My Beerish Golden Foodie Picks for Week Two (Electric Boogaloo)

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Week two nominations are upon us (cough, cough…YOU). Your fingers actually have to go to the website and type these things in. Last week I was pretty impressed that four of my beerish nominations made it in. Is craft beer winning or are these places just that good? You be the judge! GO HERE TO VOTE YOU GUYS

  • ITALIANPizzeria Ortica, Costa Mesa. My vote for last week’s best pizza lives on! Read my beer dinner post over at Food Enthusiast Mag to find out why I pick them for Italian as well! Carolinas has a beer list of 286 beers as well, but the food at Ortica is that much better.
  • MediterraneanOlive Tree, Anaheim. This is probably the only restaurant on the planet I’ll recommend that doesn’t have beer. It’s so good I went for my birthday last year. Seriously. Is middle eastern Mediterranean? Dave Lieberman said “abtholutely” and I believe him. The Sunday leg-o-lamb is my jam. If you venture down to SD, check out California Kebab and Brewpub! 
  • Wine List – Judging by the beer tap handles at Sea Legs Wine Bar, I’m giving them the nod for having a varied array of boutique wines covering the spectrum. The beer list is local and the food is ridiculously good. Read about my St. Patrick’s day tap takeover with them and Noble Ale Works here!
  • French - Does beer exist to the French? The Globe in Garden Grove is close enough I guess. A torrent of Belgian beer on tap and their new chef is from France…close enough? The Belgian Nachos are silly, but addictive.
  • Steak – The Summit House, Fullerton. I was surprised to see a nice menu of local Bruery beers to back up my cowslab. Nice view of Fullerton and the occasional oxygen tank.
  • Sushi – Sushi Noguchi in Yorba Linda is the real deal. Ask Hiro or Jun for local craft beer every time you go and maybe they’ll add some sooner than later. Until then, a pitcher of Kirin’s (brewed in the US) beer will make do.
  • Tacos - Although Taco Asylum technically has the best beer list of any taco joint, I have to recommend Soho Taco Truck, especially when they’re parked in front of a local brewery! The shrimp taco is bursting with sweet, snappy shrimp and an array of salsas to balance things out.
  • Happy Hour – TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea. Hands down the best happy hour menu ever and award-winning beers to back it up. Although Victor Novak recently left, I still vouch for the beer until I hear otherwise.

GO HERE TO VOTE YOU GUYS

My (Beerish) Golden Foodie Award Picks (Week 1)

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A place is only as good as its beer list right? Show your favorite beer-friendly eatery some love at this year’s Golden Foodie Awards! Here’s my picks for week one! Vote here! 

  1. Best Mexican FoodAnepalco’s Cafe, Orange. Anepalco’s French-prepared Mexican cuisine is as tasty as it is beautiful to look at. Paired with local beer on tap? Total win. (C’mon Taco Maria, go local. Nobody should have Shipyard IPA in SoCal. Do you get your masa from Maine too?)
  2. Best Vegetarian FoodAvanti Cafe, Costa Mesa. Last year I went vegan for three months. Avanti’s food tastes like actual food, not a science experiment meat clone. Housed walking distance from Hi-Time Wine Cellar, you can guarantee their four taps rotate with quality product. Runner ups: Seabirds Kitchen, Tender Greens, Healthy Junk (and Junk Bar). Their beer is vegan too, which is why Bison and Uinta are on tap.
  3. Pizza – uh, Pizza Port in San Clemente is the obvious choice, but places like Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa, Rances and Pitfire Pizza are taking beer seriously. I’d give the nod to Ortica because the chef’s homebrew saison is better than mine. His pies are legit as well! Out of the Park Pizza is a local favorite of beer geeks with one of the best tap lists in the county. Nod to Fuoco in Fullerton for making a serious delicious pie and good beer options.
  4. Beer – Now, this is sort of like picking the OCBeerBlog best beer bar in Orange County, which is true. This place must have taps that are rare, fresh and served at proper temp in clean/proper glassware. The beer menu must be meticulously planned (not 80% IPA’s, for instance). The servers must be smiley and knowledgeable about beer without being snobbish like a 1995 Tower Records employee. The servers should know the menu and what’s on tap and be willing to offer up pairing suggestions. Prices must be in line with other places (no $8 pale ales, for instance). For me it’s a tossup between Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach or The Playground DTSA. Not only is their beer list well planned, the food is also killer!
  5. American Cuisine – See #4. Add in Chapter One: The Modern Local if you like Ketchup.
  6. Burger – This is tough as I’m very particular with my burgers. I like them no bigger than my fist so I can easily fit a beer and some fries in my belly without exploding. Haven Gastropub’s Lamb Burger is one I always go back to. Nods to Fireside Tavern’s burger/beer Thursday where the chef recreates fast food burger masterpieces.
  7. Best Cocktail320 Main in Seal Beach makes the only beer cocktail I’ve ever liked, so nods go to them. The Detroiter has notes of bit-o-honey balanced with the hoppy bite of beer. Joe over at The Playground also shakes and stirs nicely.
  8. Best Food Talk Radio Show? I only listen to podcasts and I hear Four Brewers is great. Beer is food right?

Get over there and vote before the week is up! 

Forging a Brewhouse: Barley Forge in Costa Mesa

P1080179If you were to look at beer like a simple math equation, it looks a little like this: People + Brewery = Beer. With the millions of combinations of each, it’s no wonder we have a zillion flavor profiles, bottle art and brewer vision. Barley Forge Brewing Co in Costa Mesa is no different. With just around a month left to open, here’s some insight of what to expect when the math is complete.

People - Greg Nylen (owner) and Dave Hulls (brewer). Greg is an older guy with a full head of grey hair looking mildly like a young John Lithgow. He speaks sharply from his years as an attorney as his day job. Even today, his court-ready suit lays neatly across a couch in the back office. He started homebrewing in law school around 24 years ago after visiting Portland. He joined the Maltose Falcons homebrew club, got great feedback as well as went through their beer judge class to hone his palate craft. After doing well at competitions, he thought, “Maybe I can do this.”

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Dave Hulls (left) with Victor Novak at 2013 GABF

Dave Hulls (brewer) comes from fifteen years brewing professionally at Gordon Biersch and TAPS Fish House & Brewery. If you’ve ever seen him, you’ve probably thought, “Dave looks like a guy that could lift me up by my neck with one hand.” He speaks gruffly and smiles when speaking of brewing beer. His work in TAPS Corona has yielded him a GABF win with their Schwarzbier.

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View from the brewhouse. Orange room is the kitchen, left is the entry way, tasting room, bottling line and offices. On the right is cold storage, kegging and employee area.

Brewery -  Situated in a small industrial area behind the Lab/Camp area off of Bristol and Baker sits the brewhouse. My first impression? Huge. What sets Barley Forge apart from other start-ups is they will have a kitchen that will serve cheese/charcuterie and sandwiches. A BBQ smoker will also happen at some point. “Costa Mesa doesn’t like food trucks so we’re going our own route,” says Greg. The tasting room is bold and put together with an industrial-antique feel. Old Brunswick bowling alley seats, thick repurposed wood tables and tap handles that resemble a metal forging hammer will round out the brewery vibe.

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Seven fermenters ready for beer.

P1080183As Costa Mesa is craft beer black hole, the location couldn’t be better. Seemingly 200 possible accounts are within walking distance, or at least driving distance with their huge military vehicle that will be used for deliveries, beer festivals and parades. “A tap handle will be installed sooner than later on the back,” says Greg.

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Building a brewery is dusty. This panel still has the DET sticker from it’s previous home in Michigan.

Barley Forge bottle mockup 2 Don PerfectoBeer: They haven’t produced beer yet, but 12oz heritage bottles will soon be rolling off their line filled with a Belgian Dark Strong, Dortmunder Export, DIPA, Wit and a beer with dark Agave syrup. The brewhouse is configured for decoction mash to really dial in euro-styles Dave is familiar with brewing at Gordon Biersch and TAPS.

DON PERFECTO
Belgian-Style Witbier with Horchata-Style Spices
5.1% ABV

Like the ideal husband, Don Perfecto (“Mr. Right”) will always be faithful, bring you flowers “just because,” put the toilet seat down without being asked, and bring home the bacon on bended knee. What more could you ask for? This tall, handsome beer is a Belgian-style witbier brewed with a twist that’ll treat you right — malted wheat, two-row malted barley, Mexican cinnamon, vanilla, and a bit of lactose, evoking the refreshing flavor of horchata. Whether out on the town, or enjoying a quiet evening at home, Don Perfecto and you are a perfect match.
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EL RUDO
Amber Ale with Agave Extract
5.7% ABV

The famed heroic luchadores of Mexico face off in the wrestling arena with villains, classified as “Los Rudos” or “Tough Guys.” These bruisers skirt the edges of fair play, challenging the heroes to prevail with honor even when the odds are against them. Brewed in homage to these rebels of the ring, El Rudo is bold and assertive — a smoky amber ale brewed with agave extract and West Coast hops that is sure to rescue you from the clutches of those bland, flavorless, play-by-the-rules lagers on a hot summer day.

THE BLACK DAHLIA
Belgian-Style Dark Ale
11% ABV
Like a great film noir classic set in post-war Los Angeles, this deep, dark beer takes some time to unravel and fully appreciate, its secrets revealing themselves as the flavor plays out on your palate. By the time you’ve finished a glass of this Belgian-style dark ale (preferably in a goblet you have allowed to warm up to you, like a Hollywood ingénue), you will discover the truths its candi sugar, complex malt bill, and exotic European hops and yeast uncover. The Black Dahlia is an enigma you’ll want to ponder again and again.

THE ORANGE CURTAIN
India Pale Ale
6.2% ABV
Our neighbor Angelenos joke about going behind “The Orange Curtain” when they cross the county line — like some Cold War-era spy sneaking into the Soviet Union. We get it. It’s different here in Orange County. But we invite you to cross that line and try what we have to offer, like this India Pale Ale. Dry and crisp, with some Maris Otter malt for a bit of sweetness and a mix of West Coast hops. We trust you will enjoy this great tasting beer and find that it’s not so scary down here behind The Orange Curtain after all.

ONE LOUDER
Double India Pale Ale
8.3% ABV
Shining a spotlight on hop flavor instead of hop bitterness, One Louder is the perfect brew for any rockstar hophead bold enough to enjoy life at full volume. One Louder is a Double India Pale Ale brewed with a head-banging blend of of Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, Warrior, and Amarillo hops. But don’t fear – all that explosive hop insanity is steadied and balanced by a malty backbeat of Maris Otter and US 2-Row malt. Rock out with one of America’s loudest beers!

GRANDPA TRACTOR
Dortmunder-Style Export Lager
5% ABV
A true Dortmunder-style export lager, brewed with noble hops and European pilsen malt. Enjoy this beer on a hot day or with spicy food … a refreshing German- inspired alternative to West Coast hop-forward beers.

The beer labels feature illustrations inspired by the familiar Mexican card game Lotería. The five ales will be available immediately on the brewery’s opening; the lager will be available a few weeks after opening.

More pics/info coming soon! Visit their website here! 

 

 

Brooklyn Brewery (in pics)

When in Brooklyn, you must tour Brooklyn Brewery. There’s two brewsystems on site in Brooklyn and a contract brewery in upstate NY. I sampled several interesting beers, namely Ridgy-Didge, a spiced beer tasting somewhat like a beer with ginger and a session Saison with all Sorachi Ace hops coming in at 3.5%. Having brewed a session Saison with all Sorachi ace I took home from Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, this beer brought back some memories! I also fully welcome session Saison over thin session IPA. And now…get your Garrett Olivered with these pics (I’d write more, but I’m on a ferry to Staton Island.)

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Shopping List: Fourth of July Weekend

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This is you trying to figure out what beers to buy this weekend

I don’t condone drinking to excess, but there’s something distinctly American about celebrating our independence from the British with a few combustibles and of course great American beer. Long lighter in one hand, tulip glass in the other, I like to chant “USA, USA” while watching safe & sane fountains spew fart-smelling smoke and sparks in the air. Before the shelves run empty, what beers should you pick up for the big weekend? Here’s my 2014 shopping list:

photo1. Stone Unapologetic IPA - When it comes to whipping British ass, don’t be sorry! Celebrate your freedom unapologetically with this brand new collab beer from Stone Brewing. I think we can all agree Mitch Steele, Julian Shrago and Jamil Zainasheff know how to make a hoppy beer, so I’m not going to waste your time describing this experimentally hopped DIPA. You were going to get it anyway, right? Right.

Ketland12) Growler of Noble Ale Works Pistol Whip’d Pils – In the revolutionary war, I’m sure some jaggy British teeth were knocked out by way of flintlock pistol. With misfires a problematic drawback of the weapon, it’s heavy barrel was probably used for more pistol whipping than anything. Noble’s Pils is a dry, hoppy and sessionable lager.

3babygotback) The Bruery Loakal Red – I literally just figured out the spelling with the word OAK in Loakal. Man I’m slow! I always thought Patrick Rue was a bad speller. I’ve had this beer hundreds of times over the years and I just got it! Wow! I also knew part of this beer sat on oak. Only distributed in Orange County, what better way to celebrate stomping red coats than with an oaked red ale? The color will remind you of the blood of those lost on the battlefields some 200+ years ago.

4) TAPS Cream Ale – When brewmaster Victor Novak first started brewing in Philly 20+ years ago, he cut his teeth on this light and bright beer The small amount of English fuggles in the beer are somewhat tea-like and will remind you of the Boston Tea Party that led to the American Revolution. A bit of a stretch? Maybe. Suggested food pairing: freedom fries and hot dogs. Bonus points if you pick up your growler during happy hour and eat all kinds of great stuff on the cheap. TAPS happy hour = my favorite in OC.

Can't believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic

Can’t believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic (credit Jessica McNew)

5) Bottle Logic She Shot First – Sure, Stephen Hawking is British, but you’d never know that without hearing him speak. As long as Bottle Logic is his favourite brewery, I’ll give him a pass. “She Shot”, as they say at the brewery, is a pale wheat ale with prominent bitterness and some nice fruity hop aroma.

Have fun and happy beer shopping!

Valiant Goes Big With California Quad IPA

Upon one sip of Valiant Brewing’s Quad IPA Alpha Overdrive, I’m pretty sure I reached a higher level of cosmic consciousness. Incense quickly filled the room, a third eye opened up inside my glass and I’m pretty sure brewer/owner Brian Schroepfer started to charm a cobra out of a mash tun with a pungi flute.

A few more sips and it hits me…this beer is an opium den in a glass.

Alpha Overdrive in the middle compared to the second runnings SIPA on the left and Alpha Drive on the right.

Alpha Overdrive in the middle compared to the second runnings SIPA on the left and Alpha Drive DIPA on the right.

Hovering in the lotus pose at least two inches over a dusty rug, my glass is filled with the potent 14.2% ABV beer. My first thought with such a beverage is disproving it instead of enjoying it. Is it a gimmick? After a few more sips of this chest-warming beer, I keep going back for more.

IMG_6084The first shock is the mouthfeel. It’s full, yet dry. Finishing at a low 1.015 FG, the beastly yeast had to travel through the valley of darkness from 1.137 to reach pure zen. Sure the alcohol is there, but it’s not fusel. Each addictive sip my chakras glowing wildly; Alpha Overdrive is a heating pad for my soul.

It’s not a hop bomb either. Balanced nicely, most of my nose is filled with caramelized malts from a five-hour boil. Some peach, melon, citrus zest and a bit of freshly-licked cherry Tootsie Pop make up its complex flavors. As it warms, layers unfold. The only question my mind after drinking this big beer: how many licks does it take to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop? Stop in to find out!

Official release of Alpha Overdrive is Friday 6/27 at Valiant Brewing’s brewery and taproom. First 30 guests get to fill a 32oz growler! Draft only release. / www.valiantbrewing.com 

Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival – In Romance Novel Form

Every year, I strive to up my game covering events that I love. Last year I did the “Beer and Loathing in Paso Robles” piece which was a lot of fun. I recently hung out with New York Times best selling historical romance Author Tessa Dare and was inspired to write a short-form romance novella surrounding the 2014 FWIBF. Why not? 

I will warn you, the story is trashy with flashes of BDSM. It’s harmless though, if anything goes past your threshhold, just yell “PANCAKES” and I’ll stop. I promise. The story is fictional, but the beer and festival info is non-fiction. enjoy!

 

Love Buzzed up the Central Coast With Firestone Walker Page 2

…Continued (page 1)

Breakfast at 8: “Are there any egg bagels?” says I, Greg Nagels. I’ve been waiting my entire life to unleash that line of hilarity on a water/sleep deprived crowd. “You should start a youtube channel called ‘Egg Bagels with Greg Nagels like ‘Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis’” says Kip Barnes . Ten minutes later I find myself next to David Walker as I chomp down on a lightly toasted blueberry bagel with moderate schmear. “So, you like bagels?” I ask awkwardly. “Not really”, he says walking away, arms folded. Best first episode ever. I slurp my hot coffee and act cool.

credit Kelly Erickson - Girls Who Like Beer

Firestone Walker’s Sensory Man: Norm Stokes – credit Kelly Erickson – Girls Who Like Beer

10:30 A.M. we arrive at Firestone Walker’s production brewery in Paso Robles. It’s bright and sunny as birds chirp near the bus. Hop steam bellows out of the brewery tower sending all the hoppy grape nutty smells to my nose. Despite the early morning beer sweats, I feel revived.

“Welcome to sensory analysis” says Norm Stokes from their quality team. Analyzing my beer senses after a heavy night? I’d say my blistered tongue and histamines from debauchery twelve hours prior will have their way with any real analysis. My palate is shot to the point I can’t make out what the first beer is. “Is this DBA? It’s either got a woody note from barrels or repeatedly smacking my tongue with a barrel stave last night” I moan to my table. I’ve done blind tasting before but never with a blindfold on my tongue (well, maybe there was that one time in UCI’s dorms).

Sensory Analysis

P1070223A flight of five beers and a flavor wheel before me. Beer one opens up like a lid of Parkay margarine and says “butter”. You’ve probably heard a neckbearded beer geek say the word “diacetyl” while snapping their fingers and head from side to side; but until you’ve had a beer spiked with it, you haven’t lived. It reminds me of making out in a movie theatre with a drunk chick in the worst way possible. Subsequent samples are just as gross; DMS being the worst.  Dimethyl sulfide in this beer tastes somewhat like sour milk aged in a urine-soaked diaper, in a black car, in a parking lot, without trees, on a hot day, in Bakersfield, outside Wal-Mart. Fuck.

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The second panel of oxidized Union Jack is not much better. Beer served at 3, 30 and 300 days at room temp and refrigerated. The oldest/warmest sample tastes like cardboard that once carried asparagus, then a gene-positive asparagus pee odor vagrant ate some asparagus and then peed on the remaining box. All of the essential hop aromas and flavors drop out like a teenage pregnancy. The old one even has a haze like a pregnancy test; two lines of fog = abort down drain, pronto.

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same beer, 300 days apart

Although we all should know by now IPA’s are best served fresh, Firestone Walker’s beers are date stamped and good for 120 days, and best by 30 in my sampling. Moral of the story: Don’t hate, Check the date…Refrigerate, sucka. 

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This is part two of four from a recent beer-junket up to visit Firestone Walker Brewing Co. with the @LABeerBloggers group. Bus/Food and some beer was provided courtesy FW.

Belgian Proper | The Globe Belgian Gastropub

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

In Orange County, where Belgian-style beers are brewed local and served fresh, sometimes it’s important to sample the real thing from the motherland. If you don’t have a passport and a plane ticket handy, historic Main Street Garden Grove makes a quick getaway to northwestern Europe as quick as drive to old ‘small world’ Disneyland.

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

Historic Main Street Garden Grove is a quick drive from Disneyland Resort – photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

14030362158_5fe8245f0b_zNot only does owner/purveyor Michael Pauwels insist on serving only imported Belgian beer, your pinkie will rigidly extend from a beer artfully and scientifically poured in proper glassware. Belgian beer is somewhat like Cinderella, fitting ever so perfectly in her glass slipper. A Saison Dupont served in a mason jar? Hideous. An Urthel Hop-it in an American shaker pint glass? Disgusting. With eighteen taps (Stella as the only ‘crap’ tap) and numerous bottles, I found it easy to find a beer I haven’t tried, much less heard of, outside of Europe.

The kitchen has recently undergone a renovation, complete with new staff and an updated menu. New executive chef Chrisophe Jardillier paints broad strokes across the Globe, with dishes inspired from his mother back in France, contrasted with hearty pub favorites. As is when I travel abroad, a charcuterie platter with a beer is a perfect start to a meal after a day exploring the countryside.

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The menu is not only seasonal, but regional flare is introduced monthly, making a visit to The Globe an exciting adventure. One appetizer that steals the show is Belgian Nachos. Somewhat of a hybrid between perfectly done Belgian frites, Irish Nachos and a Canadian Poutine, I could not stop myself from grabbing ‘just one more bite’. The base fries/frites make a perfect base to absorb and carry the stretchy cheese and little morsels of goodness.

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The Globe’s hearty huntsman-like dishes also make my comfort-food bone quiver: Steak au Poivre is something I can see craving on a regular basis. Intensely tender beef topped tastefully with a green pepper sauce had me draining the keg of Saison Dupont with a perfect beer pairing. With all entrees less than $20, a solid Belgian beer is an easily affordable side-kick. If you like funky gorgonzola cheese, definitely check out the Steak Frites and pair it with a Lindemans Gueuze. The fries at the Globe are not to be missed.

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Take the Chimay goblet challenge, get your portrait on the ceiling! The Globe is great for large parties. photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

Overall The Globe Belgian Gastropub is offers a trip to European cuisine with perfectly poured Belgian beer without leaving Orange County. As the food is locally sourced, it would be interesting to see how a locally brewed Belgian-style beer would fare. As Garden Grove is a veritable craft beer wasteland, it could be a potential bonus for local to sample some locally made beer. Tattered Prince Saison from Bottle Logic Brewing or a Tradewinds Tripel from The Bruery would be a fine start to join the myriad of fine trappist monk-made beers on hand.

With the updated kitchen, it’s nice to see the Globe dismiss “Euro-slow” dining. Chef Chrisophe and wait staff had our table filled with goodness in no time.

The Globe Belgian Gastropub is located at 12926 Main Street, Garden Grove 92840

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Owner Michael Pauwels raises a glass!

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All photos Jessica Rice – Beer and Baking, follow her excellent beer adventures on Facebook.

The rest of the photoset is available here! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Which GABF Session is Right for You?

Article originally published Winter 2013 West Coaster Socal

Planning on attending the Great American Beer Festival in 2014? It’s never too early to start planning. As tickets sell out the time it takes to make a Denver omelette, it’s important to know the nuances of GABF’s four fun-filled sessions. As I’ve attended 7/8 sessions of the last two years, here’s a breakdown of what to expect at each and a quick breakdown of 2013.

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Session 1, Thursday Evening: Like a Virgin

Nerves fire on all cylinders as bagpipers squeeze their sacks and blow. Their quack-like drone ushers in some 12,000 thirsty people checking maps and apps one last time. The piper’s six minute march around the vast hall comes to a halt under an IMAX sized Michael Jackson poster. “Let’s do it for Johnny!” I say to a chuck-taylor wearing stranger next to me with my best Matt Dillon impersonation. Muscle memory takes over and I look for my first dance partner. I nab a 1oz sample of Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta, a delicious sour dark ale from Trinity Brewing in Colorado. It gets a twirl and swirl down my throat…twice.

P1060736The Thursday session is all about fresh faces; first time brewers can be seen in their natural festicular habitat anxiously wiping down tables and straightening signs one last time. I take a moment to watch GABF 1st timer Brian Schroepfer from Valiant Brewing in action wiping sweat from his brow, dealing with draft issues and delivering pitchers to his table like the 80’s arcade game ‘Tapper’. “I’m pretty proud and honored to be here” he says after describing his lineup of beers to eager fest goers.

On the other side of the table, session one is a great mix of freshly traveled bodies; 50% of which are from out of state. Myself included, nothing is better than a post flight beerfest with a bunch of silly Americans ready to party; one ounce at a time.

Go to session one if you like: Excitement of the first session of the year. Large amount of brewery representation at each booth. A fresh haul of beer and ample quantities of rarities. Not walking into the worst cropdusted gas bombs of your life. Guy/Gal ratio ~3:1. Costumed fest goer ratio ~1:100. Glass droppage level: one every 10-20 minutes.

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Session Two: It’s Friday, I’m in Love

Friday night at the GABF is electric. Brewers trust the volunteers to booth-sit for a few hours and go out for a night on the town inside the festival. The silent disco is alive with booty bumpin’, Charlie Papazian is fist bumpin’, and even two strangers in the bathroom looked at each other and smiled. Session two is all about drinking great beer and getting weird in a busy party atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if you find waldo, cross paths with an actual beer wench, or see the second coming of beer Jesus…complete with a spirit-gum beard and those creepy vibram toe shoes.

Go to session two if you like: A great beerfest party atmosphere with lots of costumed fest goers. Groups of beer savvy ladies…not just designated drivers or the dirndl hoes…actual hop loving, sour loving, funky beer loving women out in force. Weather report: mid to high levels of ass-fog moving in over the Pacific Northwest with green clouds forming above the Great Lakes. Tasting glass droppage upwards of every 5-10 minutes. Rare beers kegs running out within an hour. Plan your attack.

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Bruer Tyler King pours White Chocolate at the Farm to Table Pavillion

Session Three, Saturday Afternoon: Rocky Mountain High – Members Only, Brah.

American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association members need only apply for the Saturday afternoon session. Aside from actual glassware, this session is great to witness the ‘parade of brewers’ flooding in after the awards ceremony. It’s sort of like the running of the bulls in Spain as some Medal winning brewers are riding the highest of highs trying to get to their booth to put up medal stickers and snap photos. The GABF mobile app updates with the winners making it easy to navigate the hall and sample America’s best beer right on the spot. Of the many benefits being a member of the AHA or BA, attending this session is one of my favorites. Seeing a local California brewer take home more medals than the state of Maine is impressive and fills my heart with pride. Protip: go get a membership now, the included subscription to Zymurgy magazine is worth the price alone.

Go to session three if you like: actual glassware instead of a plastic sampling glass. Volunteers that will go over the 1oz line if you ask nicely. Floods of beer geeks rating their beer on printed spreadsheets. Day drinking. Sampling award winning beer without travelling all over the United States. Having your Saturday night free to roam around Denver’s bustling craft beer scene.

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Special moment: Sampling my Beer Camp 94 Belgian Black IPA on the floor of GABF

Session Four, Saturday Night: Ohhhhhhhhhh Face

The final GABF session gets a bad rep among the press corps, which is probably why we weren’t invited to attend 2013’s session. Speaking only on my opinion of 2012, I witnessed human beer pong. I filmed a guy desperately trying to remain upright. I saw urinalbarf. But hey, someone has to finish the rest of the beer right? Some notable breweries ran out of beer and boarded up shop with handwritten “see you next year” signs. A buzzed sea of volunteers is left to deal with the onslaught of tipsy beer bros. My coverage focus quickly changed to capture the beer blight and anything-goes atmosphere. “The 1oz line is for the other sessions” a pourer mentioned while filling my glass to the rim.

farts

Go to the final session if you like: A college beerfest atmosphere. All-you-can-drink Hefeweizen, pale ale, BMC, browns…speaking of browns, the gas being unleashed at every angle can be geeked out on. “Why, I think that gentleman had a brussels sprout and chorizo burrito for lunch!” “No no no you silly fool! It smells like a goat that ate Chicken McNuggets out of an overnight diaper!”, “Ahhh, yes yes, you are correct sir.” Go to session four if you like to watch old people nap. Go if you like to avoid brewers. Go if you like to hear a constant 300 person choir of glass dropping Ohhhhhhhhhhh’s. Did I mention the uncontrollable gas and loose pours?

Overall, the Great American Beer Festival is the best in the world. You really can’t go wrong with any session, just make sure and target the session that is best for you. Be sure to upgrade your internet connection prior to ticket sale day and work on your glass holding skills. Didn’t get tickets? I still highly recommend visiting Denver during GABF week. With overlapping events all over town from brunch to close, you really can’t go wrong. See you at 2014! If you see Old Rasputin, say hi!

Visit greatamericanbeerfestival.com for more info.

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