Thursday, October 25, 2012

GABF 2012 Photo Re-cap + Tips: Sour / Wild / Farmhouse Beers

Sorry for the delay in writing my re-cap. I know the importance of being timely on the internet, but life is getting busy (and this post is super long). My first trip to GABF was a well planned and paced beer adventure. I'm proud of myself for controlling my consumption when presented with 2500 + opportunities to get intoxicated. Below are a few suggestions and comments for future trips, followed by my photo essay and all my tasting notes.

  1. Prioritize your experience: Know before you go what places or beers you really want to go to or taste and do those first. You may think you have time on Day 3, but by the time you get there that beer is gone or you would rather take a nap (or watch football) then drive an hour to a brewery. My number 1 priority was to visit Crooked Stave, I have been exchanging emails and following along with Chad for years, so I made sure this was our first stop. Right off the plane Thursday night to Crooked Stave. The tasting room was winding down and luckily for us that meant a private tour and tasting session with Eli, 1 of the 5 Crooked Stave employees. It never worked out to meet Chad, but that leaves something for next time (and hopefully not around GABF because they are busy).
  2. Prepare for Palate Fatigue - 1 oz tastings really add up and if you are at GABF to find some new beers or discover new flavors it gets tough as the night goes on. I was able to get in about 50 beers (that's barely over 4 - 12oz) before my palate was gone. Yes, I was tasting mostly sour beers and Saisons, so it might be different if you are drinking brown ales or maybe worse if you are drinking IPA.
    1. It really helps to drink your rinse water before each taste - it cleanses your palate and prolongs your night. And more importantly makes sure you wake up the next morning not hating yourself and the elevation.
    2. The pretzel necklace is pretty clutch. I had probably 30 -40 pretzels on mine and was done with it around 3 hrs in. And many people bring more than pretzels, so be creative
  3. Its OK to pour out beer You should know this as a homebrewer. There will be some bad beers - we hit a streak of terrible "sour" beers and sweet Saisons while in the Midwest Region. (There were also some great beers from that region). Just pour it out.
  4. Enjoy Denver - Stay Balanced. As a beer geek it is easy to go overboard while at GABF with all the beers you can try. There are a bunch of special beers only poured at GABF, rare beers brought by breweries and then beers from places you will never visit. But life is about being balanced and Denver and the surrounding area is amazing. Explore the city (on foot or they have awesome rental bikes) or go for a hike in the foothills (the fresh mountain air does great things for a groggy head).
  5. Ask questions and be friendly the beer community keeps impressing me with the quality of people involved. Brewers love for you to ask questions about their brewing process or recipe design - just think about you as a homebrewer and how much you love discussing your beer. For the most part, the other drinkers were super polite, friendly and offered great tips.
  6. Don't feel too geeky to take notes - I feel self conscious of taking notes (mostly because my wife clowns me), but at GABF I almost feel like it is encouraged. It's really the only way to remember what you had and what you thought of it. The added plus I liked was that it slowed me down enough that I was better able to pace myself through the 4.5 hr session.
  7. Pick your GABF session depending on the environment you want
    1. Thursday Evening - Best Selection of beer, Mostly beer geeks (who else would take time off work), and a lot of brewers
    2. Friday Evening - A real mix of people ( geeks and partiers)- Almost all the beers are still available - a few brewers from the smaller places
    3. Saturday Afternoon - They release some extra beers during this session, beer geeks because you need an AHA memberships, and a lot of brewers - mostly wearing their new medals
    4. Saturday Evening - A real Shit Show - Not much special beer left - Brewers are all gone and the drunks roll in - people literally just go up to a booth and stick out a glass, take the shot of beer and repeat.
Below is a photo timeline of our 2012 GABF

  My tasting notes from 2012 GABF
Crooked Stave

 Mid Atlantic

 Ranger Creek Brewing
 Mountain Region

 Marble Brewing and Freetail Brewing

 Commons Brewing

 Cambridge Brewing and Trinity Brewing

 Jester King Brewing

 Jolly Pumpkin Brewing

 Catawaba Valley Brewing

 Elevation Brewing

Rivertown Brewing

 Avery Brewing

 Epic Brewing

I had an absolute great time. I am now determined to return, probably every couple years. And hopefully even for a Pro-Am at some point.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

GABF 2012 Plan: Sour / Wild / Farmhouse Beer Version

I am starting to get super excited, in just a few days I will be attending my first Great American Beer Festival. We have put in the research and created a game plan with the focus of tasting Wild / Sour / Brett / Farmhouse beers.

Thursday Oct. 11: Night Cap

Friday, Oct. 12: All Day Denver Beer Crawl, GABF 
  • We are planning to do a walking tour of Denver starting mid morning and stopping by as many beer centric places as we fill like. We will also be meeting up with onli homebrew buddies, throughout the day. If you are reading this and want to meet up, send me an email (Jeffrey.E.Crane at and we'll figure it out.
  • We are thinking of starting at Crooked Stave (I know twice in less than 24 hrs), which is pretty far out of the action area
  • Other stops include:  Avery Special Beers at Lucky Pie & Taproom : Wet Hop Pale Ale, Double Dry-Hopped Ale to the Chief, Uncle Jacob’s Stout, Oud Floris, Rumpkin, & Odio Equum. - a few sours that will never make it to San Diego

  • Stop: Falling Rock for Cigar City Beers - I know this place is crazy crowded, but we have never been to GABF so we will have to brave the crowds. Plus I really want to try some Cigar City beers and would rather not wait too long once in GABF (Humidor Series IPA, Cucumber Saison, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale, Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Apple Brandy Barrel-aged Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout)
  • And we are open to suggestions to fill the other time - I was referred to this Great Overview of Beer Places in Denver, which we will use to pick some other palces.
  • GABF Evening Session
Saturday Oct. 13: Hike, Boulder, GABF
Sunday Oct. 14: Hike, Brewery Visits

Monday Oct. 15: Come back from the Dead, Fly, Work

Please feel free to email me if you want to meet-up (Jeffrey.E.Crane at

I'll be taking notes, so expect a full report once I recover.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homebrew Tasting: Great Saison Experiment + Extra

The Great Saison Experiment (Part 1, Part 2) went marginally. I'm not having the best of luck with my experiments lately (The Great Wood Experiment was crashed by Brett). The positive spin is that I'm learning more about experimentation. The Saison Experiment's problem was that I tried too many new things in one test. Mainly, I used a huge dose of oats in the beer. Also the lower starting gravity of the beer and high percentage of simple sugars resulted in flat tasting beer. These 3 things are my only explanation as to why these beers don't have much flavor  And without much flavor it is difficult to pick out differences in yeast. So next year, I'm going to stick with a more straight forward and tested recipe to use as the canvas for these yeasts.

There were some subtle differences, but not nearly what I was expecting from this experiment. Therefore I'm going to hold off another month on an official tasting to see if I can get some more flavor development and a greater spread between each sample. As a result of not being all that excited about the results, I ended up splitting these batches even more. Below is a list of all the beers made from this single 20 gal brew session:

  1. French Saison Wyeast 3711 - harvested from last year's French Saison - 5 gal batch
    1. Plain (1 gal) - bottled
    2. Farmhouse Pale Ale #1 (2.5 gal) - Dry-hopped with 1 oz Citra - brought to QUAFF
    3. Farmhouse Pale Ale #2 (1.5 gal) - Dry - hopped with 1 oz Chillindamos' Centennial hops
  2. Saison Dupont - harvested - 5 gal batch
    1. Plain (1 gal) - bottled
    2. Farmhouse Pale Ale #3 (2.5 gal) - Dry-hopped with 2 oz Saaz Whole leaf - drank during the Barrel Project
    3. Farmhouse Pale Ale #4 (1.5 gal) - Dry - hopped with 1 oz Chillindamos' Centennial hops
  3. Brett Drie - used yeast cake from ESBrett - 5 gal btach
    1. Plain (1 gal) - bottled
    2. Pink Version (1 gal) - 1 liter of homemade Prickly Pear syrup, 1 oz Hibiscus flowers - bottled
    3. Go-Go Juice (1 gal) - 1 lb dates, 1 lb figs - carmelized
    4. Farmhouse Pale Ale #5 (2 gal) - Dry - hopped with 2 oz HBC 342 - weak, added 1 oz Calypso - currently on tap (10/5/12)
  4. ECY03 - 1/2 vial - 1 gal batch - bottled
  5. ECY08 -  1/2 vial - 1 gal batch -  bottled
  6. Lost Abbey Red Barn - harvested -  1 gal batch -  bottled
  7. Southampton Saison Deluxe - harvested -  1 gal batch - bottled
  8. Logsdon Seizon Bretta - harvested -  1 gal batch -  bottled

Farmhouse Pale Ale
This might be my new summer beer. This is going to be brewed every year. I have never gone through kegs that fast and had so much great feedback. I took Farmhouse Pale Ale #3 (Dupont-Saaz) to our Chardonnay Barrel Project brew session and it went over very well. So well, that there was only a super cloudy pint went I got back home. Farmhouse #1 (3711-Citra) was taken to my monthly QUAFF homebrew club meeting and seem to be well liked by most. We usually don't get too much feedback about beers because the meeting is so big, but multiple people asked about it after the meeting. Then #2 and #4 were just a showcase for Sean's (Chillindamos) homegrown Centennial hops. These hops were so aromatic with a great blend of piney and lemon citrus falvors. The yeast character on the 3711 version boosted that lemon character even more.

Right now I'm working on my Farmhouse IPAs which are dry-hopped versions of my Spelt Saison.

I do have one formal tasting sheet filled out on my Brett Drie Table Saison with Prickly Pear and Hibiscus.

I'll be tasting all 8 plain versions side by side in the next month. Contact me if you are interested in participating.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...