GABF 2011 – Final Thoughts and Photos

October 4th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Events, Washington Breweries

Black Raven just before doors open for GABF on Thursday.

I’m sure some of you are a bit tired of hearing about GABF, but it has been hard to think about much else for the past couple of weeks. I returned to the fest for the first time since 2008 this year, and what a great weekend it was. You can find the rest of my photos here on Flickr.

  • A huge congrats goes out to Will Kemper, Kevin Davey, and the rest of the team at Chuckanut for taking home four medals and the Small Brewing Company of the Year award. Count me on the list of people who rarely pass up a pint of their beer when I find it on tap. They are making world-class lagers and are earning the Northwest brewing scene some much-deserved love on a national stage these days. It’s also worth noting that what are probably my two favorite beers from them, their Pilsner and their Rauchbier (not sure this one was entered), didn’t earn medals.
  • Two of my favorite breweries at the fest were Brugge Brasserie from my home state of Indiana, and Destihl from Illinois. Both had some outstanding sour beers and are a testament to what is going on in the Midwest beer scene. Brugge Brasserie won a bronze medal in the American-Style Brett Ale category for one of the best-named beers of the festival, Super Kitty Fantastico. I’ve now got Indianapolis marked down as a must-hit destination for the day I ever head back to my alma mater of Purdue in West Lafayette for a football game. Sun King Brewing, also from Indy, cleaned up with an amazing 8 medals. Somehow, I never made it to their table at the fest. Shame on me. One of my good friend’s brothers also recently opened a nano called Bier Brewery in Indy that I’d love to check out as well.
  • We took a van (with a hired driver) up to Ft. Collins and Boulder to hit breweries on Friday, and that was one of the highlights of the trip for

    Bradley from Big Time sliding at New Belgium Brewing.

    me. In Fort Collins, New Belgium is a must-hit for any beer drinker and Odell had some amazing beers and was a great place to chill. In the Boulder area, the Oskar Blues Tasty Weasel Tap Room Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids & Solids location has one of the best patios of any brewery I’ve been to, and an amazing lineup of house beers and guest taps. Avery Brewing was our last stop, where hanging out in their barrel room surrounded by amazing beer was enough to make my friend Dean want to make out with a barrel.

  • The beer scene in Colorado continues to get better and better. In Denver, Freshcraft has become a favorite of mine on my last two trips, and there are a bunch of new breweries and taphouses we just didn’t have time to hit. Same goes for both Fort Collins and Boulder. I would love to go explore more.
  • Special congrats to Naked City Brewery & Taphouse for winning a gold medal at the Lallemand Brain of Brewers 2011 competition for their Podunk IPA. The awards ceremony for this competition was held at the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver over GABF weekend, and the Don’s from Naked City earned themselves a very nice cash prize for the win. They just tapped a fresh keg of this at the taphouse yesterday if you’d like to try it.
  • I’ve read a couple reviews of this year’s GABF from other writers that were highly negative regarding things like lack of brewer attendance, crazy/rowdy crowds, sample sizes being too small, and other general grumpy complaints, even someone who said they weren’t very impressed by the overall quality of beers (I feel sorry for them). I really could not disagree more. We attended the festival on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, and I thought it was all pretty fantastic again this year. Crowds at the sessions we attended were very manageable and overall respectable and interested in the beer; it was not just a big party for locals. If you think that was a problem, I’m guessing you went to the Friday or Saturday night sessions and those rowdier crowds shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at those sessions. I thought there were plenty of brewers around as far as I noticed. At least for myself, I don’t care to talk to every single brewer at every booth. I’m there for the beer, and having the brewers there encourages longer lines because people would want to stay and chat instead of moving out of the way. Many brewers are indeed around, but just not behind their booths. GABF is part business trip and part vacation for them and their staffs very often. I think they’ve earned the right to actually enjoy the fest if they want to.
  • As always, this GABF trip was a chance for me to meet up with a bunch of my friends from high school/college. A group of my Seattle friends joined this time as well. It’s really a great reason to meet up, and working in the trip to Boulder/Ft. Collins along with the fest was perfect. There is definitely a lot more to do than just the festival, but not nearly enough time to do it.

Skip Madsen of American Brewing.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • elvis

    nice. i hit freshcraft in Denver and enjoyed it a ton as well. And I think everything Odells does it outstanding, including their 90 schilling and IPA.

  • mr. howard

    nice piece geoff!

  • Matt

    Indianapolis is rocking it. I just moved back about 6 months ago. Brugge has at least one sour on tap at all times. Sun King is cranking out some great beers. Their barleywine is one of the best I have had. And Bier week after week puts out some great beers and their people are great. If you ever make it back to Indy hit me up I will meet you for a beer.

  • flop

    This was my first year at GABF and I couldn’t agree with you more on your assessment. With 10,000+ people for each event, I expected huge lines and obnoxious people. With the exception of a dozen breweries (and the guys’ restroom), there were hardly any lines and plenty of room to get away from the masses if you needed to. The number of drunken frat boys/douches were slim-to-none.

    As for the brewers, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of brewers who WERE there. Sam Calagione pouring at his booth. Vinny from Russian River working the crowd. Dick Cantwell signing books. Beaux Bowman, Don Spencer, Drew Cluley, etc. etc. Plenty of stars for the fan boys, but a TON of good beer to be had for the rest of us. Yeah, there were some stinkers, but you’re bound to get that at any festival.

    For me, though not part of the official GABF programming, the overall highlight was the Rare Beer Tasting on Friday afternoon.

    Overall, a fantastic time was had.

  • Nathan Levi

    Thanks for coming out to GABF! Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids & Solids has the patio & guest taps. Tasty Weasel is the tasting room at the production brewery about 4 blocks away. Hope to see you again next year.

  • Kaiser

    Nathan – thanks for the correction. I blame my friend Walt for misleading us on the name.

    Under any name, though, awesome place.

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