Friday, September 25, 2015
The "bigger and beerier" Great American Beer Festival, with its 90,000 more square feet of space and 11,000 more attendees, kicked off in fine style Thursday. Here's a few things that stood out.
* Goose Island. Wow.
Bourbon County Stout has always been one of those beers you seek out at this event. But the Chicago brewery brought it to a whole new level - and may have grabbed the mantle as "Best in Show" - with its Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout. Sweet with a backtaste of bitter and mouth-filling without seeming the 13% ABV bomb that it is, it warms you as it goes down.
* The sour scene is diversifying.
Once it was that everyone lined up at Russian River to see what this crazy "sour" thing was. Now you can't stumble across a booth without being offered something tart. Places like Former Future Brewing's Black Project are getting justifiably long lines. And the styles are getting wider. One could easily find several sour apricots, including a great version from Dry Dock, And the Transilience - a tart imperial Berliner weisse from two-year-old Southbound Brewing of Savannah - ranked among the best beers of the evening.
* The new "beer geek" section has some advantages.
It wasn't as if brewers were swimming around the area pouring their beer into your mouth. But the Meet the Brewer area did attract some impressive beer makers who clearly thought about what they wanted to offer, from the aforementioned Dry Dock and Southbound to places like Weyerbacher and Short's, with its magnificent array of offerings. There is more concentrated quality here than anywhere else in the Colorado Convention Center.
* Best hoppy beer so far: Strange Dry-Hopped 1000 Barrels Imperial IPA.
It's always a good idea to try some of the gems cooked up by the locals for the fest. This combines a big mouthful of grass with a huge malty backtaste expertly.
* Legislators have picked up their game.
The Colorado Brewers Guild booth features a "Hop the Vote" showdown between state House and state Senate members who brewed beers with Cannonball Creek and Big Choice, respectively, and want you to vote on which is better. While last year's virgin efforts seemed like early homebrew creations, the House's IPA and the Senate's coffee stout both are high-quality beers. It's worth a look, if for no other reason than to have the elected officials serving you booze.