Day 5 began with a very nauseating elevator ride from the 20th floor of the Sheraton Hotel. I learned the hard way to EAT LOTS OF FOOD during the GABF. I am usually too busy chatting and roaming around to eat. I couldn’t let my woozy stomach get in the way though, today was the media briefing beer pairing luncheon and brewery bus tour. I had been waiting for months for this!
The luncheon began sharply at 12 so I decided to head over a bit sooner. It was held on the 38th floor of the Grand Hyatt in the middle of downtown and, wow, what a view! As soon as I walked in I saw Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head chatting with Julia Herz of the Brewers Association. Randy Mosher was standing across the room, and Charlie Papazian was getting a beer at the bar. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated to be in their presence.
I was handed a Paparazzi Pale by a server and told that this is a home brew that was fresh hopped with hops grown by Charlie Papazian and made in Julia’s house. A great way to start a forum on homebrewing. When I turned around I saw Ginger Johnson. If you don’t know who Ginger Johnson is, she is kind of my idol. She is the owner and founder of Women Enjoying Beer, or WEB, in Ashland, Oregon. According to WEB, it is an “education based company that develops and serves the female beer consumers, starting with her first.” I love the things she is doing for the beer community, especially for women. I hope in the future to help bring some of her work here to Colorado and it was amazing to finally meet her.
We all filed into the banquet hall to find our seats for the presentations. I ended up sitting next to Scott Baer the head brewer of Telegraph Brewing. Also at my table were the Nebraska Beer bloggers, a couple writers from Colorado Springs, a writer from San Diego and Casey Hughes of Flying Fish Brewing Co. There were a couple of other people at the table as well, but it was huge and we didn’t get much chat time as the list of speakers was immense. A possibility for next year would be to add a 30-60 minute reception before the lunch to allow for this. I would have loved the chance to talk with some of the people in the room more, such as Ashley (The Beer Wench) whose blog I have been following.
Julia Herz stepped up to the mic to begin the luncheon. She talked about the process of making the Paparazzi Pale, and discussed some of the facts surrounding this years GABF, Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association. This year, 400 media passes were given out and 125 of us were sitting in the room. Next up Kim Jordan, one of the founders of New Belgium introduced this years theme of the luncheon, homebrewing and its connection to craft beer. She highlighted the collaboration of the BA and the AHA.
Kevin Crompton of Epic Brewing Co. then took the stage. His speech was about how he got his start in brewing, and the process of opening and operating the first brewery in Utah that makes beer over 3.2%. While he talked we sipped on Brainless on Peaches, a nice big beer to start our lunch.
After the welcome beer and speeches, the food began coming out. What was great about this pairing is that not only was each food paired with a beer, but speakers were also paired with a beer. Most courses had two beers, and one even had 3. All of the menu items were designed to showcase Colorado and the beer being served in the luncheon.
The appetizer course was a braised pork belly. It was
topped with caramelized onions, a cherry and California Ale jus and a pretzel and Haystack Mountain goat cheese crostini. This dish was awesome. I would have licked the plate. It was paired with California Ale from Telegraph Brewing Co. as Scott Baer talked about his start as a keg washer and his medal winning beer (2011 Gold in Belgian and French Ales). This was my favorite beer of the event.
When I read pumpkin sorbet on the menu I was worried it would be tart and tangy like most sorbets. It wasn’t. Made with Breckenridge Autumn Ale it had a great pumpkin pie taste and was topped with a spiced caramel sauce and some nuts. To go with this we had Vida y Muerte from 5 Rabbit Brewery, a new brewery being opened by Randy Mosher. It was an Oktoberfest style brewed with dulce de leche, to highlight the mexican beer influences of the brewery. The name of the brewery, 5 Rabbit is a reference to the Mayans and their belief on 400 types of intoxication.
We also sampled a cantaloupe beer, but I missed the description when I stepped out for a second, and it was not listed on the menu. While we sipped this one Governor John Hickenlooper spoke about his homebrew days before opening up the first brew pub in Colorado, Wynkoop Brewing.
The main course came out and holy cow! I mean lamb! The biggest Colorado lamb shank I have ever seen landed on my table. Braised in Odell Cutthroat Porter and sitting on a bed of golden beet and cranberry risotto, it was topped with greens and mint vinaigrette. It was only fitting that this course had multiple beers, as it was going to take awhile to get through this. Todd Steven Boera, head brewer at Catawba Valley Brewing Company in North Carolina took the stage next. He brought his Le Saison Noire to share with us, a great saison with a sweeter finish than most. Up next while still trying to pull meat from the bone of our lamb shank, Jeff Erway of La Cumbre Brewing in New Mexico stepped up. His background was in music education before him and his wife opened thier little brewery. His Elevated IPA was a table favorite, a big hoppy beer. The can design was phenomenal, one of the more detailed ones I have seen.
Julia Herz spoke again on the changing perception of beer in America, as a result of the rise of craft beer. The increase of media attention has helped put American beer on the map in ways it was never before. Both Gary Glass of the AHA and Charlie Papazian of the BA added their comments to the topic as well.
Servers came out with glasses of Liquid Breadfruit, a collaboration beer between Maui Brewing and Dogfish Head. Owner of Maui Garrett Marrero discussed the benefits of participating in collaboration in the beer industry. This was paired with apple crepes filled with almond frangipane and topped with a cardamon caramel. While amazingly delicious, I was too full to eat more than a couple bites. Thinking about it now makes me wish I asked for a to go box! Casey Hughes then stepped up for his turn to speak on his own home brewing routes. The Flying Fish Exit 4 “American” trippel Casey shared went perfect with the sweet crepes.
Last but not least was Founders Brewing Company’s Dave Engbers, a co-founder of this legendary brewery. He brought Blushing Monk, a belgian style ale with raspberries. Dave said when he asked his brewer how much raspberries go into this beer the response was “$20,000 worth”. It was bright red and incredibly sweet. It tasted so much like juice you would never know it was 9.2%. This was paired with buratta cheese, gold pear brulee and cranberry jam. The texture of the cheese was not for me, so I really can’t tell you if it was good or not.
As soon as the lunch was over we all filed out and headed to the buses to being our brewery tour. As we left we were handed a bottle of Porter’s Pride. A collaboration brew made every year, the only other people to have access to this beer are those that win a medal at the awards ceremony. I cannot wait to open it!
Besides our tour guides, I believe I was the only Colorado resident on the bus. There were people from all over the country, including Alaska and even two from Brazil. As we drove from place to place the tour guides pointed out popular and historic sites.
Our first stop was Renegade Brewing Company. Open a little over a year, I had been once before. It is in the historic Baker District, which includes the Santa Fe art district as well. It is a cute little neighborhood. We all stuffed ourselves into the brew house with taster glasses of Ryeteous Rye. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear anything the brewer was saying because it was a bit noisy in there and some group members decided to have their own conversations instead of giving attention to the people taking time out of their day for us. We tried 2 more beers as well, one being Hammer and Sickle a Russian Imperial Stout. I didn’t catch the name of the last one, because of the aforementioned issues, but my best guess is that it was the Elevation Triple IPA. As we left, we were all handed a 16oz can of Ryeteous Rye to take home that was canned by Mobile Canning.
Next up, Hogshead Brewery. Located in the Highlands Neighborhood just west of I-25 this new brewery focuses on English and cask style ales, or, “real ales”. The brewer, straight from Britain, has some impressive dreads. When asked why he decided to move here and open a brewery he replied that “there are two reasons men move across the world, women and beer”. We chatted for a bit and had some of their summer seasonal Lake Lightening and a stout called Gilpin Black Gold. The stout was nicely balanced and even though listed as having coffee notes, were not as strong as they typically are with this style. Could also be the fact that I have already tried 15 beers today and my palate was wrecked.
The last brewery we visited was Prost Brewing, opened by Bill Eye former of Dry Dock Brewing this summer. This brewery focuses on authentic German beers. We recieved a tour of his 80 barrel copper system. Bill went all the way to Germany to get this 50 year old system. The system came with an amazing control panel of buttons and valve wheels, all labeled in German. We sipped on his Oktoberfest and Pilsner while he talked about his travels and his brew system. Being such a huge system, they have several breweries that contract brew out of his space. We didn’t get to spend much time in the taproom, but it was packed with GABF revelers. I will have to go back sometime to get the feel of the beer garden.
We arrived back at the Convention Center just in time to head inside for the evening session. My plans were to take it easy this night, as I was going to both sessions the next day. I stashed my bag heavy with beer samples at the Loveland Aleworks both and hit the floor. I had more than one sample of Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and a few Upland Brewing sours. I tended to gravitate towards barrel aged and sour beers tonight, ironic for taking it easy. It does help that I had less than 20 samples throughout the night.
I ended up scoring a ticket for the Farm to Table Pavillion as well. The lines were obnoxious in here, as everyone created one huge line. Therefore, instead of stepping out of the way after getting their sample, they stood in front of the booth waiting to go to the next one. I had a couple samples, left for an hour, and when I came back in the people in line had only moved 5 booths!!! There was no way I was going to get sucked into that line, so I was the douche bag who was “cutting” in line to try one particular booth. Everything tasted great, but everything had weird textures. The chefs went all out with their creativity and culinary expertise, each dish was an original surprise. Offerings included tete de chochon with marinated sweet peppers, grapefruit, and sprouts from The Kitchen paired with Jester King Noble King Organic Hoppy Framhouse. Ghost River Amber Ale was matched with a white bean and truffle bruschetta with fried proscuitto and parsley by the chef from Vin 48 Restaurant. With 22 other offerings, there was no way to try them all. I recommend purchasing the additional Farm to Table Pavillion ticket if you get a chance to, it is well worth it. You know, if people can remember how lines work.
I left pretty early and headed to FreshCraft for a Firestone Walker Parabola with some of the Funkwerks staff. It was nice to sit and relax with a pint after such a long day of tasting.