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GABF brewery participation at record levels

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Photo: GreatAmericanBeerFestival.com

Every year about this time, beer-lovers around the country begin to start scouring the airline sites for cheap flights to Denver. Why? Because tickets to the epitome of beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), generally go on sale around the end of July or beginning of August. This year tickets go up for grabs on August 1 to members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and August 2 to the general public.

What’s the big deal?

Scale. Think about any other beer festival you have ever attended and multiply it by a factor of about 10. The festival itself is just the beginning. The week of GABF sees dozens of satellite events spring up around Denver. Anything from tap takeovers to beer dinners to rare beer tastings take place. Couple that with the wealth of breweries in the greater Denver area and within an hour’s drive of the Mile-High city and you have the makings of an epic beer adventure.

This year the festival, which is both a beer-tasting festival and beer-judging event, will see the largest number of breweries serving tastes to festival attendees and an even larger number sending beers across the country to be judged in the competition. While exact numbers are not known yet, early sources say that there is room for around 900 tasting booths. With each brewery likely to bring three to four beers, the potential beers to taste could extend to nearly 4,000.

In addition to tasting booths, GABF provides beer-lovers with opportunities to meet brewers from some of their favorite breweries at 150 special “Meet the Brewer” booths. At these booths, attendees can ask questions, get insights and show their support of local brewers.

Other activities at the festival include seminars, beer and cheese pairings, an embedded food and beer pairing festival (separately ticketed), a massive brewery t-shirt sales booth where attendees can by shirts from breweries around the country, book signings and much more.

On the competition side, up to this point more than 2,200 breweries have signed up to enter their brews in the GABF competition. Considering that there are about 5,500 breweries in the country now, that means that nearly half of the breweries in the United States have offered up beers for judging.

It’s no wonder that GABF is considered the premier beer festival in the country.

This year the festival runs from October 5-7 over four sessions. Tickets are $85 for the general public and $80 for AHA members. If you are planning on trying to get tickets to this bucket list event, you might want to take a look at the article I wrote a few months ago. In 6 Tips You Must Know to Score GABF Tickets, I outline how you can increase your chances to attend the festival of a lifetime.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Beer, Beer Festival

 

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6 tips you must know to score GABF tickets

GABFmedia_02To many beer-lovers, the Great American Beer Festival is the end-all, be-all of beer festivals. It is the epitome of what a beer festival should be and beer nirvana all rolled into one massive event. It is also a very difficult ticket to purchase and, once a ticket is procured, an even more difficult event to navigate.

With just  five months to the 2017 festival, this year’s event takes place October 5-7, will need a plan for attending this event. Tickets go on sale to the general public August 2 at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time through Ticketmaster.

Last year, tickets to the GABF 2016 sold out in just one hour and seven minutes. That means you have to put some serious effort into getting your entry media. Fortunately, there are several ways you can give yourself an advantage over the unwashed masses.

  1. Mark your calendar and take time off.
    Since tickets go on sale on a Wednesday morning, if you work regular hours, you might want to take the morning off. You’ll know by 10:00 a.m. if you have tickets or not, so if you want to work the afternoon, just take a half day. Or, if you want to celebrate (or, heaven forbid, commiserate), take the whole day off and have a few beers in the afternoon.
  2. Check your account.
    A few days prior to the sale date, log in to Ticketmaster and make sure all of your information is up-to-date. Keep in mind, that if you do get through and get a chance to purchase tickets, you will only have a few minutes to complete your transaction. Nothing is more depressing than getting through and finding out that the credit card you have on file is expired.
  3. Get membership benefits.
    Consider joining the American Homebrewers Association. Members of the AHA can purchase GABF tickets a day before tickets go on sale to the general public. This is a huge advantage and practically assures you to score tickets. And, with membership to the AHA costing as little as $38 a year, it is a good investment. Not to mention you will get a whole host of benefits including six issues of Zymurgy, the Association’s magazine, discounts and, of course, early access to GABF tickets.
  4. Log in early.
    The interweb is going to be packed on the day of GABF ticket sales and this often means lag. By connecting early you increase your chance of getting through and avoiding long lag times that could cause your browser to crash. Plan on being online at least 45 minutes or more ahead of sale time.
  5. Enlist your friends.
    The Beatles famously said that they, “Get by with a little help from my friends.” Getting tickets for GABF is just the situation you want to put this phrase to work. Since each person that gets through can purchase up to four tickets, get your friends to help with the chase. If you have four friends that want to go, get all of them on their computers trying like mad. If just one of your cabal gets through and succeeds in acquiring tickets, your mission is accomplished.


    Pro Tip: Be sure all of your friends have Ticketmaster accounts and make sure they log in to check their status a few days prior to the sale date.

  6. Refresh as if you life depended on it.If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This is particularly true in this instance. You are battling thousands of other hopeful attendees for the few coveted GABF tickets that exist. If you get an error, just keep refreshing. With luck, you will hit refresh at the precise moment an Internet connection opens and your GABF dreams will come true.

If, after doing all of the above, you still do not manage to grab tickets, there are secondary markets. Sure, you’ll pay more for the tickets, but if you really want to go, that may be your only outlet. Just stay away from Craigslist and any other unverified ticket agency. You do not want to be the guy that shows up at the door with a counterfeit ticket and be denied admission.

Watch for more articles on how to get the most out of your GABF experience.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Beer, Beer Festival, Travel

 

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5 Brewery taprooms in one day kicks GABF week off in style

While not the official fist day of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), yesterday was my first day in Denver since the 2012 GABF. As the plane descended, I could see the mountains to the west and the excitement of the week came to a peak. My calendar is full and I will have plenty to report back.

On my first day in Denver, I spent time with my daughter and her fiance on an impromptu brewery taproom crawl. In all, we visited five taprooms, each with a very different vibe and delicious brews.

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Jagged Mountain taproom

Our first stop was Jagged Mountain Brewery. The corner spot this brewery occupies is just blocks from the main core of busy downtown Denver and features plenty of windows for imbibers to watch as people and traffic filter by outside. Inside the taproom is a rustic mixture of wood and brick. The staff is a cheerful lot with plenty of suggestions for new guests and directions to other breweries nearby when needed.

At Jagged Mountain I tried their Thunder Thighs Quad. At 12.8% ABV, this was the perfect beer to begin our long day of exploring the downtown Denver beer scene. The brew sports aromas of caramel and plums upfront and a slight peppery note hidden in the background.  The first sip reveals sweet bready malt flavors with a balanced light hop bitterness.

After a short walk just a few blocks up the street, we wandered into the very lively taproom of Great Divide. Anyone who has a Great Divide brew IMG_2295knows that the brewery makes some truly awesome beers. The taproom itself is in a corner building with windows set high on the wall. As the bright Colorado sunlight streamed in we started a conversation with guests from Philadelphia also in town for GABF.

Here I sipped the brewery’s Hoss a crisp rye lager loosely based on the German marzen style. The brewery’s website describe Hoss: “Rich, layered malt notes, with hints of cherry and dark fruits, dominate, while the unique addition of rye imparts a slightly earthy, spicy character.”

Our next brewery required a rather lengthy walk and a short bus ride, but when we found ourselves in front of the Denver Beer Company, I realized the walk was worth it. Situated on the opposite side of the Platt river from downtown, the taproom is features a large indoor area open to the outdoors and a large outdoor veranda.

On the tap list we discovered several seasonal brews and to my delight a blackberry sour ale labeled Brewhaha! The beer was delightfully bright in the glass and full of berry aromas. The flavor was bury BlackBerry with a slight sour note at the end.

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The copper brewhouse at Prost Brewery.

Another short walk and we found ourselves at Prost Brewing. On a previous visit to Denver I found this German brewery and fell in love with it. The owners spared no expense to import a genuine copper brewhouse from Germany and have worked diligently to remain true to its Bavarian roots. The taproom is festooned with Oktoberfest banners and picnic tables.

The beer list at Prost is dominated by authentic German lagers. I had both the marzen and kolsch. Both brews tasted just as they should and I found myself not wanting to leave.

Our final brewery was a surprise brewery that my future son-in-law realized we were near as we arrived at an event. De Steeg is literally a hidden gem located in a back ally. One would not know it was there if someone else did not tell you about it. But, this no frills taproom features a full slate of extreme brews with only a Berliner Weiss sporting and ABV below 7.8%. Every brew I tasted at this brewery was phenomenal. Of particular note was its Peach Tripel.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Beer Festival

 

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Countdown to the Great American Beer Festival: Coverage Plan

gabf2015Three years ago when I attended the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for the first time as a member of the press I wrote of the event in hallowed terms:

There was a definite buzz in the air 30 minutes before the doors opened for Session 1 of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. In the lobby on the Colorado Convention Center eager beer enthusiasts were lined up awaiting the dropping of the ropes for entry into the main exposition hall. While inside the hall, breweries, volunteers, and press were busily preparing for the onslaught. In a word, it was magical.

This year, three years older, three years wiser, I intend to cover the event again using a variety of media. With the advance of technology, I want to provide coverage through my blog, but also in more advanced ways like live Tweeting/Facebooking, Periscope — a live video streaming service accessed through Twitter — and targeted video interviews and coverage.

To that end, be sure to follow all of my social media accounts as I will be covering the GABF as well as the many satellite events that take place in and around Denver during that week. In case you do not already follow all of them, here is a list:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/springfield.brewcrew

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SPRBrewCrew

Instagram: https://instagram.com/mwisdom562/

You can also follow the times of events by going to the Events page of my website; www.JaxBeerGuy.com.

Keep an eye open over the next few weeks as I will add my itinerary for the festival and other events along with schedules for live streaming video via Periscope broadcast on Twitter. But, also watch for pop-up interviews via Periscope as I make connections with the movers and shakers at the event.

As of now, my schedule as only a few items on it, but as GABF draws closer, more events will be added to the list. Keep in mind that all times are presented in Mountain Daylight Time for Eastern Daylight Time add two hours.

Thursday, September 24

3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.                    Deschutes-Harpoon Special Event

5:15 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 1

Friday, September 25                   

8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.                     The Oskar Blues Ordeal – Tours and Tastings at Oskar Blues facilities throughout Colorado.

5:15 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 2

Saturday, September 26              

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.                The Great American Beer Festival Competition Awards

12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 3

Again, as I nail down interviews and other events during the festival, I will update the schedule.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Beer

 

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Great American Beer Festival 2013 tickets on sale this week

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For the past five years tickets to the Great American beer Festival in Denver, Colo. have sold out. Last year, amid great controversy, the event sold out in a matter of minutes when the tickets went on sale to the general public. Next week tickets for the 2013 event go on sale and the organizers urge you to pre


On Tu
esday, July 30 the ticket windows open to member of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association. As is the custom, the Saturday afternoon session of the festival (Saturday, October 12 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.) is a members only session and open only to members of these to associations. But, be warned, there are more members of the ABA and BA than there are tickets available so plan on purchasing early. Tickets for members go on sale at 10:00 a.m.  MT.pare yourself.

General public tickets go on sale the following day, Wednesday, July 31 at 10:00 a.m.  MT. Last year these tickets sold out astoundingly fast in just a matter of minutes. By some reckonings all tickets were sold just 15 minutes after the online ticket windows began selling them. That means that the nearly 49,000 tickets to the events sold at a rate of nearly 3,300 a minute.

Last year’s sales were also marred by errors in the way the tickets were to be sold by Ticketmaster, which added to the frustration many beer fans experienced. But, after investigating the issues, things were set straight. The GABF remains contracted with Ticketmaster to handle their ticket sales this year. According to the official GABF website, “We are assured by Ticketmaster that significant operational take-aways from the 2012 ticket sale will be applied to the member and general public purchases in 2013.”

The Great American Beer Festival showcases the largest collection of American brewers of any beer festival in the United States. With over 600 brewers in attendance, there will be over 2,800 different beers to sample.

General public tickets to the event are $75 each, with a $4.50 convenience fee per ticket $3.50 processing fee per order (E.g., $12.50 in total fees for a two-ticket order). For members of the AHA or BA there is a flat $6 per order ticket fee.

Attendees must have a ticket for each session the plan to attend. Session times for 2013 are:

Thursday, October 10 – 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday, October 11 – 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 12 – 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (AHA and BA members only)

Saturday, October 12 – 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Beer, Beer Festival

 

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Oskar Blues Ordeal less an ordeal and more an adventure

Getting up at the crack of dawn to board a bus is rarely something one would look forward to. But, on day two of my adventure in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I was more than willing to roust myself and make my way to the Falling Rock Tap House in downtown Denver. There I was met by a group of folks standing beside a bus emblazoned with the logo of Oskar Blues Brewery awaiting the beginning of the yearly adventure known as the “Oskar Blues Ordeal.”

On the Ordeal, guests are treated to visits to all four Oskar Blues locations and/or holdings in Colorado, each with its own distinct personality and attraction. The first stop was in Lyons, Colo., where Oskar Blues got its start. Then it was off to Longmont to the Hops and Heifers Farm followed by a visit to the Oskar Blues restaurant and, after lunch, the Thirsty Weasel taproom at the brewery.

The Ordeal has become wildly popular with Oskar Blues fans and sold out almost as soon as it was announced. So quickly were tickets snapped up that the brewery decided to add two additional tours this year. On the bus with us were local Coloradoans, visiting brewery staff, and other assorted guests.

At 8:00 a.m. the group filed onto the bus for the drive to Lyons an hour north of Denver.  Along the way we were treated to wonderful views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, and assorted other roadside attractions. Upon arrival at the Old Chub, Oskar Blues’ sandwich shop/café in Lyons, we were welcomed with a tub full of ice cold Oskar Blues canned beers and several trays of aluminum foil-wrapped breakfast burritos.

The group happily popped cans and munched the spicy, but very tasty burritos and milled around talking all things beer and mountains. The location had a certain funky swagger to it – sort of like a Subway sandwich shop but with more hippie appeal. Picnic benches were arranged outside so that the cool, crisp mountain air could be enjoyed while indulging in the grub provided by the thoughtful folks inside. And, with the sun shining and a wonderful view of the mountains directly up the main street, how could anyone resist sitting outside and simply enjoying the day.

As the group finished its breakfast, we were guided through the original Oskar Blues Grill & Brew restaurant. It turns out that Oskar Blues owner Dale Katechis originally set out to be a restaurateur, but quickly decided he wanted his own beer to serve. So, not long after the 1997 opening of his Lyons restaurant, Dale decided to start a side project and began brewing beer to serve along with his restaurant’s food in 1999.

The beer was an overnight success. By 2002, demand for the brew was so high Dale decided to begin packaging it for distribution. The packaging he decided upon was, well, unconventional in the minds of craft beer brewers. Dale settled on putting his big, hoppy Dale’s Pale Ale in cans.

At the time, that was quite a controversial move. Cans were associated with macro lagers and a tinny taste imparted by the metal. Craft beer drinkers were not sold on his decision originally, but advances in can technology – like the addition of a water-soluble internal coating – proved to make cans an ideal material for beer. The use of cans opened up the places fresh, tasty beer could be taken. Before craft beer cans, if you wanted to take a bike ride in the mountains and drink a beer at the top, you had to settle for macro lagers. But, with the stroke of genius brought on by Dale, outdoor enthusiasts found they could enjoy great beer in unbelievably beautiful surroundings without fear of broken glass or, worse, mediocre beer.

Oskar Blues Grill & Brew restaurant was just as funky and off-beat as Old Chub. But, we did not stay in there long. It was merely en route to our true destination: the original Oskar Blues brewery.

Imagine a space the size of a small two-bedroom house, but with 20 foot ceilings and you have a pretty good idea of how small the original brewery building is. Jammed into this tiny space are a brewhouse, canning line, refrigeration space, and fermentations tanks. But, still, the brewery is used to create specialty brews like the latest collaboration between Oskar Blues and Sun King Brewery, The Deuce and root beer served at the brewery’s restaurants. While we visited we watched as The Deuce was canned in distinctive, cone-topped cans just two at a time. The process is labor-intensive and time consuming. But, the beer is a sublime hopped up brown that is sure to please the hophead while appealing to those who seek the malty sweetness of a brown.

After a while to look around the brewery, we were once again loaded on the bus, headed for our next destination.

The Hops and Heifers Farm is a 50 acres plot of land situated on a plateau just east of the Front Range. As one might guess, the farm is home to the brewery’s experimental hop farm and is the source of all the beef used in their restaurants. Geoff Hess, Oskar Blues farmer and head hop grower greeted the bus at the entrance driveway and a hay wagon equipped with a tub of more iced-down brew. We piled in and enjoyed the ride to the hops-growing area along with provided brews.

At the hop field, a wooden deck with a pop-up canopy had been constructed near a dirt road that divided the hops from the heifers. A group of folks already at the farm were gathered along the fence, feeding the cows that had quickly learned that lunch was being handed out. Hess stood atop the deck and addressed the gathered crowd, speaking about the typed of hops grown and the way Oskar Blues used them in their special brews. He then invited us to grab several cones from the baggies on the table and pour a can of beer over them for our own, hand-made fresh hop beer. The addition of the fresh hops added a vegetal, herbal quality to the already spectacular brews and everyone enjoyed several.

By this time the group was getting hungry and it was time to move on to the next stop and lunch. Everyone loaded onto the hay wagon again and, while drinking a few more cold brews, we made our way to the bus and our next stop on the Ordeal.

Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids restaurant is rather iconic with its towering silo painted to resemble a Dale’s Pale Ale can. Situated along busy Longmont Diagonal Highway, the restaurant was buzzing with activity when we pulled up. Out front were babbling water features built from aluminum beer kegs, inside was a high-ceilinged space with exposed wooden beams, tap handles hanging from a low ceiling over the bar, and more eclectic features that seem to exemplify the brewery and its staff.

Our group was ushered upstairs where more beer and delicious-smelling lunch was waiting. Lunch consisted of chicken wings slathered with sweet, spicy barbeque sauce, pulled pork, and several sides. As we dug in, we learned that dale was not only a whiz with beer, he also had one heck of a good hand with food.

Bellies full and thirst sated, we again piled aboard the bus, this time bound for the Oskar Blues brewery and the Tasty Weasel Taproom. Situated only a few blocks from the restaurant, the outside of the brewery is rather non-descript. It is in a plain warehouse like many others you have seen along the byways of our great country. But, as the bus pulled along the side of the building, it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary warehouse. A deck protruded from the building and there were quite a few happy beer-drinkers already on it enjoying the cool day with a pint or two of cold Oskar Blues beer.

When we walked up the stairs the magnitude of the place began to become more apparent. The tap room was a large room with a bar and ten taps in the back. But, it was what was above the back wall that was impressive. Instead of building a wall blocking the view of the brewery, the wall stopped at about 12 feet allowing partakers to see the huge fermentation tanks their beer had come from.

After filling up some glasses, we were taken behind the wall for a tour of the brewery proper. And an impressive brewery it is! Row upon row of fermenter marches away from a huge brewhouse, staff was bustling around, completing their assigned tasks, and beer was most definitely being brewed.

Back in the tap room, Dale himself was being filmed for a documentary on influential brewers. After he finished his interview, he took time to chat with members of our group. He is a personable and interesting guy, as willing to chat about his love of biking as he is about his ground-breaking beers. And this attitude is pervasive of the staff at Oskar Blues. Everyone there has a passion for good beer, but also is grounded in their love of their surroundings and their acknowledgment of their stewardship to keep it has beautiful as it has always been.

This year Dale’s Pale Ale celebrates 10 years of being in a can. For the group on the bus, filled with beer and still dazzled by the magical journey of the day, that milestone was a rallying cry of sorts. Ten years, we all hoped, is just the beginning.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Beer, Craft Beer Brewery

 

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GABF day one: travel and Renegade Brewing Company

Day one in Denver was fun, interesting, and a bit frustrating. The journey was fine if a little long, but nothing out of the ordinary. The rental car turned out to be a lot nicer than expected and the hotel, while nothing spectacular was functional as a place to bed down for the night.

Once checked in at the hotel, I ventured out to find the Colorado Convention Center, the site of the Great American Beer Festival, to collect my media credentials. After only a couple of mis-turns due to confusing instructions from my GPS, I found the site in downtown Denver.  After just a few moments in line, I had my credentials and lit out to find some friends.

While sitting on a bench trying to get my bearings, along came friends from home who were on their way to Renegade Brewing Company just a short distance away. Since I had a car, we piled in and set off.

The neighborhood where Renegade is located is eclectic and a bit funky. There are nice bungalows and somewhat trashy houses coexisting on the same streets. Renegade itself is situated in an attractive building with roll-up garage doors and an inviting brown stucco exterior.

Upon entering, it was immediately apparent that the place had been built for comfort and enjoyment of beer. The wood bar curved nicely around the pouring area and the railroad track footrest was an interesting touch. But, the beer is the true star at this up-and-coming gem among the burgeoning beer scene in Denver.

My first choice was the 5 O’Clock Blond Ale, and easy drinking ale with soft touches of malts and a slight hop presence. At only 5% APV it is extremely sessionable and an enjoyable drink. The second brew I sample was the Una Mas Poblano Mexican Ale. This brew was superb in its balance of smoky poblano peppers, a subtle herbaciosness, and sweet caramel malts.

We sat an enjoyed our brews and chatted with brewery owner Brian O’Connell. His passion for good beer was evident as was his skill in making fine craft beers in a rather small brewery. With just over a year under its belt Renegade is a brewery to keep your eye on.

After Renegade we proceeded to local Denver watering hole Jackson’s situated right across the street from Coors Field. There we boarded a bus for the Shock Top End of the World Midnight Wheat launch party. But, the details of that adventure will have to wait until later.

Tomorrow I spend the day at the Oskar Blues Ordeal. A tour of all of the brewery’s facilities copiously lubricated with plenty of Oskar Blues brews. Details tomorrow night!

 

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Beer

 

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