Confession: I kind of don’t love the Great American Beer Festival. I know! I am super lame. I should love being in a sea of the happiest, pretzel-bedazzled drunkards, with the world’s supply of craft beer at our finger tips. What can I say, I’m just more of an old fashioned, beer-on-a-patio kind of guy. So, when I grabbed my press pass, asked where to enter the Paired event, and heard it was all the way across the entire hall, well, I considered hanging myself with the lanyard.
But I do love that people love it. It’s an awesome event for the craft beer industry. And I’m a professional. So, I recovered, tightened my laces, traversed thousands of bodies and bagel bandoliers, and found expert CBB photographer Sean Wright. Success. From there, everything is a blur. Smartly, we took all of these photos to chart our journey and jog our memories — from some pre-GABF events to Paired to other randomness along the way.
Avery Brewing pre-party and news
Our first stop before the event was Tap 14, located on the rooftop of Hayter’s & Co., where Avery Brewing held a media-only event where we learned it is trying to focus more on higher-end products — beers that have a little more craft behind them to sell at a premium. Avery sees this as a growing market segment. Expect the price to be justified by the effort and quality. And as a special treat, to prove the point on quality high-end beers, Avery’s Andy Parker guided us through a tasting of five barrel-aged beers and talked through the process of creating each one. Parker is an expert in barrel-aging with more than 15 years of experience.
Avery was also busy at the GABF itself, with special barrel tappings of Rumpkin and Tweak at its booth. Rumpkin is a rum barrel-aged pumpkin ale with spices that clocks in at 16.9 percent ABV. Tweak is a Bourbon barrel-aged coffee stout at 16 percent ABV.
The GABF at rest
I submit for your approval the following rare photos of a completely empty GABF beer hall. People put a lot of work into the those stands to draw our eyes to their beers, so the least we can do is take a second and admire them before the oncoming hordes arrive. (Photog’s Note: Also a killer excuse to get in a few beers before the oncoming hordes arrive 😉
Paired is heaven on earth
Images may be worth a 1,000 words, but, sorry to say for the following section, they don’t give you any ability to taste. Yes, nothing gets the juices flowing quite like the ultimate food and beer pairing event at the Great American Beer Fest — Paired — which we were lucky enough to attend this year. Here’s the anecdote that sums up the power of this event the most [Editor’s note: I’ve censored the names to protect the innocent]: There was a bite of [food] that we had that was perfectly fine, but maybe unmemorable on its own. The same could be said for the [beer] that washed it down. But honestly, when you paired them together and assessed the taste as one experience, it made for one of the most memorable flavors of the entire trip. Paired!
The awards ceremony
We already posted the awards news (read it here), as well as LIVE TWEETED all of the gold medal winners — what was I thinking? Here are a few shots we took of the ceremony, which is always the most fun time at GABF. We were lucky to be surrounded by some winning teams this year, and it’s so cool to see the genuine excitement when their name is called. Cheers to all of the winners.
Cool stuff we saw
Twin Monkeys Beverage Systems is a canning supplier you may not be familiar with (we weren’t), but they have an interesting solution for can seaming. Instead of two arms coming in to apply pressure on the sides, the sides of the seamer are already in tight enough to provide high-leverage along the top to force the perfect seal. There is less margin for misfires and mess-ups this way, and you’re going to gain a fraction of a second quickness on each can too. Solutions for every size of craft brewer.
Below, take a gander at the lineup of DrinkTanks now available. We met and chatted with this group last year, learning about its really cool growler dispensing technology. This year, those same growlers were accompanied by 16- and 12-ounce cups that use the same temperature holding technology and add in a slick ergonomic design. They also alluded to some other product news they weren’t at liberty to discuss but should be coming soon.
We stopped by the Dickies booth to check out its new slim-fit ventilated work shirt and to play quarters to try and win a free one. Two things: 1) Quarter bouncing is by far our worst drinking game skill. 2) This was our last stop of the event, and we forgot to take a photo because we were ready to bust out of the horde and go sip some patio beers. So, we are reusing this old photo. What can I say? This is the GABF. See ya next year!