Friday, September 17, 2010

Great American Beer Fest: Sesssion 1 - Red Eye Preaches Truth

While it was 60 degrees and raining in Madison, it was 80 and sunny in Denver, Colorado. SInce we were waiting to check in at the hotel anyway, Mrs. MBR and I decided to wander around the city. The media hotel, the Denver Grand Hyatt, is a short-ish walk from the Convention Center. After a brief run-in with Center security (“you can’t check in until 1pm”, “yes, I can”, “no you can’t”, “why don’t you just tell me where to go if I could check in before 1pm”), the riff-raff waited for Mr. Heironymous to stop blathering on with the one registration person about letting the riff-raff in this year.

An aside. This is a huge damned event. Huger than huge. There’s a gazillion breweries serving 8 gazillion beers. I know we’re all a bunch of n’er do wells. I know they let the riff raff in this year. I know we’re a lousy drunken lot that will leave the gorgeous Denver Convention Center much worse for the wear. But, really, plastic glasses? Lame.

Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado

So, Mrs. MBR and I were off to check out Tattered Cover to get our book geek on (I’m the product of an English teacher and I was dumb enough to bring my copy of Roberto Bolano’s massive paper-weight 2666 with me as my airplane fare). Lunch at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Some wonderful pub food accentuated with the bitter, fruity, fresh hop IPA, Belgorado.

At 5:00, 30 minutes before the real riff-raff was let in, the distinguished members of the media, and me, were the first into the 2010 Great American Beer Fest. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually get any beer until 5:30. So, 30 minutes to wander about, I headed over to Red Eye to see what brewer, and GABF judge, Kevin Eichelberger was up to.

“We just finished our Oktoberfest. It’s probably the best I’ve ever brewed.” It’s darker, more traditional, and about 6.5% ABV. Unfortunately, it’s not here in Denver. Apparently, for a beer to be on-tap here, you have to send the keg almost a month ahead of time. If you’re submitting a beer for the competition, it needs to be here 3 weeks in advance. “Brewers complain all the time about that,” says Kevin. “The beer goes bad and it doesn’t keep for the three 3 weeks in the bottle.” His attitude is much like mine: Screw ‘em. If you can’t put a beer in a bottle that is shelf-stable for one month, you probably shouldn’t be winning a brewing competition anyway.

Kevin’s a veteran here. He’s been judging for a long time, and his brewery, Red Eye, is now a veteran of the Wausau area. “Thursday and Friday are OK. On Saturday, I stick around for about an hour after the awards, then get the hell out of here.” The Saturday evening session is a madhouse. Imagine the biggest, most stereotypical frat party on Langdon. Tri-Delta, can I help ya, help ya, help ya. Dude, you got a funnel for that? The Situation on his most drunken night. What up bra? Should be a blast.

So, it’s now 8:55pm, I’m in the media center looking through my notes. Gaslight Anthem and Reel Big Fish accompany the notes of myself, Philly Philms, and I’ve had 48 beers. I had a tri-tip sandwich for “dinner”, but mostly it was a liquid lunch. My notes consist of, basically, three different notations: :) :| and :D I have 10 :D, 15 :), and the remainder are :| and one :(.

Rifle Brewing Company, Rifle, Colorado. Check out the awesome tap handles.

I’ve successfully managed to stay within myself. Mostly East-Coast (Mid Atlantic and North East), Colorado, and SouthWest. The big favorites? Odell’s Deconstruction, a 10.5% ABV golden ale, brewed in 1 recipe, each aged in 5 different barrels, then joined back together, was awesome; the complexity requires far more than a one ounce pour to reconstruct. Grand Teton has become a big friend of MBR. Seriously, I’d never heard of these guys and my parents brought back the Extra Special Brown, I brought back the Lost Continent Double IPA from my trip to Portland, then I find out they’re in Wisconsin. What?! The Troup Hop black IPA was awesome. Finally, two breweries well-known to the Wisconsin region, Avery and Allagash, produced some great, fun beer with their Depceleuse wild ale and Curieux barrel-aged wheat-wine-thing (maybe?), respectively. Only one beer, so far, hasn’t been worth the one ounce pour I received, and unfortunately, I have to call out New Jersey Beer Company’s Belgian Abbey; insipid doesn’t begin to describe the mouth-washed-out-with-soap taste that I had.

More tomorrow. Maybe I'll even have some links for you.

1 comment:

  1. Grand Teton is a nice brewer. I really like the ESB as well.


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