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GABF in 4 words: I told you so

You might recall that before heading off to Denver and the Great American Beer Festival, telling you about the 2011 Brewery Pick’em Contest I wrote: “And how can Sun King (Brewing) still be only a buck?”

Eight medals, four of them gold.1 That’s more medals than any brewery has ever won at GABF. Thank goodness brewing partners Clay Robinson and Dave Colt got out of jail in time for the awards ceremony. (They weren’t really in jail, but apparently there was a scary moment involving open containers on the 16th Street Mall.)

Andy Crouch would like these guys, because it seemed like at least one of them was always in the Sun King booth — even early Saturday evening. (A bit of disclosure: Clay and I are cousins, but I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to stop by as often if the beer weren’t so good.)

Except for one other quick story I’ll leave the festival commentary to others, recommending:

– Pete Brown’s “Ten initial observations” (I’ll add a link if he has more). For him, GABF doesn’t sparkle as brightly has five years ago.

– Crouch’s “The GABF That Was And Wasn’t . . .” I agree that the 30th anniversary pavilion was a great addition (I went with Shell’s Deer Brand, corn and all). And despite my contrarian comment would like to be able to find more brewers next to their beer.

– Jeff Alworth’s list of seven. Because this was his first, and despite the face he he credits Blue Moon White and Shock Top with the popularity of wit beer, rather than Brewing With Wheat.

Finally, I think I would have found something brewer Shawn Kelso from Barley Brown’s Brew Pub as telling and smile producing even if my primary focus last weekend hadn’t been hops. Presenting a beer called Turmoil at a media luncheon he talked about its history before it won gold last year in the “American-Style India Black Ale” category, now called “American-Style Black Ale.”

Kelso spent six years looking for a category for it before the “black style” got its own in 2010, starting in 2004 when he entered his first batch as an Imperial Stout.

The judges commented it was “too over the top in hops.” Kelso told his story, then shrugged.

“I thought, well, I can live with that.”

1 Plus they grabbed a third in the Alpha King Challenge.

8 Responses to GABF in 4 words: I told you so

  1. Olllllo October 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    You were also correct in that you would either see me one time or seven. Sadly, it was one. Cheers to the next time!

  2. Bill October 3, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    How about the continual dominance in the pale ale categories by Firestone Walker? To me, that’s the most amazing thing. Every GABF, either their pale ale or their Mission St. no-wood version wins or takes second, and sometime both. No one else dominates a category like that over time. Plus, they win for other things. Someday, I’ll get to try their non-Mission St. pales and such. We get their bigger brews now, and they’re great, but I get a lot of good-natured grief that FW’s basic brews are on my all-time can’t-wait-to-try list.

  3. Stan Hieronymus October 4, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    Bill – Agreed. They are in the middle of an expansion that boosts capacity considerably. Of course that probably won’t meet growing demand, but as one “for instance” it means that we should start seeing Union Jack in Missouri (already get Double Jack).

  4. Mike October 4, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Since you’re talking about prize-winning beers, I’ve got a question. My wife and I are flying to NYC in about two weeks. We’re staying there one week. Considering that I primarily like European (ie, well-balanced) beers, what would you recommend I try?

    I’d appreciate it you’d recommend specific beers rather than breweries. Thanks.

  5. Bill October 4, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Mike, I’m not sure there are that many New York-based folks who comment here. You might want to try the regional forums at RateBeer or BeerAdvocate or Beermapping. I know that a little bit south in Philadelphia, there’s a wealth of award-winning German lager styles thanks to reading Lew Bryson and Jack Curtin, but don’t know if they are available in NYC. Brooklyn Brewing’s simpler styles are fairly balanced and Old World-reminiscent, and Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale and IPA are more British-y than American-y by today’s standards. I do know that NYC has a growing cask ale movement.

    But I do think that checking out a larger site or a NYC-based blogger would be a smarter bet.

  6. Stan Hieronymus October 4, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Mike – Of course there is the matter of what is available and where. It is both the blessing and curse of unique beers. So a half dozen, and good luck.

    1) Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. They had it at GABF, but it doesn’t mean it is currently available. An excellent showcase for a hop (Sorachi Ace) that features flavor/aroma traditionally considered “unhoppy” and now coming into vogue. Without replacing the classics, of course.

    2) Victory Headwaters. A good way to find out what Citra (another “unhoppy” hop, rich in mango, etc.) does in a beer. You’ll surely be able to find Citra in other beers, but likely IPAs and perhaps not as balanced as you want. Worth having beside Victory Prima Pils, which showcases traditional European hops.

    3) Pretty Things Jack D’Or.

    4) Sly Fox Pils.

    5) Ramstein Wheat.

    6) Climax Oktoberfest.

    Now, back at home you might be on the lookout for “Mein Nelson Sauvin” from Schneider, brewed for release this month in the ABT-cafés. Apparently will be sold elsewhere (including US, surely NYC) but brewed for ABT 25th anniversary. Features Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand, another of the New World hops.

  7. Joshua M. Bernstein October 4, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Hi, Mike:

    If you’re staying in New York City, I recommend you look to:

    1) Brooklyn’s Kelso. They make a prickly pilsner and a terrific Nut Brown Lager. And if you like Nelson Sauvin, try Kelso’s IPA. It’s the best in the city, in my opinion.

    2) Sixpoint: They have a great pilsner in cans, called the Crisp.

    3) Great South Bay: The Snaggletooth Stout is a terrifically creamy, balanced brew.

    4) Greenport Harbor Black Duck Porter

    5) Cigar City Maduro Brown (they’re a Florida brewery, but their scant distribution network actually brings them to NYC)

    6) To confirm, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is currently available year-round. It’s terrific. Also, you can swing by the brewery most days for a tour.

    Feel free to reach out to me if you want any specific bar recommendations. I write about beer, food and spirits in NYC.

  8. Mike October 5, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    Many thanks for all the recommendations! We’ll only be there a week, and it looks like there’s lots to try. This is, to be honest, much more than I expected. Cheers all!

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