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Monday, October 20, 2008

GABF 2008---the full story, Part 1

This was the most lavish birthday trip I've ever had. Beyond that, it's probably a top 5 trip of all time for Patty and me. From the outdoor adventures to the relaxation to the beer and to the friends, there was barely a disappointment to be found. On top of that, no night ever got so far out of control (I think I can be proud of that, right?!) that we couldn't get going the next morning. That's saying quite a bit considering the amount of eating, drinking, and exercising that we logged. You can find the crib notes version of the trip that I published each day by checking these quick links: - Philly's GABF participation - GABF preparations - pre-GABF travels in Colorado - GABF Session 1 - GABF Session 2 - GABF Sessions 3 & 4 If you're still here, what follows is the full writeup (or at least, Part 1) that I promised. After being away for nine days, getting back into the swing of things, back on my running schedule, and the Phillies playoff games, it's taken me a bit longer than expected to get this all together. Plus, I didn't even get around to my roughly 500 pictures until last night. So, here we go. We were about a half hour ahead of schedule after an uneventful early Saturday morning nonstop flight from Philly to Denver. After jumping into our rental car, we headed north to Fort Collins. Because the University of Colorado's homecoming was this day, we decided to stay away from Boulder and instead head straight into Fort Collins, roughly 1 hour north of Denver. Our main goal for the day was a visit (or shall I say, pilgrimage?) to New Belgium. After checking in first at our hotel, we headed into the "downtown" of Fort Collins for lunch (New Belgium does not serve food) where we found our first surprise of the trip...CooperSmith Pub & Brewing right smack in the heart of the Town Square. Their beer selections span the style spectrum, and while none jumped out at us as out-of-this-world, I could certainly be happy to spend an afternoon there making my way through ones like the Punjabi Pale (the cask version too...or especially), Octoberfest, Mountain Avenue Wheat, and Horsetooth Stout. The chili beer, though, just didn't sit well with me. It almost had a raw green bell pepper snap to it chased by a little bit of spicy "heat" that wasn't working for me. Still, between the large varieties of beer, the decent pub food, and the outdoor on-the-square dining this was a decent place to start our visit in Fort Collins. We were both satisfied with our lunch order that started with pub chips prepared like a standard nacho plate, then finished with a Buffalo Burger and a Pub Burger (beef). During the lunch, there was a Democrat Party rally taking place complete with a Mariachi band and other entertainment. Good times, but it was time to move on...but not before making our way to the restrooms, passing the brewhouse along the way, and finding some one-year-old Kriek aging in four oak barrels. I couldn't find anyone with any idea of when it might be turned loose on the paying customers. So, if you're in the area, you'll just need to keep your eyes open for it. Time was ticking and we wanted to make sure not to miss the last tour of the day at New Belgium. Unfortunately, we didn't know how popular the tours (leaving on each half hour) can be. Even though we were there on the Saturday prior to GABF, the crowds were thick...apparently not an unusual scene. After learning the (free) tours for the remainder of the day were already fully booked, I uh well let's call it what it (but I'm not gonna tell you whose name). So, we waited out a couple tours with some of the complimentary beer (4 each, roughly 5-6 ounces, I believe) and caught the last tour of the day. Unfortunately, if we had waited for the correct day to drop the better name, we might have gotten this tour instead, ah well. I get this feeling if we lived in the area of Fort Collins, we'd be at the brewery almost as much as in our own house. It seems to be a central social gathering point for friends. I'm going to stop with New Belgium at this point, because I have a lot more to say about them which I'll put into a dedicated story about New Belgium. Suffice to say for now, that this pilgrimage to New Belgium is something I recommend every beer enthusiast do at least once. In a trip filled with memorable experiences almost every day, this stands near the top, if that's possible. Even though we'd been up for the equivalent of 15 hours at this point (4am eastern time), we decided for one last T.U.D. at Odell Brewing, just a couple of miles away. We must have looked like zombies at Odell each with our heads hanging over sampler trays. The atmosphere at Odell is much like New Belgium, albeit on a much smaller scale, with the groups of friends gathering to share some beers. The price, a small amount though I don't recall exactly, of the beer samples comes with tokens that can be redeemed for a discount on merchandise. And, being partially asleep at the wheel, I neglected to use my AHA card which would have scored us a free sampler tray, free pint glass, and discounted merchandise. It was off to Wilbur's Beverage (for some local takeaway goodies) and Whole Foods (for some dinner munchies...neither of us had any energy to sit at a dinner table) before heading back to the hotel to fiiinnnallllyyyy turn in for the day. A quick note about Wilbur's Beverage in Fort Collins: Don't miss it. Wide selection of locals and imports with prices right around where they should be. Tomorrow: We head west/southwest through Estes Park, the Rockies, and Vail into the high-country and Glenwood Springs. Click here to jump to Part 2. As I go along with my little wrap-up of our trip to Colorado and GABF, you might like to follow along with the pictures that I've posted at Picasa. I've taken the liberty of breaking them into more manageable pieces for your viewing ease. (Insert my own personal peeve: those who post pictures, all 592 of them, without removing duplicates, mistakes, or irrelevant ones...hopefully I've done this well for you.) People Pictures Brewery Pictures GABF Awards Ceremony Pictures Scenery and Nature Pictures Miscellaneous Beer Pictures (aka whatever's left)


Adam said...

Estes park eh? A friend of mine was there around the same time you guys were. She brought back some awesome pictures of Elk locking horns right near a parking lot.

Beer + Nature + Good People :-)

Adam said...

Just got through the people pictures. Great job! Even a Charlie Papazian photo :-) Cool.

booboodog said...

bryan, can't wait to see some of your scenery pics. it was great to meet you at iron hill. andie

Bryan Kolesar said...

ah, now I can put a face with booboodog! It was nice to meet you too Andie...pix linx have been updated....enjoy!

booboodog said...

thanks for the pics, brought back the memories. can't wait to go back to see what we missed. thanks