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Tuesday, October 07, 2008
How to Tackle the GABF
How does a first-timer to the Great American Beer Festival plan an attack for making it the best experience possible? I've had many tips from a diverse group of people with lessons to learn from their mistakes of the past. While there are many, many event/parties/gatherings that go on around the circus that is the actual festival, I still must have a plan going into the festival (albeit, a plan that I'm warned I should be prepared to scrap). Afterall, there are hundreds of breweries bringing thousands of beer to taste and be judged. Fortunately, the Brewers Association lays out the festival tasting floor at the convention center in clusters of breweries by region (if you're attending, make sure you check out their floor plan too...if not, you can follow along at home, or at Iron Hill). This gave me the thought that I can help me to help you to help me. Below, I've listed the breweries and their beers that I'm familiar enough with to highly recommend that when you're at the festival you should make sure that you stop by and check out their table. On the flip side, there are some breweries that I have little to no experience with and am searching out. Sooooo, if you can help me out with my to-do list and let me know which I should absolutely make a point of visiting, that should help me refine my plan. Getting to know the style guidelines can be an even more highly technical approach for planning your visit to the GABF. Considering that these are the guidelines that are to be used in judging the beers, it can certainly be an interesting, if not useful, reference guide for attendees. Though, I probably wouldn't place too much emphasis on reading and trying to memorize them. Breweries I can recommend Pacific (sections A, B, G) - 21st Amendment, Drake's, Anderson Valley, Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Russian River, Sacramento, Port/Lost Abbey, Lagunitas, Kona, Green Flash, Firestone, Trumer, Alaskan, Magnolia, Marin, Moylan's, Stone, Sierra Nevada Pacific NW (sections K, L) - Rogue, Elysian, Full Sail, Hales, Hopworks, Pike Mid-Atlantic (sections C, D, H) - Ithaca, Brooklyn, Iron Hill, Sly Fox, Southampton Publick House, Stewart's, Stoudt's, Triumph, Troegs, Weyerbacher, Flying Fish and of course the more widely-distributed Dogfish Head, Ommegang, Victory Midwest (sections F, J, O) - New Holland, New Glarus, Capital, Three Floyds, Goose Island, Great Dane, Great Lakes, Summit, Thirsty Dog, Jolly Pumpkin New England (section M) - Shipyard, Trinity, Allagash, Cambridge, John Harvard's Rocky Mountain (sections E, I, N) - Avery, Boulder, Breckenridge, Great Divide, Fort Collins, Odell, Glenwood Canyon Southeast (section Q) - Duck Rabbit, Sweetwater, Terrapin, Twain's Southwest (section P) - Real Ale, Rahr, Saint Arnold, Live Oak The Plains (section K) - none, I'll need to work on this! Ones that I'm looking to learn more about Pacific (sections A, B, G) - Coronado, Schooner's, Fifty Fifty, Telegraph, Third Street Aleworks, Tied House, Triple Rock, TAPS Pacific NW (sections K, L) - Boundary Bay, Cascade, Elliott Bay, Alameda, Bend, Issaquah, Walking Man, Laurelwood, Pelican Mid-Atlantic (sections C, D, H) - hometown brewers, surprise me! Midwest (sections F, J, O) - Piece, 75th Street, Central Waters, Brugge Brasserie, Boulevard, Titletown, Elevator, Flossmoor, Surly, Schlafly New England (section M) - Haverhill Rocky Mountain (sections E, I, N) - Pug Ryan's, Red Rock, Sandlot, Uinta, Wynkoop, Wasatch Southeast (section Q) - Lazy Magnolia, Vino's, Bosco's Southwest (section P) - Papago, The Covey The Plains (section K) - Upstream, Blind Tiger, Tall Grass, Choc Beer And, for those of you typically accustomed to and appreciating all of my diligent linking to the brewery/brewpub websites....ha! not this time. You'll have to Google them yourselves...glasses up :)
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Stop planning to much. Just go drink. Your plans will be thrown to the wayside anyway.
The temptation will be to act as the proverbial "kin in a candy store". I know, I've done that.
With so many choices, a good strategy is to pick a theme, such as only stouts, or beers from Texas, or whatever.
- re-taste the same beers that you enjoyed from a previous year
- form a group to discover "gotta try" beers where everyone meets periodically to compare tasting notes
- wait for the winning beers to be announced and then stick to that list
I used to go to the AHA pre-event hours when I lived in Colorado.
You MUST visit Surly and Upstream. Boulevard and Schlafly are both solid breweries. Many of the others I know by reputation, but not by actually drinking their beers. Have fun!
For the Plains I'd have to agree on the Upstream Brewing recommendation. Always solid beers and their cask aged offering is an interesting adventure most of the time.
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