30 September 2011

GABF Day 1 - Oskar Blues, Avery Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing

The morning ritual in Denver during the Great American Beer Fest is a stop for Sams #3. This place is a local institution and has been featured on several prominent food shows with TV hosts that I dare not speak their name. In the high Denver altitude having a good base for a day of craft beer drinking is never more important. The effects of just even two beers in the mile high city make an incredible difference on the body. A greasy spoon before the day is a must, and Sams #3 is the base for a very successful day.

We met up with Bob Mack from World Class Beer and he graciously let us tag along with him for a day of brewery hopping before the first evening session. Our first stop was the original spot for Oskar Blues Brewing Company in Lyons, CO. I would say that most craft beer people are well acquainted with Oskar Blues. They have really made a big impact in the world of craft canned beer. They were certainly early adopters of craft can beer, and they were very successful with that model. The restaurant is set up like a tri-level house. You walk in the front door and go downstairs to the bottom bar, and then upstairs for more seating and the upstairs bar. The blues theme is always carried throughout the restaurant and the on the menu. I like when a place does unique beers just for the brewpub, and Oskar Blues didn’t disappoint. We had their Oktoberfest, Dale’s Deviant DIPA, and my personal favorite Honey Badger smoked porter. Here is what the brewery says about it:

“This nasty little ale is made with Crisp Maris Otter pale malt, Gambrinus Honey Malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt and dark crystal malt along with a heaping, meaty dose of Oskar Blues home smoked malt (no kidding; there's meat in it) and generously hopped with Columbus all the way through the boil. A huge dollop of Lyons Local Madhava Wildflower Honey at the end of the boil takes it up a notch.
Honey Badger don't care; he just drinks the s**t up. Your nose will be attacked with a plume of cherry wood while your palate is tsunamied with rich chocolatey-caramel flavors and campfire smoke. Served at locally at Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids (Longmont) and Grill & Brew (Lyons) with an OB Hops & Heifers Farm meat stick. About 6% ABV.

It was delicious. I love smoke beer, and this beer was really tasty. I am very happy to have gotten to try this one. If you haven’t seen the Honey Bader video it is worth a few minutes of your time.

Avery Brewing Company

Our next stop was in Boulder at Avery Brewing Company. Hopefully readers have had Avery beer, but they won’t be coming to Indiana anymore. They have contracted their distribution operations and have pulled out of Indiana recently. You can still find some of their bigger beers on the shelves around town though.

The first thing that struck me about Avery is their location. If you thought Three Floyd’s was in an industrial park they don’t hold a candle to what Avery has going on. Avery occupies multiple business fronts along the same line of warehousing buildings. I can’t imagine some of the logistical nightmares that happen. The bottling line and canning line for instance are not connected to the brewery, so beer has to be transported to each place for the canning and packing lines.

Avery was rocking yesterday while we were there. It was a very good time to see and hang out with so many beer lovers that were there getting oiled up before the first GABF session that night. Avery has a pretty large barrel program and they had several sours on tap in addition to several brew-pub only releases. Rod started that day with a wonderful sour called Eremita that had been aged in cabernet and zinfandel barrels. This was the type of sour that you can tell of the expertise of barrel aging and blending. Truly one of the best sours I’ve recently had. I started my day with Lilikoi Mahu. I *think* this was a Beglian Wit base with tons of passion fruit added to it. It is really hot in Denver right now, and I thought this beer was just about perfect for the day and time. I had been drinking all morning and this was refreshing, tart, and was a nice change of pace. We moved onto the barrel room and kept on having some one offs and interesting beers. We found an interesting story about how Avery is still in business. At one point they were close to bankruptcy and Adam Avery decided he was going to put out a beer that he enjoyed drinking, and he put out Hog Heaven barley wine. He thought it wouldn’t sell and put a pig flying on the label, but that was the beer that helped to resurrect the brewery into the business of today. I drank a little bit of Avery’s beers when they were in Indiana, but after my brewery visit I left feeling different about them. I hope they will return to Indiana in the future.

Great Divide

We headed back into Denver and stopped at Great Divide. Last year Great Divide didn’t have a very big tap room, but they have since expanded the tap room, and that is very much a very welcome addition to the tap room. The tap room was pouring all of their beers for very reasonable prices. All pints were $4 bucks and samples were $1 dollar. I am huge fan of their Belgo-Yeti that came out recently.

A big thanks to Bob Mack, Grant Curlow, and Bill Jackson for letting us tag along for the day.

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