Tuesday, October 07, 2008

GABF: The Pre- and Post-Parties

One of the wonderful things about Great American Beer Festival weekend is that you don't actually have to attend the festival to enjoy at least some of its benefits. Sure, nothing beats the energy pulsing through the convention hall as you scurry from table to table trying to find that brew you'll always remember. But if you didn't plan ahead to get tickets, there are a few area watering holes where you can find beers of the same level - and in some cases even rarer - than what's going on inside.

1) Falling Rock Tap House
If you're reading this, I can only assume you already know about the joys of Denver's most diverse beer menu. But on the off chance that you don't, any night between Wednesday and Saturday will introduce you to its pleasures.
For a complete list of the week's activities, go here. And remember that this is the place to find the brewers after the show. Here's a few highlights:
*9 p.m. Wednesday: Avery, which already produces some of the most experimental Belgian-style and hopped-up beers that you'll find in liquor stores, rolls out five recipes that make, say, The Reverend look tame. The only downside to this is that you have to pace yourself enough that you're not hung over for the first day of the festival.
*Noon Friday: Sierra Nevada kill-a-keg. You and multiple dozens of your closest friends see how fast you can put down a keg of the wet-hop Harvest Ale. Try to enjoy its taste while you're doing so, however.
*10 p.m. Saturday: New Belgium galore. If you attend all four sessions like I do, your taste buds are usually a distant memory by Saturday night. For me, only one thing shocks them back into life: sour Belgian beers that are like the defibrillator to the tongue.

2) Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs
Coming from down south for the event? Here's where you go the night before to prep for your drive to Denver the next day.
Brewmaster Jason Yester has always been the guy I go to at the GABF to try to find out what's worth trying from around the country. Seeing the list of beers he will be serving at his new place on Wednesday night reminds me why. Experimentals from around Colorado will not only prep your palate but will give you that much more reason to fan out and try what the rest of the country has to offer over the ensuing three days. Thanks to reader and longtime Fearless Tasting Crew member Larry Fish for sending me that link.

3) Most every brewpub is going to be putting something new and bold on tap this week to show they're not just your average amber-and-hefe joint. I don't have everybody's schedule, but here are two I'd like to mention:
*Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs has rolled out its Skull 'N Bones Old Bruin - a Flemish-style brown ale that brewmaster Joe Hull has been keeping under wraps for a while - and the annual batch of Winter Warlock, which has run the gamut from chocolatey smooth to pound-your-taste buds dark in recent years.
*Great Divide wasted no time in moving from Friday's introduction of its newest Fresh Hop and Hibernation releases to putting out barrel-aged versions of its Yeti Imperial Stout and Old Ruffian Barley Wine. I can't say I've gotten to try these yet, but their descriptions - both have been sitting for 20 months in Stranahan's whiskey barrels - are enough to make me clear space on my calendar.

So, there's a few ideas for extra-curricular festival activities. Anyone else have any bars or breweries they recommending visiting in the coming days?

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