Monday, October 15, 2007

GABF Report

My first time at the Great American Beer Festival was awesomer than awesome can be. Mad props to Kate, Jim, and Jason for shelling out the $45 per ticket for the outing. Some of my favorite parts of the evening:

  • Stone Brewing had a festival booth, and I took full advantage to try everything they had to offer. I was stoked to taste their 11th Anniversary Ale for the first time, but the best of the bunch was the Ruination IPA. I had once tried this premium beer in bottled form (which set me back over $16 for a six-pack), but it's absolutely amazing on tap. It's like a clown car of hops--you don't know how they all got in there, but you're smiling too much to care.
  • We also had the distinct privilege of tasting Samuel Adam's Utopias, a premium barley wine that weighs in at a record-breaking 25% ABV. This is legendary stuff. It sells for over $200 a bottle on eBay, is illegal in 14 states, and has kicked the asses of both Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer. I've only tried a few barley wines in my day, probably because most of them tasted like someone dropped a vodka-infused Tootsie roll in a beer and left it in a dark corner for 6 months. Not Utopias. Sweet yet refined, intensely aromatic, hints of plum and toffee... simply sublime. By the time we went back for a second round, it was gone. Gone, but not forgotten. I'll probably still be talking about it next year.
  • Arbor Brewing's Espresso Love Breakfast Stout was a notably tasty treat. It tastes just like chocolate-covered espresso beans.

There were plenty of other good brews, but as I was drinking a ton of beer and not taking notes, a few details have escaped me. If you plan on going with me to next year's shindig, here are some lessons that I've learned for next time:
  • Take notes. You'll look like an ass, but part of the $45 investment is to find some good beers to buy the week after.
  • Bring snacks. Those homemade pretzel necklaces are pretty ingenious.
  • Have a tasting plan. Imagine tasting a barley wine, then an IPA, then a stout, then a wit, then repeating the whole process. It can really make that first sip pretty weird. It's tough to avoid wanting the closest beer in sight, but I might try to plan a loose progression of beer styles next time.
  • Expect a stomachache.

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