An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival

The more I have traveled the globe, the more interested I have become in everything that we ingest whether solid or liquid food. From beer to wine to liquor, and an entirely new appreciation for cider and mead, I have a desire to taste and know it all, if such a thing is possible. Which is why more and more I have focused on that here on the blog.

Whereas my young tastes were fairly underdeveloped at the time I went on that first solo trip to Paris, almost a decade ago, now there are few things I don’t have a desire to try at least once.

I’ve eaten at the Best Restaurant in the World according to S.Pellegrino-owned Fine Dining Lovers annual list for 2015 (El Celler de Can Roca), I’ve sampled Moët in the same tasting room Napoleon once enjoyed imbibing and I’ve traveled to the literal opposite side of the globe from where I was born to see if coffee really is better in Melbourne than anywhere else. (It is.)

So it happens that now when I find out about festivals devoted to food and/or beverages – I always want to attend. What could be better for the never-fully-sated palate then a smorgasbord of options enabling me to learn more and develop my tastes further.

This is how I ended up at The Great American Beer Festival this past weekend with my dear friend Joseph Hernandez, also known as Pith + Moment, thanks to the good folks at Let’s Grab a Beer.

This organization is seeking 1) to elevate the drinking of beer to something that’s not just associated with college undergraduates and 2) to help educate people on what actually constitutes a good beer, and how the heck you even make beer in the first place. (My words, not theirs.)

The Great American Beer Festival brings together 700+ brewers from all around the United States and more than 3,500 beers under one roof in Denver, Colorado; specifically, the Colorado Convention Center. It takes place over the course of 3 days and we arrived for the last day after all the awards had been handed out but long before the party was anywhere near over.

For the people watching alone, this is a dynamite place to hang out for three days. There are couples who dress in Bavarian style with full dirndl and lederhosen, men who dress in kilts and women who make skirts out of chip bags. A majority of people sport pretzel necklaces which can be so elaborate as to also include cheese, jerky, candy and mini waffles. But it’s the beer that made it worth flying across the country for.

After doing our best to sample as many beers as possible, pacing ourselves accordingly and talking one-on-one to many of the brewers – Joseph and I ended up with a list of favorites.

Here he is just after sampling what ended up being my favorite of the Festival: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Vanilla Rye. The look of sheer bliss on his face, was on mine as well. Dark and velvety with just the right amount of sweetness, it had a flavor I had never tasted in any other beer. In my life. We went back to the booth three times for more.

An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival

As for the rest, the things like the silent disco and the amazing Salted Caramel Pretzels from Snyder’s, it is probably better if I just show you rather than tell you.

An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival

My favorite Beers from the Festival:

  • The Bruery: 7 Swans a Swimming
  • Firestone Brewery: UDPA
  • Broken Compass: Chili Pepper Pale Ale
  • Green Flash: Plum, aged in red wine barrels
  • Three Weavers: Southbounder Coffee Stout
  • Drake’s: Hefeweizen
  • Finback (here in my home borough of Queens, NYC): I Feel the Universe
  • Sierra Nevada: Kellerweiss
  • Goose Island: Gillian Wild Ale, and Bourbon County Vanilla Rye
  • Avery Brewing Co: Lilikoi White Ale

And because spending an entire day drinking beer wasn’t stimulation enough, the next day before flying back to NYC, we headed to Infinite Monkey Theorem which is in the RiNo neighborhood of Denver so that we could meet with owner Ben Parsons, to take a tour and sample his wines and ciders.

They’re SO good. And Ben was a great, entertaining host full of knowledge about Colorado, the wine industry and the unusual challenge of being a true Urban Winery.

An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival
An Education in Denver: The Great American Beer Festival

Barely 24 hours later, on the plane back to NYC, I found myself wondering where in the world I could go next to learn even more about beer. Gone are the days when I simply pick up the first thing I am offered at a party or the first beer on a menu without thinking twice, now I know that IPA is not my favorite style but I love Stouts, Bitters, and lots of other styles that several years ago I didn’t even know existed.

…There’s so much more still to learn!

My trip to Denver was complimentary of Let’s Grab a Beer but I chose to work with them because I love beer and because I want to learn more. They are not compensating me for this post and all words and opinions are my own, written by me.