Thursday, October 10, 2013

A State-by-State Guide to the Great American Beer Festival

The beautiful thing about the Great American Beer Festival is that it's not just a festival of great beer, but it's all-American, dammit! And if you come to the event and spend all your time in the Pacific Northwest section, you've kind of missed the point of 624 breweries from all across the country being crammed into one area for your drinking pleasure.

So, with that said, here is one beer geek's opinion of the one beer you should have from each state (excluding Iowa and Mississippi, which have no representatives at the GABF) while you are making your way through the Oct. 10-12 event. These may not be the most famous or most popular beers from each domain, but they give you a feel for the wonderful products being made from sea to shining sea.

* Alabama: Railyard German Style Pilsner
There's one Alabama brewery here, and in the South they drink lighter beers. See how they make a crowd-pleaser.

* Alaska: Alaskan Smoked Porter
Yes, you can get this in many states. But wait around the Alaskan Brewing Co. booth long enough, and they're likely to pour aged versions of it.

* Arizona: Papago Orange Blossom
This Scottsdale beer maker creates a lot of interesting flavors, but none as charming as this orange-vanilla wheat that resembles a Creamsicle.

* Arkansas: Diamond Bear Two Term Double IPA
This is likely the only beer at the GABF referring to a specific president. Don't spill it, or it may stain your blue dress.

* California: Six Rivers Chili Pepper Ale
It's the best chili beer ever made, and you can't get it outside a limited radius around this McKinleyville brewery.

* Colorado: New Belgium Le Terroir
How do you pick just one beer from the home state? Make it a rarely available, unique dry-hopped sour ale.

* Connecticut: Cambridge House Ebijah Rowe IPA
Hoppy, bitter, pleasing - and historically named. It's all the things that get you through a cold New England night.

* Delaware: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
The beer-geek joke is that you read about this in the New Yorker. But the dark, oaky tones of this strangely aged beer are no laughing matter.

* Florida: Cigar City Humidor Series IPA
You can drink a lot of IPAs at the GABF, but no others are aged in cedar barrels to take on a cigar-like quaffing quality.

* Georgia: Red Brick 20th Anniversary
Imperial stout. Bourbon barrels. Special occasion. Local brewery. Any further questions?

* Hawaii: Maui Brewing Coconut Porter
Coconut's become a more common and popular ingredient. This is the beer that started the trend.

* Idaho: Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness Imperial Red Ale
It's just a different taste, a fuller mouth than you find from many hop bombs. Even non-hopheads enjoy it.

*Illinois: Destihl St. Dekkera Reserve Sour Raspberry/Strawberry Ale
This sour beer upstart almost got shut out of the festival. With this tart but fruity original, you'll see why so many people were glad they didn't.

* Indiana: Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf
Coming in around 100 IBUs, this will kick your taste buds around but also wake them up late in a GABF session.

* Kansas: Free State Brewing Oatmeal Stout
At a show full of jaw-droppers, this is simply warming and well done, like the first oatmeal stout that made you fall in love with dark beer.

* Kentucky: Bluegrass Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Stout
They make bourbon pretty well in Kentucky. So why not try a barrel-aged beer from where the barrels are the most recently employed?

* Louisiana: Nola Brewing Mechahopzilla
It's a big, hoppy beer. But the best thing about it is that Nola is being sued by the creators of Godzilla to drop the name. Go support them.

 * Maine: Shipyard Pugsley's Signature Series Smashed Pumpkin
Allagash isn't coming to the GABF this year. Content yourself with a big burst of pumpkin instead.

* Maryland: Union Craft Old Pro Gose
A confession: I haven't tried this before. But a friend I respect can't stop raving about this low-alcohol sour.

* Massachusetts: Cambridge Brewing Cerise Cassee
A former GABF Beer of Show by this blog, this sour is pucker-worthy and complex at the same time.

* Michigan: Bells Black Note Stout
A blend of two giant stouts, this beer might leave you unable to sample anything else effectively for 10 minutes.

* Minnesota: Minneapolis Town Hall Russian Roulette
This local brewery is an annual award winner. And few beers scream chocolate quite like this one.

* Missouri: Boulevard Saison-Brett
Yes, you've probably had it before. But this funky monster is always good for a second try when sampling the best beers in the U.S.

* Montana: Montana Brewing Custer's Last Stout
The best-named beer in this state (which is saying a lot) is also a big, bold flavor bomb.

* Nebraska: Nebraska Brewing Barrel Aged Hop God
Barrels and big hops don't always go together well, but this one blends them fairly seamlessly.

* Nevada: Chicago Brewing Cocoa for Coconuts
Yes, beer can be made well in a casino town. And it can be made with a combination of flavors that make you stop to admire it.

* New Hampshire: Smuttynose Straw-Barb Short Weiss
Just look at all the different flavors in the name alone. And then picture something smoother than you think.

* New Jersey: ???
Help me out, folks. I can't find a New Jersey brewery listed anywhere in the GABF program.

* New Mexico: La Cumbre Elevated IPA
It was just a couple of years ago that this smaller brewery took home some serious hardware for its hoppy beers. This will show you why.

* New York: Captain Lawrence Brewing Rosse e Marrone
This grape-tinged sour is one of the best of its style in America. And Captain Lawrence somehow remains a secret.

* North Carolina: Foothills Brewing Sexual Chocolate
The name will make you laugh. The taste of this multiple award-winner will make you feel warm and a little bit full.

* North Dakota: Laughing Sun Brewing Sinister Pear
Is pear the next big flavor among craft brewers? Let this serve as a barometer for you.

* Ohio: Hoppin' Frog Brewing BORIS The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout
When you walk into Falling Rock Tap House, ask the bartender for a great beer and this is the first one he recommends - as happened earlier this week - you know it's building a reputation.

* Oklahoma: Choc Beer Choc
There are few truly American styles of beer, but this Choctaw Indian-originated beverage will open your eyes to one of them.

* Oregon: Deschutes Brewing The Dissident
The best advice is to walk to the Deschutes booth and tell them to pour you something you've never tried. If you get this sour brown ale, you're doing very well.

* Pennsylvania: Weyerbacher Riserva 2012
There's a lot of good options in this state. But something one-off and rare from Weyerbacher won't let you down.

* Rhode Island: Revival Brewing Double Black IPA
Doesn't this just sound like something you want to drink when sailing off the coast?

* South Carolina: Holy City Brewing Pecan Dream
There may be no style that represents the South so well as pecan beer. This one is nice.

* South Dakota: Crow Peak Brewing Pile-O-Dirt Porter
If Rate Beer calls this the best beer in the state, who am I to argue?

* Tennessee: Boscos Brewing Isle of Skye Scottish Ale
Confession: I was weaned on Boscos while at my first job in Arkansas. Retasting their beers is like a walk down memory lane.

* Texas: North by Northwest Barton Kriek
The most overlooked sour of the 2012 GABF. All of the Fearless Tasting Crew agreed this is fantastic.

* Utah: Redrock Zwickel Bier
Have it early, before you blow out your taste buds. But this may be the most well-built and pleasing low-alcohol drinker at the show.

* Vermont: Magic Hat Barrel-Aged Belgo Sutra
A lot of the newer, hipper Vermont breweries aren't pouring at this year's GABF. Having this barrel-aged Belgian dark ale brewed with figs and dates will take your mind off of that.

* Virginia: Blue Mountain Dark Hollow
Devil's Backbone wins a lot of awards. But bloggers I know talk more about this brewery and this imperial stout, among other offerings.

* Washington: Elysian Space Dust
This brewery has bolder beers, but maybe not any made more solidly to please than this IPA.

* West Virginia: Morgantown Brewing Coal City Stout
If it's good enough and dark enough for the top party school in America, it's got to be worth a try, right?

* Wisconsin: New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb
I tremble with fear at the lines that will form but quiver with excitement about trying the latest of their fruit beers.

* Wyoming: Snake River Zonker Stout
The most-awarded beer in Wyoming history (at least that I remember) isn't zany. It's just damn good.



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