The floods of tourist have now left Denver, vendors are all packed up, and hangovers may have come and gone for a few while others are celebrating awards and great memories of another Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.
Thursday’s sessions included a Belgian-Style Beer & Culinary Delights segment with local celebrity-chef Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s. In this session, Teddy teamed up with Susan Greene (Global Brewers Guild) to pair Belgian beers with food in new and interesting ways, and at the end of the session, Teddy donned a Three Stars Brewing t-shirt and gave a shout-out to the new brewery that will be coming to D.C. soon (more on that later!).
Also educating beer lovers was Greg Engert, of Churchkey, in a beer and cheese pairing session. And just off the main hall, guests could participate in a separate but related event, the Farm to Table Pavilion, which showcased small plates from local guest chefs and nine participating breweries. A mini-Savor if you will.
Friday’s sessions are typically larger in attendance, and can get crowded with folks just looking to get drunk quickly. For that reason, Friday night has earned a reputation as “amateur night” and many GABF attendees choose instead to spend the evening at various “Meet the Brewers” parties and industry events that occur all over the city. Others choose to visit local breweries and brewpubs to check out their offerings and partake in brews we can’t necessarily get back home. This can be a great opportunity to meet industry people and talk to beer folks in a more relaxed environment, which is a nice side benefit of GABF.
I had the good fortune to spend Friday evening doing both things, and met up with DC residents Dave Coleman, Mike McGarvey, and Rachel Murray for beers at Wynkoop Brewing in downtown Denver, and later attended a “Meet the Brewers” event at Great Divide Brewing. While there, I got to hear their impressions of the festival so far, as well as the satellite events that occur in Denver surrounding the GABF.
Saturday is all about the awards and the Members Only Session. When you consider that 49,000 attendees are allowed in to the Convention Center space over the course of the weekend, the Member’s Only Session participants have much more room to spread out and walk around to various booths, interact with the brewers and spend less time standing in line for beer.
The awards are announced in a corner of the Convention Center on a stage with a large screen displaying the names of the winners and their beers. From around the beginning of the Member’s Only Session you can hear cheering and hearty congratulations ringing out over the crowds, and if you happen to be around when a team wins, chances are good that you could be brought into a giant group hug, with everyone on the winning brew team smiling proudly – we even saw a few tears of joy. Can you really blame them? This is a pretty big deal for the beer world.
So what do these awards mean, anyway? Well, if you ask the Judge’s Panel, they’ll tell you that it breaks down like this:
Gold – A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma, and appearance.
Silver – An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma, and appearance.
Bronze – A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor deviations in taste, aroma or appearance.
With 79 categories, 519 competing breweries, 133 judges from around the world, and 3601 beers judged, this was no small competition. The Mid-Atlantic Region did fairly well this year, and here are the big winners from our (general) neck of the woods:
Category 1: American-Style Wheat Beer, Gold Medal to the SANDY BOTTOM from Blue Mountain Brewing of Afton, VA
Category 6: Coffee Flavored Beer, Gold Medal to the BALTIC COFFEE from Devils Backbone Brewing Co. of Roseland, VA
Category 24: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener, Gold Medal to the GOLD LEAF LAGER from Devils Backbone Brewing Co. of Roseland, VA
Category 31: Vienna-Style Lager, Bronze Medal to HEAVY SEAS MARZEN from Clipper City Brewing Co. of Baltimore, MD
Category 40: Golden or Blonde Ale, Bronze Medal to HEAVY SEAS GOLD ALE from Clipper City Brewing Co. of Baltimore, MD
Category 41: German-Style Kolsch, Bronze Medal to KOLSCH 151 from Blue Mountain Brewing of Afton, VA
Category 51: English-Style Mild Ale, Bronze Medal to ALE OF FERGUS from Devils Backbone Brewing Co. of Roseland, VA
Category 53: Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter, Gold Medal to GAR PALE ALE from Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA
Category 61: South German-Style Hefeweizen, Bronze Medal to WINTERGREEN WEISS from Devils Backbone Brewing Co. of Roseland, VA
Category 70: Robust Porter, Gold Medal to PIG IRON PORTER from Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, Wilmington, DE
Category 76: Imperial Stout, Gold Medal to RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT from Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, Wilmington, DE
What were your favorite beers? Did you try any new breweries out? Which ones blew you away and which ones left you hankering for a better brew? We want to hear it.
Congrats to all who enterered and won, and it was great to see such a big representation of the DC Beer Community in Denver this year. See you all again next year – new breweries, new brews, and another opportunity to remind the country that Washington is indeed a world-class beer city. Cheers!