Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GABF 2007: The Day Before

See the day in pictures...

Here in Denver, the night before the 2007 GABF, and all I can think is "WOW". The day started off simple enough, getting my bearings on a city I don't know and then going to the airport with my uncle to pick up my step dad. I just have this to say about that - Denver International is huge!

From the aiport we drove to Fort Collins for our private tour of New Belgium Brewing Co. There I met a lifelong friend, her newborn son and her father-in-law as we all had an extensive tour of the NB facility. Along the way we chatted about their sustainability practices and sampled their beers, even the ones not on the menu. We also got to see their "barrels" used to age La Follie and Le Terroir, barrels like I'd never seen before. Hell, we even got a few samples from these larger-than-life barrels, and I must say that in itself was an incredible thing. In all, I'd say that Sierra Nevada is doing more for sustainability, but NB is certainly doing all they can... Great place.

From NB we all headed down the street to another Ft Collins brewery, Coopersmith. If ever you're in the area, you need to find this place, they simply serve wonderful beer. I had a Kriek here that was wonderful, dry and clean finish with a fantastic tartness up front. They also were pouring an English Bitter that was wonderful in every way, served proper of course. Their chile beer was astounding, with wallop of fresh peppers in the aroma and a mild heat - this was right up there with the Great Basin Jalepeno beer I had at the California Brewers Festival.

While at Coopersmith we got a chance to sit with the head brewer, Dwight Hall, who told us the story of the place and described a bit of the process they use to create the beers we were enjoying. They opened in 1989, a few years before New Belgium, and have enjoyed a great relationship with the locals ever since. They do small batch brewing, using a 10 barrel system, and still do the brewing the hard way - by hand, with much sweat and frustration put into the great beers you'll find there. Dwight mentioned the Kriek I loved so much was fermented with only the organisms found in the oak barrel that once housed wine from Napa Valley. He'd keep the beer in the barrel for 18 months, allowing it to fully mature before releasing it. Dwight (pictured) rations the beer a bit so you have a good chance of finding it year round, you just won't be getting any to go.

Leaving Fort Collins we all headed to Twisted Pine Brewery in Boulder, just 30 minutes south. Twisted Pine is a production facility with a tasting room and the only food you'll find is the peanuts they give you when you order your beer. Here, they had just put on their Bourbon Barrel Red, a beer aged in Buffalo Trace barrels for a year and a half. Wow. The beer was full of wonderful oak and bourbon flavors and aromas, a delight to drink. Sitting outside there, we were surrounded by the locals, those folks just getting off work and finding their way to their favorite watering hole - it was great to see. The brewers too were enjoying the nice weather, gathered together for a few pints of their own after a long work day with the constant interuptions by folks in town for the fest.

We had just one more stop to make the day before GABF, Falling Rock Taphouse in downtown Denver. If you've never been to Falling Rock, find a way to do so. We met people from around the world, in town for the GABF, who were all too eager to enjoy the fine beers poured at Falling Rock. In attendance this night were brewers and publicans from around the country, those we all know and respect. The festivities ramped up when Hildegard, of Belgium's Urthel brewery, walked up in somewhat of a rock star fashion, with people asking for pictures and gushing about their love of her beers and her status as a female brewer. It was good to see her again, last time she was out PBN helped organize an Urthel night in the Sacramento area, and tonight again would be her night.

Hildegard was here to put on a very special beer, at treat for the GABF - the Samaranth aged in oak. What a treat, for those fortunate enough to get a glass, a wonderful Beligan Quad with more than a hint of oak in the flavor. They went through the first of two kegs in about 9 minutes I'd guess, and the other keg wasn't going to last long either.

Yes, it was a good way to usher in the 2007 GABF. In about an hour we'll pack into the car again and make another trip to Boulder, but this time to check out the famed Redstone Meadery. Our tour is slated for 11AM, then it is time for all things beer.

Step-dad and Uncle in New Belgium
New Belgium Barrels
Dwight at Coopersmith
Inside Falling Rock

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