Well, another Great American Beer Festival is in the history books and this one was the biggest ever! I'll not bore you with the impressive stats of breweries and numbers of beers, but will say that if you love craft beer, Denver was the place to be this past week. From special limited offerings to great beers you just never get to try in your area, you could find it at GABF.
I could write posts for a week on just the high points but I'll keep it to a few standouts. Firestone Walker - as always - was a cut above the rest. Their Feral One Lambic-style sour beer was exceptional but the star of the line was their Anniversary XVIII beer. Absolutely stunning! Rich, complex, multi-layered and exquisitely balanced. Along the same lines, but even more over the top, was Samuel Adams Utopias - a magnificent blend of rare, old, barrel-aged treasures delivering wave after wave of flavor and a big alcohol punch.
Sours were huge this year at GABF and some of the better ones were at Asheville, North Carolina's Wicked Weed booth. They had several barrel-aged sours that made it clear why the lines were long and they ran out early.
Every year, I discover a brewery I have never heard of that produces some truly exceptional beers. This year it was Brasserie St. James out of Reno, Nevada. They had several authentic Belgian Lambic-style beers produced by traditional methods and properly aged to perfection. Their delicate complexity and layers of rich flavors are not to be missed if you ever find yourself in that part of the world.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention how much I enjoyed tasting my way through the Pro-Am entries. If you're not familiar with these, they are collaborations between professional breweries and amateur homebrewers. The beers have usually taken top honors at sanctioned homebrew competitions before being brewed at the pro breweries. From ale brewed with carrots to Belgian-style tripel with muscat grapes, these brews epitomize the creativity and innovation that gave birth to the vibrant craft beer scene we enjoy in America today.
Sad to see the Great American Beer Festival come to an end, but the 2016 festival is only 364 days away. Cant wait!