One hour and 17 minutes. That’s how long tickets to this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver took to sell out. Now I love beer, but I’ve never even tried to get tickets to this event for two reasons: 1. I’m a super lightweight who can handle exactly 1.5 beers in an evening so I figured I couldn’t hang long enough to make it worth it and 2. I love beer, but I just drink good beer; I don’t talk about it, speak the lingo or know much.  I know what I like and what I don’t like, but I couldn’t tell you if it’s the ABV, the barrel aging, or the amount of malt that makes the difference.

I don’t know much, but when a friend offered me free tickets just a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t dumb enough to say no. From what I’ve heard the GABF is a utopia where you get to wander around sampling all the best beers on the plane, some of which aren’t even available to general public yet,  while talking to brewers, picking up free schwag and enjoying some prime people watching. How could I possibly pass up an invite to the premiere beer festival and competition in the US? Luckily, I couldn’t.

So, last weekend I found myself wandering the halls of the Denver Convention Center in a complete beer-induced haze.

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

I had gone in with a strategy:  stick to the types of beers I know and love since I’m a porter, stout and sour girl.  Take a sip of each 1 oz. tester. If I absolutely love it, drink it. If I feel anything less than complete passion for the taste, dump it. I figured this would be the only strategy that would ensure I didn’t call it a night after an hour and/or end up with the stumbles, mumbles and bumbles.

My strategy failed about 72 seconds after I entered the festival and headed to the one booth where I knew someone. My friend, John, brews for Southern Pines Brewing Company so I thought I’d get a quick hug and then check out the rest of the floor, but John broke free from his booth and acted as my tour guide the entire night. Since he knows a ton about beer, ALL of the brews we tasted were amazing. Even though my plan was foiled from the get-go and I tried at least 50 (maybe 75?) of the 3000 beers from 600 US breweries available for sampling, I managed to remain upright and even took notes regarding my favorite brews and the weekend highlights.

Here’s a quick wrap-up! The next GABF is  October 6-8, 2016 so be sure to make it. Tickets typically go on sale in July: greatamericanbeerfestival.com

Standout Beers  – Here are some of my favorites from the ones I tasted.  Like I said, my knowledge of why I like these particular brews is limited so I won’t try to give lengthy explanations. Give them a try for yourself and see what you think.

AleSmith Brewery

  • Speedway Stout – Strong coffee, chocolatey deliciousness. Very high alcohol content (12% ABV).

Allagash Brewing

  • Farm to Face – Peachy, tart limited edition.

Avery

  • Tweak – Imperial Stout with delicious coffee taste.
  • Fortuna – Excellent very sour ale aged in tequila barrels. The perfect hint of lime and salt.
  • Ill Dolia – Tantalizing, lip-puckering, blended Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon Sour

Deschutes 

  • The Dissident – Sour brown with a twist of cherry. Awesome !
  • Zarabanda – Delicious Saison!
  • Sour Quad – Limited Edition that is ridiculously tasty. One of the best sours I’ve tried.

Dogfish Head

  • Beer for Breakfast – Limited Edition Coffee Stout. The Name says it all. It’ll wake you up!
  • The Seeds – Limited Edition Belgian-style farmhouse ale with giner, chicory and dandelion. Zesty and complicated taste.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids

  • Sip of Sunshine IPA – I usually dislike IPAs because I’m not a big fan of huge hops, but this one defied the odds and made me fall in love with it.

The Lost Abbey

  • Veritas 015 –This American Sour is fruity and refreshing. I could taste peach and/or nectarine. Won Gold in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer.
  • Track 8 – Like nothing I’ve tasted before, subtle, but delicious hints of chili and cinnamon come through this Barrel Aged Strong Ale. Probably the most unique beer I’ve tasted.
Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

New Belgium

  • Le Terroir – This super tart sour was less funky that some others. Best sour I’ve tasted!
  • La Folie – This solid Sour Brown Ale rocked!

Pizza Port :  I’d never even heard of these guys before, but they are amazing.

  • Grambo – Solid, drinkable, sweet ale. Won Bronze in Double Red Ale category.
  • Bacon and Eggs – Awesome chocolatey, coffee porter. Won Bronze in Coffee Beer category.

Stone Brewing

  • Witty Moron – Unique, dark tasty and bitter Witbier. Won bronze in Other Belgian-Style Ale.
  • Mocha IPA – Again, I don’t love IPAs, but from afar you can smell the coffee-chocolate deliciousness of this one. And, it tastes as good as it smells!

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Favorite Moments

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

Tap Takeover at the Mellow Mushroom – On Friday night, this Post GABF party at my favorite pizza joint in the Denver was the place to be. Delicious brews from Bonfire Brewing (located in Eagle, CO!) were paired with yummy, unique concoctions from the chefs of the Mellow Mushroom to create a delectable experience. The place was packed and buzzing with energy and music from a live performance by the eclectic and funky, The Other Black.

New Belgium Whiskey Barrel Sour Hour – On Saturday afternoon, New Belgium brought a blender and a distiller from Leopold Bros whiskeys together with their brewers to guide us through a tasting of New Belgium’s best sour beers aged in Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrels. This event, which featured delectable food paired with these special beers, ended up to be even better than it sounded.

Silent Disco – Amidst the chaos created by thousands of inebriated people, the Silent Disco stood out. Imagine dozens of people wearing headphones and shaking their groove thing right in the center of all! Sponsored by another Colorado standout – Oskar Blues Brewery – seeing people rocking and rolling without a care brought a smile to my face!

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association