A Trip to the South’s Craft Beer Capital

New Belgium Brewery Outdoor Deck

Enjoying drinks on an outdoor deck overlooking the French Broad River? Not a bad way to spend a beautiful spring day.

The hot break on the simmering kettle of craft beer is reaching a fevered pitch and damn near cresting the kettle’s edge. Ten years ago, very few people would have predicted the growth that the craft beer world has experienced— reaching nearly 13% market share with a population of more than 4,000 breweries. The phenomenal growth has resulted in several craft beer capitals scattered throughout the western part of the country—the usual suspects being Denver, Portland, San Francisco, and San Diego. But out on the other side of the country, it’s Asheville, NC, that is holding court as the regional craft beer capital.

While it may have been difficult to anticipate the borderline absurd growth of the craft beer segment (and predict where it’s headed), certain municipalities saw the writing on the wall and positioned themselves to capitalize on the growth. It’s not by chance that Asheville finds itself on the beer pedestal that it currently sits. With progressive policies and economic incentives in place, large, corporate breweries looking for easterly expansion and more efficient distribution naturally gravitated to this region of western North Carolina. A local population already inclined to support the arts set the stage for robust brewery development—bringing in new jobs, tax revenue, and tourism to stoke the flames of the local economy. In a post-industrial America, breweries in Asheville are serving as a new model of manufacturing that can be economically viable and provide additional layers of resiliency to the economic landscape.

This past spring, we (myself, the Homebrew Wife, and the pugs) loaded up the car and spent a few whirlwind days touring around Asheville. The road trip—complete with crazy holiday traffic (e.g. sitting on Staten Island for two hours) and spectacular thunderstorms—made for a challenging drive, but the rewards that awaited us were well worth the effort.

The Breweries

Asheville has a rich craft brewing community, from reliable veterans like Green Man and Highland who have been at it since the 90’s to relatively new start-ups like Wicked Weed and Burial who are generating most of the hype among the hordes of beer geeks. And at a whole different level are the pioneers of craft beer, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues, who have all set up shop with impressive breweries in or near Asheville. While in town, we were able to make our way to a number of these breweries.

As previously mentioned, my day job has recently (and fantastically) collided with my beer fandom as I find myself a part of the design team working on a couple of new projects for Brooklyn Brewery. My awesome clients at Brooklyn Brewery were able to arrange private, behind-the-scenes tours for my wife and me at both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. The craft beer industry has always prided itself on its comradery and willingness to share information; it was nice to both witness and experience that philosophy firsthand.

New Belgium

New Belgium rolled out the welcome carpet for us, giving us an unbelievably detailed tour of their brewery (still closed to the public at the time of our visit), packaging line, and offices. We were absolutely blown away. The brewery is located on an old industrial site in the River Arts District overlooking the French Broad River. New Belgium meticulously restored the site, turning what was once an environmental liability into a public amenity. The tasting room, which includes an impressive deck that overlooks the river, seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor spaces. Perched in the landscape above the tasting room is the main production brewery, offices, and warehouses. The architecture itself, for the most part, was rigorous and beautiful with an expressive structure, handsome detailing, and warm, pleasing finishes.

Sierra Nevada

Located about 30 minutes outside Asheville proper in Mills River, Sierra Nevada has built a 200-acre bucolically landscaped campus. While here, it quickly becomes obvious that no expense or idea, no matter how outlandish, was edited from the project program. This brewery has every trick in the book. From a copper-clad pilot plant that literally outshines almost every brewery I’ve ever visited to the actual antique copper-clad production brewery complete with molten basalt tiles, viewing mezzanines, and beautiful wood ceiling fabricated from timbers felled on the site during construction, this brewery has it all. At times, the design felt a bit obtuse and in desperate need of an editor (e.g. copper air ducts), but it was really fun to see what is possible when the sky is the limit. The brewery is in many ways analogous to the Biltmore Estate, the other local landmark of indulgent luxury. Built over a hundred years apart, both compounds feature extravagant materials, lush grounds, and cinematic approaches to the main building. The strongest element of the Sierra campus was the brewery’s “backyard,” which features great drinking patios, gardens, and opportunities for casual recreation, ranging from corn hole to live music.

Wicked Weed

Perhaps the most hyped brewery in North Carolina (and maybe even the South), Wicked Weed is the reigning king of hops and funk in Asheville. We toured their sour beer, barrel-centric Funkatorium and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the brew pub. The beers at both locations were solid, above average beers, but, with all of the hype surrounding the Wicked Weed name, I was hoping to be absolutely blown away. Although the beer was not mind-blowing, both locations had a great vibe and should be a part of any Asheville brewery tour.

Burial Beer Co.

Admittedly, I had never heard of Burial prior to arriving in Asheville. We ended up there after very enthusiastic recommendations from our hosts at both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. The brewery is currently housed in a warehouse space, but there are plans in the works for a second location. The vibe was cool and the side yard provided a comfortable spot for drinking. The beers themselves were outstanding—easily the highlight of the trip, in terms of pure beer enjoyment. Styles veered towards the hoppy and funky, but all were approachable and balanced. I left with the feeling that I had discovered a local favorite—something that I imagine will likely blow up in the near future, if it hasn’t already.

Green Man Brewery

Green Man

The Homebrew Wife was a fan of the Meddler Berliner Weisse.

We had a couple beers in the dusty outdoor space of Dirty Jack’s, Green Man Brewery’s original tap room (just up the street from Greenmansion, the brewery’s shiny new 20,000 SF expansion). Again, the vibe here was great, laid back, and unpretentious. The beers were also awesome. I was jonesing for a simple session beer, and their Sunseeker Pils hit the spot.

Although beer was our main objective while in Asheville, the city has a ton to offer in terms of entertainment and exploration. Some of the highlights include a vibrant downtown, the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Biltmore Estate—an icon of the Gilded Age. Our time in Asheville was short, but we had a great time and plenty of amazing memories.


Northern New Jersey Brewery Tour

NJ Map

Day trippin’ to three of northern New Jersey’s finest craft breweries: Kane, Carton, and Magnify Brewing Companies.

With the veritable explosion of craft breweries opening in NYC, any craft beer geek could be happily satiated blowing their beer tourism payload traveling the five boroughs enjoying all of the new offerings the city has to offer. That said, the surrounding areas around NYC are also booming with new breweries equally as exciting as anything happening in the city. Northern New Jersey is just one of these regional hot beds, offering a decidedly different experience than in the city. Chasing beer among the crowds of NYC can frankly be a bit tiring. Going out to New Jersey was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of NYC.

Recently, I had the chance to spend an afternoon touring three of New Jersey’s finest breweries: Kane Brewing Company, Carton Brewing Company, and Magnify Brewing Company. With a little advanced planning, it is an enjoyable day trip from any part of NYC.

Kane Brewing Company

Kane Brewing Company

Valentine’s Day with the Homebrew Wife.

Our first stop of the day was Kane Brewing Company in Ocean, NJ. The Homebrew Wife and I hit the road early, leaving Brooklyn behind and escaping with little to no traffic via the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island. With Kane just over an hour away, we had a bit of time to kill since the brewery didn’t open until noon. We happily spent the extra time fortifying ourselves with a breakfast of Pork Roll sandwiches at Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park. Starting our day with the quintessential New Jersey processed meat proved to be just the right beginning for a busy day of brewery hopping.

We arrived at Kane just as they were opening. Situated in a nondescript industrial park, the exterior barely hinted at the great beer inside. A tiny sign and the handful of patrons exiting cars empty growlers in hand were the only hints that you were arriving at a brewery. Coming into the building via a banal lobby better fit for the engineering office that shares space in the same building, we were greeted by a friendly staff and some great beers. We quickly made our way through the lobby past a small bar designed for quick growler fills and entered the actual brewery and main tasting room. The brewery itself was relatively compact with a large amount of the area dedicated to a tasting bar for flights and growler fills, as well as warehouse space with several picnic and standing tables.

We ordered a couple of tasting flights and spent some time relaxing in the warehouse space. Kane’s hoppy beers were among the best I’ve tasted coming out of the NYC area. My favorite by far was Head High, showcasing a very lean and dry malt character with lots of bright citrusy hops and a minimal level of bitterness.

Simplicity, Kane’s take on a Belgian Golden Strong ale was also great. The beer had a nice orange-like sweetness backed by a soft bready malt character and restrained Belgian yeast fermentation character showcasing fruity esters and minimal amount of peppery phenols.

Overhead, Kane’s Imperial IPA, felt like Head High on steroids. The hop flavor was huge, although it had a bit of an overly aggressive, grassy hop aroma with elements leaning towards the unpleasant vegetative / chlorophyll part of the hop spectrum. All of this was placed against a slightly sweet, and slightly boozy, malt backbone.

Carton Brewing Company

Carton Brewing CompanyWe headed north from Kane up the Jersey Shore to Carton Brewing Company in Highlands, NJ. Entering the ground floor of an old painted red brick building, we were immediately greeted by a staff member who checked our ID’s and then led us on (what we would soon learn to be) the requisite brewery tour as stipulated by New Jersey as a requirement for breweries wishing to offer beer tastings. The tour took us through the brewery, the history of the building, and the brewing operations at Carton Brewing before being letting us loose to an upstairs tasting room where our beer samples awaited.

The tasting room itself was rather compact and jammed with a mid-Sunday beer tasting crowd. We purchased a 6-sample flight to share, which was redeemed one-at-a-time with the tokens we were given. This was slightly problematic as the bar was pretty packed and waiting for single samples of beer quickly became a bit of a chore.

The beers at Carton were solid, seeming to focus on achieving a certain level of balance and quaffability rather than blowing out your taste buds with intense flavors.

Among my favorites were Boat Beer and Red Rye. Boat Beer was dry and quite bitter with a nice level of aromatic citrus-laden hops—although perhaps finishing a touch thin. Red Rye was the stand out for me, featuring a perfectly complementary balance of slightly sweet malt, peppery rye spice, followed by tangerine and grapefruit hop components. 077XX, Carton’s ‘West Coast inspired’ double IPA fell flat for me—overly sweet although it did deliver a nice punch of fruity hops.

Magnify Brewing Company

Magnify Brewing CompanyThe last stop on our New Jersey brewery tour was Magnify Brewing Company, situated about an hour north of Carton in Fairfield, NJ.

I was pretty excited to hit up Magnify since the brew kettle is currently manned by Erich Carrle, an old acquaintance that I met through our The Knights of Brooklyn Homebrewer’s Sentry, a club I occasionally frequent and which Erich was an active member of. Back before Erich was brewing great beers at Magnify, he was doing awesome funky beers on the homebrew scale and sharing them at club meetings. I was pretty excited to see how this would transfer to the pro scale at Magnify.

New Jersey seems to be filled with anonymous industrial parks and the one Magnify inhabits is no different. Once inside however, the company’s personality becomes apparent with a warm, pleasantly sized tasting room situated at the front end of what appeared to be a rather tightly planned brewery. Immediately adjacent to the taproom is a large wooden foudre hinting at the beer styles produced within. The tasting room itself was packed, but getting a drink and finding a spot to settle into was pretty easy.

The brewery feels like a family-run affair with warm friendly servers behind the bar. The tap list was eclectic and featured plenty of funky beers utilizing alternative yeasts and blending American hops into spin-offs of Belgian classics. Magnify was right up there with Kane as having my favorite beers of the day.

Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that Magnify served samplers so we limited our tastings to sharing three half pours of Magnify’s offerings. All three were really excellent and we could have easily spent more time here working through the brewery’s offerings had we the time (or liver capacity) to do so.

Flashbacks are Forever: this very approachable and tasty funky saison featured a mild level of acidity followed by brightly aromatic and fruity hops and moderate levels of Brett funk. Dry. Very drinkable. My favorite beer of the day.

Search Saison: just a touch of of sulfur on the nose, which volatilizes quickly. Perhaps just a hint of an enteric note. Peppery phenols and slightly herbal hops. Not as bright as Flashbacks, but still nice and dry and wonderfully drinkable.

Pollinator: fairly dank and aggressive with lots of piney resin character in the hops. A bit grassy. Very restrained bitterness with a light honey character on the finish. Again, well fermented and dry.

Things to Know Before Visiting New Jersey’s Craft Breweries

  1. You’re Going to Need a Car
    There really isn’t any way around the fact that you’re going to need auto transport from brewery to brewery. Public transit is something we take for advantage in the city, but really isn’t an option if you’re stopping at more than one brewery in the widespread outposts of New Jersey. Tied to the car is the inherent risk of driving while under the influence. Responsible consumption and planning accordingly cannot be overstated. On this trip, I limited myself to only a handful of small pours which were typically shared with my wife at each shop. We made sure to have a big meal before, drink plenty of water, and not finish any of the samples we received. Our cumulative consumption was well under a single beer at each stop, spread out over the course of about 5 hours. This kept us well below the point of even the faintest hint of a ‘buzz’ and confidently within legal limits.
  2. It’s a Bit of a Trek
    Everything on a map looks close. On the worst of days, getting in and out of the city can suck up massive quantities of time. We avoided this by leaving the city early and getting back late—effectively missing peak traffic times. Even with minimal traffic, it was still about an hour and fifteen minute drive from our apartment in Brooklyn to the southern most brewery, Kane.
  3. Tolls Add Up… Quick
    Seriously. Between bridges, tunnels, and turnpikes we spent well over $60 on tolls. Plan accordingly and bring cash and change if you don’t have an EZ Pass.
  4. Time Management is Key
    It’s important to research the hours of the taprooms you plan to visit. I went on a Sunday and all three taprooms I visited were open noon-5 pm. When factoring in travel time between breweries, it was important to keep an eye on the clock and heavily moderate the amount of sampling at each stop to ensure that we didn’t feel overly rushed and that we didn’t overconsume. Three breweries was really the maximum number I’d want to visit in the short time frame we were working with.

NHC 2015 Recap

Category 5: Awarded second place for my Eisbock

Category 5: Silver medal for my Eisbock

The sun has set on another National Homebrewers Conference. As I look back on the time spent touring California and attending the conference itself, it is tough to know exactly where to start my recap. The copious notes I took during the seminars describe the analytical information and anecdotes given during the seminars, but aren’t that interesting to read. Your time would be better served listening to the actual talks once they’re posted on the AHA website. Instead, it’s much more fun to talk about the individual events and paint with broad strokes some of the more interesting moments at the conference.

Brewery Visits

Leading up the conference we took some extra time to not only visit friends and family around California, but also tour a number of breweries that have popped up in recent years. Informally, this trip is serving as a yeast hunting expedition with the goal of sourcing sour and wild beers that were brewed with interesting mixed cultures. Luckily several of the stops were selling some great bottles whose microbes will eventually find their way into some new beers I am developing.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

We had a great time at our first stop, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Santa Cruz, CA. Located in a nondescript commercial strip mall, the exterior belies a comfortable and somewhat ‘rustic’ interior pouring about 8 different beers on draft. SARA was pouring a number of tasty hop-forward beers–typical of the West Coast style–with huge tropical and citrusy hop aroma, but a bit excessive with some of the grassier dry hop flavors. They were also pouring an excellent gose, which was refreshingly tart and had a nice mellow salinity, as well a great dry saison. By happenstance, our visit coincided with the release of bottles of Cellarman, a sour saison that is really delicious, and whose microbes I am looking forward to propagating.

The Rare Barrel

The Rare Barrel

The Rare Barrel

Our next stop was The Rare Barrel located in Berkeley, CA. The Rare Barrel creates only barrel-aged sour beers and has seen great success in what is a growing segment of the craft beer market. The taproom is located within the barrel warehouse and provides an inviting environment for sour beer consumption. While at the TRB, we sampled 5 or 6 different sour beers. TRB contract-brews through Heretic Brewing three different base beers (golden, red, and bruin) which they then ferment in-house and age in barrels using a variety of different yeasts and bacterias. From these three base beers, they’ll add different adjuncts (fruit, spice, etc.), ferment with varying cultures, and blend in different proportions to create their portfolio of beers. All of the beers we consumed were very enjoyable with bright lactic acidity and fairly substantial malt, providing a counterbalance to the acidity. All of the beers were very approachable; a strategy that I’m sure TRB is employing to grow their customer base. Perhaps my only complaint would be that the beers felt overly simplified and one-note (lactic acid). I’d love to see if a bit more funk in these beers would provide for a more interesting drinking experience.

Firestone Walker Barrelworks

Firestone Walker Barrelworks

Firestone Walker Barrelworks

Our last stop en route to San Diego was Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks located in Buellton, CA. At this magical stop we not only sampled a number of the clean barrel-aged beers most people are familiar with (Parabola, Stickee Monkey, Abacus), but also a large selection of sour beers from their growing portfolio of wild beers. Standouts were Maltose Falcons (a big barrel-aged beer brewed in collaboration with the Maltose Falcons homebrew club), Sour Opal, and Bretta Rosé.



Welcome Reception (AKA Pro Night)

The conference kicked off with a rambling talk and toast by The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur followed by a welcoming reception of (mainly) local San Diego breweries. This was a great chance to sample a ton of different beers that don’t make it out to the East Coast. San Diego lived up to the stereotype of being home to the biggest, most in-your-face samples of IPA. Booth after booth featured hugely punchy, dry IPA’s with massive hop aromas. At one point we sampled an old standby, Pliny the Elder from Russian River. While delicious, the intensity of the hopping seemed muted compared to the levels many newer San Diego breweries are pushing their beers to. When I first had Pliny many years ago, I would have never been able to imagine the levels that hoppy beers are presently being pushed to.

Club Night

The hallmark event of the conference lived up to its reputation. Year after year, the quality of homebrewed beers gets better and better. The vast majority of beers being served were excellent, while a few really shined. Standouts for me were a oatmeal raisin cookie beer (club name forgotten) and a delicious barrel aged Flanders poured by the San Luis Obispo Brewers (SLOB). The creativity and willingness of homebrewers to push the rational limits of beer making to new levels was on full display during the event and gives an exciting preview of what professional craft brewers may soon be producing.

Awards Ceremony

The awards ceremony for the National Homebrew Competition signals the end of the conference and what for me was over a week of beery fun. This year the AHA changed things up a bit and had their executive chef prepare the meal in lieu of chef Sean Paxton, who has done it for many years past. While the logistics of preparing a three-course meal for thousands of people tends to temper my expectations, I thought the food this year was reasonably tasty–much more so than the Paxton meals I’ve had at two previous conferences.

This year I had two beers in the competition, one of which managed to win a silver medal in Category 5, Bock. Winning a medal in a competition with over 7,600 entries is a great personal affirmation and provided a wonderful ending to the conference. The real fun, however, was talking and learning about beer for three days straight amongst the brewing peers that make this such a great hobby. I highly recommend this conference to brewers of all levels–it’s a blast.

See you all next year in Baltimore!

Photo Gallery

The 2012 Great American Beer Festival Recap

Beer. Event. Bar. Brewery. Sleep (a little). Repeat. That is GABF in a nutshell. It’s been a few days since the last session of the biggest beer festival in the world and only now does cracking open a beer and doing some beer writing sound like a good idea.

My brain is (slightly) fried, but let’s see if I have enough gray matter left to crank out a reasonable recap. For brevity, complete descriptions of beers are omitted and replaced with a 5 point scale. Let’s get started… lots of pictures await you at the end!


Taster Flights at Oscar Blues

Tasting Flights at Oskar Blues

Thursday started early (4:30 am EDT), with a half asleep (and slightly cranky) beer blogger navigating his way via subway and bus to LaGuardia to catch a flight to Denver. A couple of Dunkin’ Donuts and 1500+ miles later, I arrived in Denver and met up with two good friends who’d be my partners in crime for this GABF. We hit the ground running, heading straight to Longmont, CO to squeeze in some beer tourism before hitting the first GABF session later that evening. We hit lunch at Oskar Blues; all of their beers were solid, as were the nachos. I had a great time working through a sampler tray and then finishing off with a Mama’s Little Yella Pils (4/5). Not far away from Oskar Blues is Left Hand Brewing Co., where we popped in for a quick pint before heading back down to Denver. I had the Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout on Nitro (3.5/5).

I always like to remind myself that GABF is the best opportunity in the country to sample beers from breweries you have never heard of and to make new discoveries. That being said, the goal of Thursday night’s session was to hit up breweries with solid reputations that I knew would be pouring some delicious rarities. New discoveries would have to wait. Highlights included:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout – loads of vanilla (5/5)
  • Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout – had right after GI BCBS, very coffee forward (4.5/5)
  • Deschutes 2011 Abyss (4/5)
  • Oskar Blues Whiskey Barrel Ten-Fidy – wow, great surprise (4.5/5)
  • Allagash Coolship Resurgam – very brett forward / funky (4.5/5)
  • Fat Head Head Hunter (4.25/5)
  • New Glarus Enegma – quite sweet (2.5/5)
  • Devils Backbone Vienna Lager – beautiful clean lager (4.5/5)
  • Anchor Small Beer (3/5)
  • Russian River Toronado 25th Anniversary – reminiscent of Beatification (4/5)
  • Stone 2008 BA Imperial Stout – awesome, rich and smooth, great surprise (5/5)
  • Bear Republic Tartare – yogurty lemonade (4/5)
  • Olde Hickory The Event Horizon – best find of the trip, amazing beer (5/5)


Lunch at the Buckhorn Exchange

Lunch at The Buckhorn Exchange

First rule of GABF, don’t go out hard on the first night. Whoops. Unfortunately, I did some extra-curricular bar hopping after Thursday’s session, which left me feeling a bit raw on Friday morning. My friends and I managed to make it out to The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant for some lunch. Sitting under under the glass eyes of hundreds of dead animals, we ate some meat and drank some really good Stranahan’s whiskey. Feeling fortified by protein and distilled barrel aged goodness, we caught the train into Denver’s LoDo district for some more brewery hopping.

First up was Denver’s original brewpub Wynkoop. Started in 1988 by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and leading the transformation of Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood, these folks are true craft beer pioneers. At Wynkoop, I had their equally pioneering (and slightly gimmicky) Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (3.5/5). (For neophytes, Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull testicles.) Twenty-five pounds of bull balls were roasted and thrown into the mash of this 8-barrel batch. Apparently, bull testicles taste like licorice to me since this is the biggest flavor I got out of this beer. Maybe boiling the ‘oysters’ would have made it more ‘ballsy’?

Up next, we headed past Coors field over to Breckenridge Brewery. Open, spacious, and light, this was a nice venue to throw back a beer. I tried their Vanilla Porter, which was very nice although perhaps slightly artificial tasting (3.5/5).

Just across the street and down a block from Breckenridge is the fairly new River North Brewery. The place was packed, but of the 3 beers I sampled, they were all mediocre at best; perhaps they’re still getting their process down.

Our last brewery stop of the day was Great Divide Brewing Co. To accommodate the crowds they had a jockey box set up out back, along with tents and large tables. Cheap (great) beers, a friendly crowd, and plenty of seats made this an excellent place to have a beer or two. I had their Berliner Weiss which had a great funky nose, but fell flat on flavor and lacked the quenching acidity I like to see in Berliners (2.5/5). They also had Hibernation on tap, which is always great (4/5).

After the afternoon’s pub crawl, it was time for the Friday night session. Luckily, I was slated to pour at Big Time Brewery’s booth for that session, giving me a break from heavy beer sampling for a few hours. I did get the chance to finally try my pro-am beer. While not nearly as tasty as my original homebrewed version, the pro-am beer was still quite good with an enjoyable dark sugar character and just a whisper of the fig character that was so prevalent in my beer. I’m hoping to get a couple bottles shipped to me so I can do a side-by-side tasting.

The Basement 'Dead Soldier' Bottle Share

The Basement ‘Dead Soldier’ Bottle Share

After the session, I met back up with my brewer friends and attended the bottle share that is held in the basement of the Marriott hotel and features all of the leftover competition beers. This was a great perk of having a brewer’s badge and was one of the funnest moments of the weekend. It was entertaining to watch so many brewers scrambling through bins to find their beers. The point being that if you found one of your beers, it probably wasn’t a winner since they didn’t need the extra bottles for judging in later rounds of the competition.


Saturday started bright and early with the GABF competition awards ceremony. It was great to be able to watch the brewers get their awards. It seemed like this year a lot of the awards typically won year in and year out by a few select brewers were instead given to up and coming and sometimes off the beer-geek radar breweries. I think this is great as it challenges old breweries to constantly evolve and push their standards and creativity. I was especially happy to see Devils Backbone win one of the brewery of the year awards. Their awesome lagers made a huge impression on me last year and it’s great seeing them recognized.

Saturday afternoon we attended the members-only session where we tried a lot of great beers. The highlight was probably Sam Adams Utopias (nearly 26% ABV) which is something I wouldn’t normally buy, but is fun to try. I also went back to Olde Hickory and tried a few more beers in their lineup, which were all quite good. New Belgium’s Love Felix (actually poured by Kim Jordan) was also fantastic.

GABF is a great time. Each year I am blown away by not only the sheer number of beers poured and breweries in attendance, but more importantly by the overall quality that gets pushed higher and higher each year. Looking forward to next year.

Craft Beer Road Trip – A Photo Recap


This gallery contains 57 photos.

Moving became an excellent excuse to do a cross-country brewery tour hitting some of the best America has to offer. This was a no-brainer for a beer-geek like me. All in all, we (my wife, myself, and our two pugs) made it to twenty-one breweries: HUB (Portland, OR) Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA) Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa, CA) Anchor Brewing (San Francisco, CA) 21st Amendment (San Francisco, CA) Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, CA) Creekside Brewing Co. (San Luis Obispo, CA) Lengthwise Brewing Co. (Bakersfield, CA) Kern River Brewing Co. (Kernville, CA) The Bruery (Placentia, CA) Squatters Pub Brewery (Salt Lake City, UT) New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO) Odell … Continue reading