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GABF brewers' diaries

Tomme Arthur

Pizza Port Solana Beach - Sept. 10

I wish we had the space to pour all 8 beers because I love them all. This is the first year that I have been happy with the draft beers we are sending as well as the bottles that go with them. Most people don't know how difficult it is to not only prepare a set of kegs for the festival floor but also work with the same beer and package it in bottles for judging purposes. I have never sent a full rack of bottled beers where I was happy with every single bottle until this year. For us, it is a maddening process to prepare all the bottles and kegs for this festival especially since the prep work comes during our busiest season of production at Pizza Port.

This year, we have been packaging more beers in the afternoon after brew days so that we would have more beers available to taste before the deadline. We believe this will improve our chances this year of competing at a higher level. Giving each bottle more time to mature afforded us the ability to taste multiple bottlings before settling on the beers we wanted to send.

Brewers who are participating in the GABF are familiar with the timeline required to enter beers but consumers may not be. With this in mind, I offer the following dates relative to entering this competition. Each June, we receive our packet for the festival in the mail. The festival is open to the first 350 breweries that want to attend (and have their beers on the festival floor). This means that our first step as brewers is to announce our intention (sign up and pay for our beers).

Once we have sent a preliminary list of our beers and the payment for entries, we receive another packet in July. This packet contains our registration information for each beer. We are required to look over each form and send it back with changes in early August, so that the people at the AOB can set the categories and work on the logistics of our shipments. This also means that generally speaking we have to know by Aug. 1 what we are sending. This is almost always at least eight weeks from the actual festival date. Some planning is involved in terms of scheduling and ensuring the beers we are sending will be ready to go.

In the case of some of our beers, this is not a problem as they may have been brewed six months to two years earlier. The Mother Pucker Kriek we are sending was brewed more than two years ago for my wedding and is now only ready to be served. Generally, the month of September brings two important deadlines. First, our bottled beers need to arrive in Denver at the sorting center. Also, our draft beer for the festival floor needs to ship a week later to Denver. This means, by the time you read this entry, all of our festival and judging beers will have been shipped and received in Denver for the GABF.

That's the first step in the process for us. Now that we have entered our beers, paid our fees and committed to the beers we are sending, we have to prepare them for shipment and judging.

Next installment, a look into the differences in bottling techniques, shipping concerns and co-op shipping.