By the fourth session everyone, and I mean everyone, is about done with beer. None of the brewers are taking any home. People that have been there for 3 days are tired and hungover. And then the party starts. What had been a nice polite fest, with table-workers sticking to strict 1 oz pours, becomes pure bacchanalia, full glass pours, yelling, screaming, running around; hardly anything is even left, and, in fact, some breweries, like New Glarus, Russian River, Lost Abbey, Founders, Three Floyds, Oskar Blues, are done. If you weren't there in the first three sessions, your choices became much more limited.
But that's OK, everyone's just there to drink anyway.
TOP 10 BEERS OF THE 2010 GREAT AMERICAN BEER FEST.
caveat: this is my own personal list, culled from the more than 150 beers that I tasted, and the notes that I took (yes, I was a dork and took notes on all 150+), if you had been there, your list would probably have been different. Also, keep in mind that I barely had any beer from the Midwest the entire time I was there.
Odell Deconstruction (Fort Collins, CO): a 10.5% Belgian Golden in 5 parts; the ale is made, split into 5 different vessels (1 wine, 1 oak, 2 bourbon, and a stainless), then recombined and aged. Amazing complexity, body, and carbonation combined for my favorite beer of the entire festival.
Funkwerks Saison (Fort Collins, CO): An organic brewery from Fort Collins, Colorado, this saison hit every right note; their other beer, a wit, is simply a white beer recipe with the saison yeast. Spicy, lemony, with a bit of barnyard funk, the soft mouthfeel complimented the effervescent carbonation perfectly to create a sophisticated champagne quality.
Green Flash Palate Wrecker (Vista, CA): Along with Stone, these guys make some of the hoppiest, most bitter, but well-composed beer out there; this is their answer to one of my favorite Stone beers: Ruination. An IIPA in the west coast style, this beer is all about hops; hop bitterness, hop aroma, hop flavor, hop forward, hop middle, hop end. The complexity and touch in this beer is something to behold.
Russian River Supplication (Santa Rosa, CA): A brown ale with cherries, it is Russian River's version of New Glarus' Enigma, with a bit more of a sour punch. It is aged in Pinot Noir barrels which adds an extra oomph of acetic pucker and bright aroma to match a fairly, surprisingly, hefty body.
Bear Republic Ryevalry (Healdsburg, CA): A beer that defies description from a brewery that, despite being small brewer of the year a little while ago, is chronically underrated. It's an imperial india pale ale made with rye and belgian ale yeast that creates that this huge, hoppy, spicy, earthy, well-rounded, complex monster of a beer.
Duck Rabbit Duck-Rabbitor Dopplebock (Farmville, NC): Yes, breweries from places other than California or Colorado can make a decent beer, believe it or not. And this tiny brewery from Farmville, North Carolina (yes, an unfortunate city name) specializes in dark beer and manages to hit a homerun with this dry, medium-bodied, roasted and caramel doppel is a pleasurable wave of malt after malt.
Trinity IIPA (Providence, Rhode Island): The brewpub and brewery from Rhode Island, not from Colorado Springs, had a fantastic Imperial India Pale Ale with a classic American profile of bright, fruity, citrusy hops, a clean, pine-y finish. It was nothing fancy, but man did it taste great.
Yard's General Washington's Porter (Philadelphia, PA): From historic Philadelphia, Yards makes this as a throwback to the classic porters of General Washington's time; it's, really, the Porter everyone (except for me) wishes New Glarus' Olde English Porter had been, deep and rich, but with a hint of sour tang.
Squatters Fifth Element (Provo, UT): Another sour Belgian saison/farmhouse, this beer is aged in oak and tastes it. Bright, light on the tongue with a nice smoky oakiness, the body is a little bigger than Funkwerks, but it hits the spot and quenches. Who knew something so awesome could be made in Utah?
Barrio Dunkelweis (Tuscon, AZ): Brewed as a dark version of their regular hefeweizen, this beer's bright yeast character really stood out. I'm sensing that my palate lends itself to this lemony quality, as most of the non-IPAs I've put here seem to share that quality, but, like I said, it's my preferences.
Some honorable mentions: Allagash Curieux, Sprague Farm Rust Belt Amber, Twisted Pine's Billie's Chilies, Blue Mountain IIPA, Cascade Sang Noir, Ninkasi Tricerahops, Naked City Duplicity.