The Great American Beer Festival in Denver began on a soggy note but by the first night of public tasting Thursday, October 7th, the weather had become more accommodating and presented fest goers with an incredible Rocky Mountain fall venue in which to sample over 1800 beers. Once again, the Thursday night and Saturday afternoon sessions were the most conducive to enjoying the beers and speaking with the brewery representatives. This year also offered a Friday "industry session" but turnout seemed extremely light. The physical layout was again based on geographical regions and made it fairly easy to find desired beers and discover new ones. Snacks and drinking water were not evident but a food vendor was present toward the main entrance on the first floor.
Some interesting brews stood out for positive reasons. The Samuel Adams Millennium came in at 20% abv due to its two yeast strains and copious amounts of fermentable honey. Aged in whiskey barrels, its strong whiskey aroma was well matched to the forceful malty flavor and viscous body. With only 2000 bottles being produced and distribution rationed by state, expect more to be collected than drank. This one will be drinkable well into the next millennium. Another beer that made its presence known was the Rogue Imperial Pilsner. With 78 IBUs and an 18-degree Plato starting gravity, it was both big and smooth. The Zonker Stout from Snake River featured a great complex dark and roasted character but came across very smooth.
Fewer complaints were heard about habitual late openings and early closures but the "beer police" still evoked strong resentment from brewers paying for the privilege of pouring their beers to a paying public. Once again each attendee received a coupon for one 6-ounce pour from any brewery in the upstairs Beer Garden. More planned after-hours activities are beginning to fill the calendar of visiting brewers in what is fast becoming GABF Week. The Real Beer Page Smoker at Rock Bottom Brewery and the Bells Brewing bash at the Marriott were two invitation-only events that left attendees appreciative, satisfied and satiated. By event time it looked like Curigan Hall would once again be available for next year's event, calming fears that that the GABF was facing a threat to its continued existence. Although other events are now drawing greater crowds, the GABF remains the place to encounter the most beers from across America and meet brewing professionals who display their passion for brewing.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - October, 1999
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