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.


  1. Great post Jeff, I feel the same way, just not enough time during GABF. If you want to see the pro-am at GABF take a look at my buddy blog. He want as BP/Padres Homebrew contest winner.

    1. Thanks.
      I was following Vintage63 on Twitter during GABF. Next year I need to try to win a Pro-Am competition, it sounds like they treat you well.


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