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Beer, Beer & More Beer

September, 2001

By Bobby Bush

Wow! Where do I start? As reported previously in these very pages, I attended the 20th annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver in late September. This three-day, four session event is the only nation-wide celebration of beer. It attracts 20,000 people, who sample 1,500 different beers from 350 breweries of all sizes. It was my 6th time since 1991 in attendance.

Even without the festival, Denver is one hell of a beer town, a true mecca for beer lovers everywhere. So naturally Iím pretty familiar with the area and have visited all brewpubs and most good beer bars multiple times.

This trip to the GABF was to be different. Courtesy of Celebrator Beer News, I had press credentials. For weeks prior to the fest, invitations poured in, via snail mail and email. Though I missed editor Tom Dalldorf and his Rolling Boil Blues Band performance on Wednesday night in Denver, I did arrive in time for the 6th annual Media Luncheon & Gathering sponsored by the GABF. Held at microbrewery Great Divide, this catered event provided a chance for the beer press to network while munching on crackers and cheese and slurping Great Divideís fantastic brews, including a special two barrel batch of DPA (Denver Pale Ale) dry-hopped with unknown hops planted years ago near Great Divideís back fence. Dry hopped one hour after the harvest, this fresh but sour tasting brew was called Fence Post Ale.

The guest listed included aforementioned Celebrator editor Tom Dalldorf, writer Gregg Wiggins and editor Greg Kitsock of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Bob Paolino of Great Lakes Brewing News, Kurt Epps of The Pub Scout and others.

The beer list for this five-time GABF and four-time World Beer Cup award winning brewery was more impressive than the guest list. They had everything on tap, from Whitewater Wheat to St. Brigidís Porter. With emphasis on bitterness, DPA was smoother and maltier than its dry hopped rendition. Bee Sting Honey Wheat presented an encompassing sweetness, while copper colored Arapahoe Amber was medium bodied and subtly sweet with a short, pleasant dry finish. Powerfully malty initially, Hibernation Ale evolved to a hoppy floral finish, chased by bitter aftertaste effect.

After checking into my hotel, which was conveniently located about midway Denverís downtown LoDo section and the Colorado Convention Center where the festival would be held, I picked up my media kit at the fest site and decided to make a brief, unplanned appearance at Thursday nightís opening session. Since I had unlimited access. Camera and note pad in hand, I sought out Southern brewers, who would be busy pouring their beer to the masses.

Only 27 Southern breweries bothered to send beer for the festival. Another ten entered their beer in competition, though it was not served to the public. Of the 27, only a handful of brewers and/or brewery owners were in attendance, which is not required. I met brewer John Templet and owner Russ Melton of Diamond Bear Microbrewery in Little Rock, Arkansas; brewer Randy Doucet and owner Dan Beavers of South Carolinaís Aiken Brewing; Ron Raike of Shipyard Brewing in Orlando; Franz Rothschadl of Hoppers Grille & Brewery in Palm Harbor, Florida; Titanic Brewingís James Ray from Coral Gables, FL and others. Marty Velas of Calhounís BBQ and Brew in Knoxville was there, hopeful for another medal, as was Ron Downer of Rocky River Brewing in Sevierville, Tennessee. Boscos brewers Chuck Skypeck and Fred Scheer brought a trio of lucky couples, winners of the three Boscosí cellarmaster drawings. From Atlanta, Sweetwater brewer Kevin McNerney also had a crew with him. Dave Miller, celebrated homebrewing author, was there hawking his Nashville brewpub, Blackstone. It was closer to a family reunion than some family reunions turn out to be.

On my own for dinner, I visited one of my favorite brewpubs, Denver Chop House. Part of the Boulder-based Rock Bottom chain, Chop House has great pizzas and, as I found out, tender steaks. Sitting at the bar, I enjoyed cask conditioned pints of Brown Ale and Bourbon Stout. The latter, conditioned in wooden barrels used to age booze, is sexy smooth and licentious. I almost wanted a cigarette after finishing the last swallow.

From 10:00 till midnight, I worked the door for BeerWeek.comís Stogie & Stout Smokeout, held at Rock Bottom. Sleep came easily that night.

Well, thatís not bad for the first half-day in Denver. Thereís two more full days to go. Come along next week for more beer adventures..

Follow along next week as we venture to San Luis Obispo and beyond.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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