GABF impressions

Here are my notes – jetlagged and sleep-deprived though they be – filtered through three straight days (four, if you count setup and the Brewers’ Gathering on Wednesday) of the Great American Beer Festival.  

Lots of good, straight-ahead traditional European lagers. Pils, Helles, Vienna and Maerzen – this always does my heart good. Prost, Real Ale, and Falling Sky are three off the top of my head that had great and authentic-tasting examples of down-home continental lagers.

Niches and specializations. There are a number of craft breweries out there now that seem to be positioned as the brand for that sweet spot where “Heavy Metal” and “Good Beer” intersect on the Venn diagram. Likewise, there seems to be a larger number of smaller breweries with a very specific focus – sours, saisons, IPA – where in the past it seemed adequate to have a range of “craft” styles (one IPA, one stout, one blonde, one seasonal …). Made me wonder if this is a sign of things to come in terms of market fragmentation and sub-subcultures.

I like IPA. Even after all these years, it’s a default setting for me when presented with an unfamiliar beer list or brewery range, and a pretty good litmus test to see what a brewery is all about.

I also like Mosaic as a solo hop.Pfriem Family Brewers had a luminous single-hop pale ale with Mosaic. I went back for it a couple times.

Natty Ice: gold medal winner. It was for the American-Style Cream Ale category, and I remark on it only because of the crowd reaction at the award ceremony: there was much whooping and hollering, which struck me because Budweiser Select, which won gold in the previous category (American Light Lager, I think) was met with comparative silence.

Lots of folks I knew, some who knew me. It’s always worthwhile to spend some time in the company of other beer lovers, and it was good to see some of you (for the first time, or again) in Denver last week to chat, high five, bump fists, clink glasses, or wave from across a sea of humanity.

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6 thoughts on “GABF impressions

  1. I think most were just caught off guard when natty ice won in that category, I know I laughed while I was listening to the live stream. I wonder if they’ll put the gold medal and the category on their packaging soon.

  2. I also spent the weekend in the Denver area to visit breweries; was blown away how good Prost beers were. Most were accurate reflections of their German inspirations.

    Are you planning on going to Darkness Day as well?

  3. Argh! What? Dawson went to GABF? I wish I’d have kept up with the blog, I would’ve kept an eye out. Our first year to go and I only met up with one of the former Brewing TV celebs when Chip poured my Summit samples Thursday night. Would’ve been great to meet you both along with the many others we (sometimes quite literally) bumped into from the homebrew/pro beer world.

    I agree with your thoughts on the Pfriem Family Mosaic and the wave of specialization. And so very many lovely marzens. Not to mention a large share of pumpkin beers and barleywines (plus quite a few quads). And easily more varied versions of berliner weisse than i’ve ever encountered. I even had my first mit schuss. May have to try that with what remains of my batch of no boil berliner that was made using your recipe.

  4. This was my 7th (8th?) consecutive GABF, and I was left with this thought: there are a LOT of folks brewing for a living these days…but not all of them should be. My GABF experiences got a lot better about 5 years ago when I realized that I could dump the beers that I didn’t like. I certainly dumped a lot of beers this time around (like the ones from the brewery I cannot remember who focused on Brett – blech), but I also didn’t dump a lot of them, too. Many nice ones to be found, and it was a great time. See you next year.

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