And it begins. On a plane. With my brother-in-law, Paul. He's a first-timer, but soon we were with GABF veteran Matt Wells of Lost Abbey — a chance meeting at Sky Harbor. We talk beer and toast to the week ahead with a Bloody Mary. Yeah, it was going to be that kind of week.
|Craft beer and food at its freshest|
Alas, it's time for today's main event, the Colorado Rare Beer Tasting. Held at the Rackhouse Pub, which is adjacent to Stranahan's Whiskey Distillery, this tasting touted some of the best Colorado had to offer. Standouts included MillerCoors-owned AC Golden's De La Vigne batch 1 and Chardonnay Sour; Tweak, Avery's Mephistopheles infused with massive amounts of coffee; Elevation Beer Company's beautifully balanced honey-infused quad, Apis IV; and River North's Belgian saison aged in Stranahan barrels.
A trip to Falling Rock for a few 50/50 Eclipse beers was in order, but soon the clock strikes 2:00 and it's time to crash.
With no concrete plans other than the first GABF session at 5:30, it's time to take advantage of all the Mile High City has to offer.
|Do you believe in the Yeti?|
One of the day's highlights was the Cigar City soiree at Freshcraft. Being this is one of my favorite breweries, plus the fact they don't distribute to the west, I was giddy. Marshal Zhukov's RIS, Cinnamon Apple IPA, Guava Grove saison, Ligero Black lager. Need I say more?
|The calm before the storm|
And what GABF night wouldn't be complete without a trip to Falling Rock and Star Bar.
Been looking forward to this day for awhile. 22 beer lovers. A limo bus taking us to a few of the best Colorado breweries. 'Nuff said, right? Wrong. How about add a rolling bottle share of rare beers to and from each brewery? Because that's how we roll.
|Yup, it's that time|
|Get your Friek on|
Stop 2: Odell in Fort Collins. Though Doug Odell's brewery might be substantially smaller in size than New Belgium, it's big on producing some seriously bad-ass beers. Arizona Odell rep JR Wheeler was there to greet us and give us an insider's tour. We saw where expansion will take place, visited the barrel cellar where we tasted a pineapple gose out of what can only be called "Cube 1," and drank Friek directly from the bright tank. Now if we can just get JR to crack open that Woodcut 1.
|Ten Fidy Friday!|
|"A" is for amazing beer|
Stop 5: Crooked Stave in Denver. I was in my happy place by the time we rolled into the Stave. I can see why it was one of the most talked-about spots at GABF. Nestled just north of Denver's Highlands neighborhood, the tasting room is microscopic compared to all the places we visited, but, man, do they make some absolutely amazing sour beers. Case in point their GABF silver medal-winning Sentience, a bourbon barrel-aged wild quadruple. Thank you, Chad Yakobson.
Stop 6: My bed at the hotel. A rest was much needed after this one-of-a-kind experience.
|The bus tour troops. Can you spot the drunk one?|
There's no sugarcoating the fact your fearless writer was struggling Saturday morning. Friday may have knocked me down for a bit, but Saturday was our last day in town so it was time to rally.
Sadly, Arizona only took home two medals this year. But a big congrats goes out to BJ's Derek Osborne who won gold for Jerry Maker in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer category. And Flagstaff's Lumberyard IPA took the silver medal in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category. Check out our very own Rob Fullmer's live blogging notes from Saturday as well as the complete list of GABF winners.
|And I thought I was a big dude|
|Sorry, babe, Sam says he's married|
So, what did I take from this beer-perience? First and foremost, Denver knows how to put on one hell of a party. What a fantastic beer town, and city in general. But what really made me proud was seeing the large number of Arizona peeps who made the pilgrimage. Paul Mangan, Dakine Beckman, Jon Petroff, Bryan Myron, Isaiah Garfias, Mr. Fullmer — the list goes on and on. It was an honor drinking with you in Denver. Let's keep the momentum going and make Arizona a force to be reckoned with in many Great American Beer Festivals to come.