Wednesday, October 22, 2008

GABF 2008---the full story, part 2

link back to part 1 After stopping at Wild Boar, a real, comfy, and local coffee and breakfast joint on our way out of Fort Collins, we were on the road west then south to Glenwood Springs. Our plan was to head through Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park on route 34. However, at the toll gate, we were told that the road was closed a few miles ahead due to the first major snowstorm of the season. Seemed as if the high country of western Colorado had a different plan than we. As we headed west...up, down, up, and down again from Mile High Denver to Mile-and-a-Half High Vail to Two Mile High Breckenridge and beyond (we hit 14,000 ft. somewhere, I just don't recall where)...I began to feel a bit like Stan and the Slow Travelers. The awe-inspiring scenery barely kept me on the road. There were changing leaf colors at lower elevations and snow at higher elevations. Temperatures plummeted by the mile from the 70s into the high 30s as we steadily climbed the elevation. I won't go on any more about the scenery. If you've been to places like the Rockies before, you know what I'm talking about. If not, check out the scenery pictures from the link below and you'll see what I mean. We finally arrived in Glenwood Springs, approximately 160 miles west of Denver, in the early afternoon. Glenwood Springs, home to natural hot springs and caverns, is a city nestled amongst the canyons along the Colorado River. The main draw in the area, other than the mountain activity are the hot springs. I didn't try to corroborate someone's claim that theirs was one of only three or four natural hot springs in the State. Checking in at The Hotel Denver didn't take long for me to look left and spot the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. I recognized the name from my spreadsheet of every GABF, WBC, and other beer awards from over the years. But, I didn't really know much about the brewpub other than their name being in the list of previous winners. It didn't take us long to decide to pay them a visit. After getting our bags situated, we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner along with some late Sunday football. I opted for a seafood and pasta dish to go with a sampler tray of beers that Patty and split before deciding on which full glasses of beer to order (hey, staying at a hotel with a brewpub has its benefits!). We visited several brewpubs while in Colorado and we found that prices for samplers were always quite generous. Here we got 9 samples (7 ounces each!) for just around $12. The Vapor Cave IPA was a real nice and solid IPA without going to was something along the lines of a Sierra Nevada or perhaps a Victory. It did a great job in cleaning up and washing away the sauce and the spice from the pasta dish. The Red Mountain ESB and the No Name Nut Brown left an impression on me as a couple that I could be happy drinking all night. But, to finish things off I had, and highly recommend, the dessert-friendly Shoshone Stout. After an early morning run the next day, I returned to the hotel to smell Ken Jones and the brewing staff (smelled the beer, not the guys) cooking up a batch of ESB. Ken took the time out to chat for a little while about their location, beer, and plans for GABF. We stopped in one more time for lunch when we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and an excellent Oktoberfest. Somehow through all of this, I managed to take zero pictures inside the brewery and the restaurant. So, you'll have to take my word for the comfortable and casual brewpub-like atmosphere and the friendly, informative service. Three days and nights of The Hotel Denver/Glenwood Canyon beer, outdoor adventure, massages, and soaking in hot springs had us all set for our ultimate destination, the 2008 Great American Beer Festival. It was Wednesday the 8th, my birthday, when we headed back to the east. I'm not sure how the locals ever really get accustomed to the beauty of their environs; the scenery east was just as jaw-dropping as it was in the opposite direction. So, where better to stop on my birthday than Beaver Liquors in Avon, CO?! This was a trip 16 years in the making after a college friend/part-time roommate stopped there and brought back pictures, beer, and "trinkets" from the store. It always remained one of those mythical places that I knew to keep on my list of places to see if I ever made it out to that area. Beaver Liquors, majestic scenery. How does one compare?! Seriously, though, Beaver (we'll just call it that for short) stocks plenty of great wine and beer. I picked up several bottles of local brew from Estes Park, Backcountry, and Uinta (Utah). Some merchandise purchases, too, and we were ready to finish our trip into Denver. We checked into our Westin hotel, which is roughly between the LoDo area of great beer bar destinations and the Convention Center where GABF is held. I headed out for a quick 7 mile run, came back, stretched, iced, showered, and changed. GABF was "on" and we headed out to Falling Rock (where else?) to begin the debauchery. Next up, I'll talk about our Thursday and Friday adventures in Denver. 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 PICTURES 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)

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