Friday, October 10, 2008

Notes from Day One of the GABF

First, I'll just say that it's great to be in this time of year again. I think that's something upon which we all can agree. But on to beer talk . . .
*The buzz of the festival once again seems to center around the many great sours out there. Smaller and smaller breweries are bringing their versions, and there are more framboisens and Flemish browns on the floor than I can remember.
There was a long line of people waiting to try Vinnie Cilurzo's new creation, Consecration, at Russian River, and it was well worth the wait. Aged six months in a Cabernet barrel and brewed with 33 pounds of currants in each barrel, it is tart and dark and a worthy competitor to his Supplication for the best sour of the festival.
That said, the beer that my group of friends and I couldn't stop raving about was the Cerise Cassee from tiny Cambridge Brewing Company of Massachusetts. It's a barrel-fermented wild sour ale that absolutely blows your taste buds off.
*As mentioned before, the lines were long from the get-go at New Glarus, Russian River and the Lost Abbey. For some reason, there was little gathering around Stone Brewing. And yet the southern California brewery brought its best lineup in years. The 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale is sweetly hopped and flows easier than a beer that strong should, the Ruination IPA is its fantastic self and the 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout is a thick, dark piece of work that mellows nicely after a couple of sips. Anyone skipping this booth is doing so at their own peril.
*Finally, I have to thank last night's Fearless Tasting Crew for their walking me through Texas breweries that they used to haunt. Some of them were forgettable, but tucked in the back of the convention hall is a gem of a beer called Real Ale Real Heavy. A 9.7 percent Scottish ale, this is deep and rich and somewhat sweet and is an all-around taste-bud-kicking experience.

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Give the Madison River Brewing Co. a try if you see them. I was impressed by their quality when I visited them in Montana.
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