02 October 2011

GABF Day 3 - Saturday sessions and awards

Saturday is the busiest day at the Great American Beer Festival.  Two full sessions are packed in to a single day, leaving the festival organizers and volunteers little time to recover.  Matt and I entered the festival a bit late.  We arrived at the convention center right as the festival doors were being opened and found ourselves on a 15 minute trek 3/4 way around the convention center to the back of the line.  Observing a rather impressive and efficient entry process at the other sessions, I pulled out my phone and started the stop watch.  Roughly 20 minutes later I had a glass in my hand and was off to sample more beer and await the judging results.  Moving a line that stretches across multiple city blocks in that short of a time is an amazing feat and the festival organizers should be commended.

The third day is notorious for being my day where I am approaching beer exhaustion.  Luckily, the award announcements help break up the day and allow me to ease myself back in to beer consumption.  We skipped around a bit and tried some highlights such as Odell's Woodcut No. 5, Maui's Imperial Coconut Porter and a few sours from Russian River.  We moved our way over to the awards to see what Indiana and our other favorite breweries would take home.

Indiana managed an impressive haul this year.  19% of the Indiana beers entered for judging received a medal.  That percentage is completely unheard of.  If the country wasn't already paying attention to Indiana as a great beer state, they are now.  Sun King pulled down the most medals of all the Indiana breweries with a whopping 8 medals - the most of any single brewery in the festival. 

Category 8: Coffee Beer
Gold: Sun King - Java Mac

Category 19: American-style Brett Ale
Bronze: Brugge Brasserie - Grimalkin / Super Kitty Fantastico

Category 20: Wood and Barrel-aged Beer
Silver: Sun King - Wee Pogue

Category 21: Wood and Barrel-aged Strong Beer
Silver: Sun King - BBJ (Bourbon Barrel Johan)

Category 27: American-style or International-style Pilsener
Silver: Sun King - Popcorn Pilsner

Category 35: German-style Marzen
Silver: Three Floyds - Munsterfest

Category 56: Scottish-style Ale
Silver: Rock Bottom College Park - Naughty Scot

Category 72: Belgian-style Strong Specialty Ale
Gold: Sun King - Buffalo Slumber

Category 75: Classic Irish-style Dry Stout
Gold: Sun King - Ring of Dingle

Category 81: Scotch Ale
Gold: Sun King - Wee Muckle

Category 83: Barley Wine-style Ale
Bronze: Sun King - Johan the Barleywine

Now if you're like us, at this point you're wondering why Sun King didn't also take home Small Brewery of the year since they had the most medals of any single brewery.  Once we found the Sun King guys and congratulated them on their success, Clay offered us an explanation of how the Small Brewery of the year judging works.  Each brewery gets to choose 8 of their beers to be considered for the Small Brewery of the year award and the winner is chosen based on the scores of those beers.  Unfortunately, the guys at Sun King picked the wrong beers, and their overall score wasn't enough to beat out Chuckanut.  However, Chuckanut is brewing some amazing authentic German-style beers, so they are definitely deserving of the award as well.

After the judging, Matt and I made a final pass of the floor before discussing our evening plans.  With the evening session following the afternoon session so quickly, we decided that we'd come back for the first hour of the evening session and perform our victory lap.  Between these two sessions some of our standout beers and breweries were:

  • Rocky Mountain and their fruit flavored dessert beers
  • Lost Abbey's Framboise de Amorosa
  • Crabtree and pretty much everything we tried from them
  • Kern River's Just Oustanding IPA (that's really the name)
  • Ballast Point's Victory at Sea
  • Grand Teton's Imperial Coffee Porter
  • Firestone Walker's Fourteen
  • Dogfish Head's Urkontinent
  • Deschutes' The Abyss

We then headed over to the Yardhouse so that we could watch some football over dinner and I finished off this year's GABF trip with an Odell Myrcenary.  Well.... until I stopped in the Boulder Tap Room at the Denver Airport on my way out and had a wet-hopped Singletrack (entitled Freshtrack).

GABF is an incredible festival and there really isn't anything else like it.  I would certainly recommend a trip out to Denver for the festival if you've never been.  Just remember to buy your tickets early because they sold out in a week this year.  You'll also want to get in on hotels way in advance and make sure you're in line about an hour before the session starts.  Alternatively, you might consider just hitting the Saturday Afternoon and Thursday sessions and using the rest of your time to visit Falling Rock or any of the Denver area breweries.  No matter how you budget your time, you're sure to enjoy yourself.

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