GABF, Here I Come

The Festival Floor at the 2011 GABF

The Festival Floor at the 2011 GABF

GABF (Great American Beer Festival) is becoming an annual pilgrimage for me and a tradition I hope to carry on well into the future. There is nothing more sacred to a beer geek than this festival, which is an amazing opportunity to try thousands of beers not available locally. This will be my first year actually covering the event and I’ll be posting live updates via Twitter and Facebook throughout. ‘Follow’ or ‘Like’ The Pour Report to get live information straight from the festival. Once home, I plan to do a 3-part wrap-up covering each day of the event.

Highlights for me this year include:

The Sessions
I am excited to be attending the Thursday and Saturday Members Only sessions this year. There are in excess of 2,200 beers from over 500 breweries being poured. While I certainly won’t be trying all of them, I plan to do some serious ‘research’, focusing on breweries outside of my distribution region. The Brewer’s Association has published a list of the breweries attending. Needless to say, it is amazing.

Miss Figgy on Tap at Big Time Brewery

Miss Figgy on Tap at Big Time Brewery

The Pro-Am Competition
This past spring, I was chosen by Big Time Brewery in Seattle, WA to collaborate on a beer for the GABF Pro-Am Competition. The winning beer that I created (and chosen by Big Time Brewery) is Miss Figgy, an English Barley Wine that was brewed with honey and aged on fresh Mission figs. Having moved before I was able to taste the finished product, I look forward to trying Miss Figgy at GABF. Miss Figgy will be poured during the Friday night session at the Pro-Am Booth (booth 35 in block C on the convention floor).

Pouring at the Festival
This year I was lucky enough to be able to obtain a brewers badge from Big Time Brewery. This means I can get into select brewer events and don’t have to wait in long lines; although I’ll probably forgo this privilege for the sake of not pissing off those in line. I’ll also be pouring Big Time Brewery beer at booth 2 in the Brew Pub pavilion (in the middle of the convention floor) during the Friday session from 5:15-8:00 pm. Come say hi if you’re around!

The Awards Ceremony
In the past, the GABF awards ceremony was held during the Saturday Members Only session on the festival floor. This year, in order to accommodate more breweries, the Brewers Association has scheduled a separate ceremony at a different venue to be held before the Members Only session on Saturday. As part of the Pro-Am Competition, I was allocated tickets to this event, which are not available to the general public. I’ll be live tweeting some of the results as they occur.

Breweries I’m Excited About

There are far too many breweries to create a broad and encompassing list of beers to try. That being said, last year there were certainly some highlights which I plan on revisiting, as well as some new breweries making a splash that I’d love to be able to try. In alphabetical order:

  • Alaskan Brewing Company – Poured verticals of their Smoked Porter last year. Their barley wine is also one of the best.
  • Allagash Brewing Company – Previously poured some of their amazing and low-circulation Coolship Series beers.
  • Alpine Beer Company – Currently making some of the best hoppy beers in the country.
  • Bear Republic Brewing Company – Hopefully they’ll be pouring Racer X again this year.
  • Bell’s Brewery, Inc – Out of Michigan and not available in NY.
  • Big Time Brewing Company – I’ll be pouring here, so come say hi!
  • Boston Beer Company – Poured Utopias at numerous intervals last year.
  • Cambridge Brewing Company – I was able to eat at their brewpub recently and the beers were great. I’m hoping they’ll bring some sour beers.
  • Chuckanut Brewery – They brew the best lagers in the country. My favorite is the Helles.
  • Cigar City Brewing – They had some great limited release beers last year.
  • Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – Doing really interesting wild beers. First time at GABF (I believe).
  • Deschutes Brewery – Poured The Abyss last year — amazing beer.
  • DESTIHL – Surprised me quite a bit last year with their sour beers. Some of the best sours on the floor. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve been able to maintain the quality.
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – Good opportunity to try World Wide Stout and 120 minute IPA. Last year, Sam Calagione was pouring.
  • Fat Heads Brewery – I need to try their Head Hunter IPA.
  • FiftyFifty Brewing Co. – Hopefully they’ll be pouring Eclipse.
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company – They don’t do anything that is less than world-class. Really hoping they bring one of the sour beers they are starting to develop.
  • Goose Island Beer Company – If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll have Bourbon County Stout on tap.
  • Great Lakes Brewing Company – Their Edmund Fitzgerald porter is amazing and not available in NY.
  • Jester King Craft Brewery – I’ve never had them before, but they seem to be producing some very well-respected beers.
  • Kuhnhenn Brewing Company – Another small brewery with limited distribution that is gaining a lot of national attention.
  • Nebraska Brewing Company – They are producing some excellent standard and barrel aged beers.
  • New Glarus Brewing Company – Always popular on the floor due to their limited distribution and popularity of beers like Wisconsin Red and Raspberry Tart. Last year they had their Oktoberfest, which was great.
  • Odell Brewing Company – A Colorado favorite. Need to try Myrcenary Double IPA.
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery – These guys make some of the best beers in Oregon and don’t distribute much.
  • Pizza Port – Visit all of their booths. They consistently win many awards at GABF.
  • The Lost Abbey – GABF is a great chance to try some of their very limited and delicious beers like Angel’s Share, Red Poppy, and Framboise de Amorosa.
  • Russian River Brewing Company – Best brewery in the world. Well… maybe not, but all their beers are fantastic.
  • The Bruery – Last year they poured Black Tuesday, Oude Tart, and a few other very limited release beers that are fantastic. They posted the times they were going on and the lines started forming about 30 minutes prior. Well worth the wait.
  • Three Floyds Brewing Co. – Limited distribution and a killer lineup make this a must visit booth.

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