particular, I loved the group from Washington that all wore matching shirts that said they were in Denver to enjoy the GABF, “One ounce at a time”. I saw them on the floor in Denver, as well as a couple stops in Boulder – such positive people, who I never personally met. Add to that the guys with GABF haircuts, party outfits and you-name-it costumes. Very cool.
  5. There was way too much unused space in the back of the convention center. I’m not the decision maker, but I’d certainly like to see a layout that doesn’t cram all those waiting for a beer in like sardines.I believe, along these same lines, that the whole concept of the education seminars needs to be reworked. I have tried each year to pop in and listen, but it’s just a mess acoustically. While I admire the BA for wanting to educate, I question the actual place these seminars have on the floor.
  6. Loved the Brewers Guild Booths! Loved seeing the regional pride of those that ran each and loved the choice of beers each had. Great concept, wonderfully delivered.
  7. Holy shit, Sun King! If I’m in or around Indianapolis, I’m running to this place. So awesome to see them hit the awards stage so often. Clearly this team is creating killer beer.
  8. We need to have a longer discussion with our nation’s wholesalers about beer. Sitting with the award winners for Distributor of the Year was eye-popping. There is SO MUCH MORE we can do to educate our customers – love that some distributors have picked up the baton on this (as they should, I believe).
  9. We also need to have a much longer discussion about our brewers’ relationships with farmers of hops and barley. Ironically brewers feel they earn top-dollar for their superior products (a point I don’t argue), but seem hesitant to contract out years in advance for superior ingredients.  That’s got to change.
  10. The Colorado Governor’s stump speech in the middle of the awards ceremony was utterly classless. I don’t begrudge the man getting up on stage, but for fuck sake – get up, say hello, praise the brewers and the patrons, remind us to drink responsibly and get off the friggin’ stage! The longer he droned on, the more I wished I’d taken a piss break.
  11. Snake River team – love that you carried the state flag on stage. Cheers!
  12. I think the most awkward thing for me to see during the awards was Ken Grossman in line, with nobody coming up to shake his hand or say congrats. He stood there, patiently, by himself. You know what though, that’s exactly how I see him. He’s a quiet man that seems to shy away from praise. He is truly all about the beer and making it in a way that is good for everyone. On second thought, that scene wasn’t at all awkward – it was appropriate.
  13. What was awkward: Sam Adams Latitude winning a medal in the English IPA category with a beer that is decidedly all about the German hops.
  14. True class, Chris Black of Falling Rock. Taking time to lift a pint to Don Younger, putting a permanent plaque in the bar where he so often imbibed. Very, very cool.
  15. International IPA? Huh?
  16. A “Three-pete” on any stage is impressive and should be called out. What Bagby and his team have done at Pizza Port is absolutely amazing. Cheers!
  17. Firestone Walker – no shit you have a passion for pale! Unreal showing, year in and year out by the crew there. I’d love to see FSW team up with Sierra Nevada someday… to make a porter.
  18. Todd Ashman, you’re looking good man! Keep it up.
  19. Thank you, Southwest Airlines! If you didn’t know, they paid for bike taxi services from Falling Rock to the Festival (or reverse) for a few hours on Thursday. What a GREAT thing to do – it was so nice to see the city this way. I loved chatting with the cyclist – actually, there’s nothing I didn’t like about that trip.
  20. Vinnie & Natalie – class acts. In case you missed it, Vinnie escorted Jack McAuliffe to the stage to be recognized by the throng of cheering men and women who greatly appreciated the movement he began – he opened the first modern “micro” brewery in America. Humble man.
Thank you, again, to everyone I met and shared drinks with these past five days or so. In the airport, in breweries and in bars – it was such a treat being with friends I see but a couple times a year. Cheers!
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