Monday, October 03, 2016

Your Guide to GABF Week 2016

Let's face it: You abused your liver in college in many horrible ways, often with no reward for your taste buds. Later, you looked back on it and realized it wasn't the sharpest thing to do, especially because there was no upside, even in retrospect, to assaults by Busch Light and Keystone.

But this week, you can return to teaching that liver who is the boss - while also finding an incredible variety of complex tastes to cross your palate and making the vital-organ abuse a side product, rather than goal of your activities. And this blog is here to help you do it.

Once again, I don't claim this to be the comprehensive list of everything going on in the week leading up to the Oct. 6-8 Great American Beer Festival at the Colorado Convention Center - websites like Westword, Brewtally Insane and Porch Drinking can lay out everything happening in town for you. Instead, this is meant to be a highlight sheet, offering you the can't-miss and shouldn't-overlook fests, dinners and tappings for those of you with a desire to experience the week fully but a limited amount of time to sort through all of your options.

With that said, happy tasting. Even your liver will forgive you for going nuts this week.

* Noon - GABF veterans may remember the days when Great Divide Brewing essentially kicked off the festival with its media party on Thursday mornings. Now the party goes all week. But the Denver brewery will release a new Velvet Yeti on Monday at its taproom, and then keep the momentum with a tapping party from 6 to 9 p.m. at Avanti F&B.
* 5 p.m. Falling Rock Tap House tends to be the gathering spot all week for out-of-town brewers, throwing rare kegs on tap for all to try. That officially begins tonight, and only owner Chris Black knows exactly what he'll be busting out to commence the activities.
* 7 to midnight. GABF week is a haven for people seeking the cutting edge in sour beers. Freshcraft dives right into the melee with its Wild and Sour Monday, featuring beers from auteurs like Wicked Weed, Jester King and New Belgium.

* 5 p.m. First Draft, the beer bar where you pay by the ounce and get to sample from 40 different taps, is working with a lot of national brewers on special tappings during the week. But its Tuesday showcase of Odd 13 beers, featuring both hop bombs and sour gems like Hawaiian Bartender, gives locals unfamiliar with the Lafayette brewery the chance to see why it's growing an increasing reputation for being one of the best in Colorado.
* 5 to 9 p.m. IPA remains the king style in America, and Ernie's Bar & Pizza gets right to heart of the style, hosting a tour of some of the best hoppy beers in the country. Beers from Dogfish Head, Stone, Green Flash, Alpine and Comrade will be among the tasty options on the menu.
* 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Beers Made by Walking has become one of the signature events of the week in recent years, showcasing beers that were dreamed up when brewers were hiking and spotted intriguing local ingredients. The $35 festival is at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science this year.
* 6 p.m. to midnight. Another marquee event is What the Funk?, the annual celebration of wild-fermented ales that tends to leave far more of a (spectacular) beating on your taste buds than on your liver. For a cool $100, you can get access to a number of breweries that won't even be pouring their wares at GABF.

* 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone who attended What the Funk? on Tuesday night will still be recovering on Wednesday morning. If you didn't, head to Hops & Pie for the Cliffs-notes version of the event, where the pizza restaurant/beer bar will be delving deep into the Crooked Stave Artisans collection of distributed beer.
* 1 p.m. Blunt honesty is good in assessing the week. So when Little Machine, a still-somewhat-secret treasure in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, puts on a pig roast, busts out new beers and calls it a "Brewers Health Fair," all are advised to check it out, purely for medical reasons.
* 5 p.m. River North, the recently displaced RiNo-neighborhood pioneer, will be all over the place during GABF week. Few, if any, of its events are as alluring as its tapping, in combination with Fort Collins masterminds Funkwerks, at Lucky Pie in downtown Denver.

* 5 p.m. Tivoli Brewing (pictured above) operates a distribution company that's accumulated 20 up-and-coming breweries and cideries in its portfolio, from local stand-outs like Grimm Brothers to national eyebrow raisers like Pipeworks Brewing out of Chicago. Tonight it holds its "pre-party," featuring rare offerings from throughout its catalog.
* 5 p.m. One of the highlights of this week is the number of bars and restaurants not normally associated with rare tappings that are getting their full beer geek on. A prime example: el Camino Community Tavern in the Highlands neighborhood will be brandishing beers from the likes of TRVE. Creature Comforts. 4 Noses and more today.
* 6 to 10 p.m. Possibly the oddest recurring event is Offensively Delicious, the Renegade Brewing-organized celebration where brewers not only pour their beers but then get up on stage and try their hands at stand-up comedy - before real comedians finish out the show. Curious? It's on again this year at the McNichols Building.
* 7 p.m. Ginger Johnson gained a name for herself in the beer world with her Oregon-based consulting/event business Women Enjoying Beer. She just released a book chastising breweries for their poor marketing to women. And she'll be at Kokopelli Beer Co.  tonight annotating the book.

* Strange Craft Beer makes a habit out of rolling out its most experimental offerings around GABF. Today you can not only try but take home its medal-winning Doctor Strangelove, as the Denver brewery offers up its annual bomber release of the complex ale.
* 11:30 a.m. Sun King Brewing burst onto the national beer consciousness a few years back by taking home seven medals from the GABF. You still can't get the Indianapolis brewery out here anytime but this week. But it will be pouring a boatload of its offerings all day today at Hops & Pie.
* 4 p.m. Among Colorado breweries, Casey Brewing and Blending is one of the rarest gems, offering occasional hours during which it released some of the most sought-after bombers of saison and sour beers in the state. It'll be easier to grab some today at Freshcraft.
* 5 p.m. Three Floyds produces big, beefy beers that are admired nationally - but not sold far beyond the doors of its Indiana brewhouse. Today however, it will be tapping a number of them at LowDown Brewery + Kitchen in Denver.
* 7 p.m. to midnight. Epic Brewing offers its 50 Firkin Fiasco tradition each year after the opening night of the GABF. The intriguing twist this year: Other breweries than just the Utah/RiNo beer maker were given a chance to take its beers and create their own firkins with them.
* 10 p.m. Avanti F&B has the closest relationship with Dogfish Head of any beer bar in Denver. That's why when it holds an after-party featuring Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione, you almost have to show up to see what he is breaking out for the festivities.

* 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Start the day the only way you should - with a Gospel brunch hosted by Oskar Blues at its Tasty Weasel taproom in Longmont. Yeah, it's a ways north of Denver. But by now, you need some time behind the wheel when you actually won't be drinking.
* Noon to 4 p.m. The most expensive ticket of the week is also one of the most sought-after - a $115 ducat to get into the Rare Beer Tasting at McNichols, offering a peak into the cellars of some of America's best breweries and beers you may never seen again.
* 4 to 11 p.m. Crafty Fox has made a ballyhooed entrance into the Denver beer-bar scene this year with a fantastic tap list. And today it adds to its mystique by featuring the beers of Bellingham, Washington - including award winners such as Chuckanut and Boundary Bay Brewing - with a side splash of hop king Melvin Brewing and sour king Crooked Stave.
* 7 to 10 p.m. New Belgium and Ratio Beerworks aren't as hard to find as, say, Bellingham beers. But when they throw something as specific as a fruit luau at Illegal Pete's, it's a focused collection of pucker-worthy beers worth seeking out.
* 10 p.m. After the GABF session, you may find your palate somewhat wrecked. Freshcraft will be tapping the beers of Stone, Green Flash and Melvin, among others, which is guaranteed to either resuscitate your taste buds or finish them for good.

* 9 a.m. to noon. After drinking heavily for five days, you may think that nothing new can come down the pipe. And then you discover that Denver Beer Co. is offering a Burritos and Barleywines breakfast event, and you happily say to yourself, "Well, I was wrong."
* 10 a.m. For those wanting to leave town with a few souvenirs, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales will begin a two-day sale of some of its tucked-away bottles, suitable for enjoying when your liver has begun to recover somewhat.
* 9 p.m. There will be lots of after parties beginning tonight - but few that test whether you can cross the last boundary of the week quite like Ratio Beerworks' karaoke after-party. Oh, and the killer brewery will be breaking out some new and rare brews.
* 11 p.m. For many years, I viewed the traditional post-festival tapping of New Belgium sours at Falling Rock Tap House as the defibrillator to shock my taste buds back to life. Whether or not you agree, this event offers a great chance to find out.

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