Tuesday, October 04, 2011

GABF Wrapup: Best of the Fest

After three days of attempted recovery from the Great American Beer Festival, I can still taste some of the beers I sampled - and in a good way. Sours took on more nuanced and fresher flavors, IPAs seemed to have a more uniform grassy backbone and it seemed you could find a surprise beer around every corner, especially at the pro-am booth.

So, per annual tradition, here is one beer connoisseur's opinion on the very best that America had to offer this year.

Beer of the Festival: Never in 11 years of attendance have I tapped a Colorado brewery for this honor. But Trinity Brewing's Brain of the Turtle - a sour ale aged with cherries, coffee and almonds - defied every known category and blended terrific flavors into a masterpiece. While I was in line at the booth, two separate people told brewer Jason Yester that other brewers recommended they try his beer. The reputation is well earned.

Close Runner-Up: Tiny Captain Lawrence Brewing of New York state opened a lot of eyes with its Rosso e Marrone, an ale fermented in grapes and aged in oak barrels. In a world of increasingly complex beers, this went beyond pucker-worthy and was smooth and almost exotic on the tongue.

Best Lager: It isn't to style in any way, but Danny Wang's Lao Wang Lager, from Denver start-up Caution Brewing, should inspire admirers and copycats with its proprietary blend of Asian spices.

Best Wheat: Tumblewheat, from perpetual festival attention-getter Altitude Chophouse and Brewery of Wyoming, came across like a vanilla cream wheat with an exceptional blend of smoothness and sweetness.

Best Hop Monster: Coloradans got a gift earlier this year when Firestone Walker Brewing of California finally began distributing out here. Anyone IPA fan who doesn't demand their local liquor stores bring in Double Jack, an imperial IPA that blends flowery earth tastes and sweetness artfully, is missing out.

Best Malt Monster: Sun King Brewing of Indianapolis took home a festival-best eight medals, but none were more deserving than the one earned by Pappy Van Muckle, a barrel-aged Scottish ale that is big, sweet and ignites the taste buds with a lightly whiskey-sodden flavor.

Most Interesting Beer: Anyone who failed to wander over to the pro-am booth Saturday missed out on the Indra Kenindra Curry Export Stout submitted by Ballast Point Brewing of San Diego, which had the nose of a south Asian rice bowl and backed it with a dark undertaste that helped it settle smoothly. It makes you excited about the next generation of beers to come in the years ahead.

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I agree with your statement about Trinity Brewing. Thursday night they were out of beer before 8pm at their booth. I made it back there on Friday and tried Brain of the Turtle and WOW - I was very impressed. A massively tart sour ale. Very good!

I also got to meet Danny from CAUTION Brewing and tried both of their beers. I agree, their lager would be most excellent with asian noodles.

Glad to have run into you at the GABF. Grats on your book!
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