If you have never been, I highly recommend that you make the trip out to Denver at least once in your lifetime for the Great American Beer Festival. This year featured approximately 800 breweries at the festival pouring approximately 4,000 different beers. The great thing about GABF is that it limits pour sizes to 1oz per sample. This encourages the sampling of a wide variety of amazing beer brewed all over the United States. Most breweries bring out their flagship beers but many will also bring limited releases and experimental beers. Many were pouring a new style that was essentially just developed in 2018 – Brüt IPA. Brüt IPA is an extremely dry, very pale, highly carbonated ale with the expressive hop character you find in an IPA. Be on the lookout for one at BearWaters in the coming months! Aside from the competition itself, Denver does an amazing job of welcoming the craft beer community with open arms. There are a ton of great beer-related events that happen all week throughout the city.
The festival itself is a special thing – but happening at the same time is the world's largest commercial beer competition. This year's competition had 8,496 entries across 102 categories. I have had the great pleasure of helping to judge the competition the last few years and seeing all the magic that happens behind the scenes. This beast is an extremely well-oiled machine. 293 judges blindly evaluate entries over the course of 3 days in a variety of categories. Some of the categories I enjoyed this judging year were Juicy/Hazy Pale Ale, Coffee Stout/Porter, Wood & Barrel Aged Strong Beer, and Imperial India Pale Ale. The caliber of the people judging is second to none – I had the pleasure of judging with Jim Crooks (Head Brewer & Blender, Firestone Walker BarrelWorks), Neil Fisher (Owner/Head Brewer, Weldworks Brewing), Dan Carey (Brewmaster, New Glarus Brewing), and many other industry experts. The volunteers are really what make the competition work. There was just under 5,000 hours of volunteer time simply unpacking entries and getting them staged before the competition even began.
The highlight for the week was winning the gold medal in the American Fruited Sour Ales category which had 148 entries. This beer was inspired by the Catharina Sour style which has become very popular in Brazil over the past few years. It is a stronger version of the traditional German style Berliner Weisse that also incorporates a heavy addition of tropical fruit. I've always loved lighter sour ales that incorporate passionfruit, especially in the summer. This one has an addition of dragonfruit – something that looks exotic but has a mild flavor that helps to temper the intensity of passionfruit. The beer packs a punch of acidity but is incredibly refreshing. Rather than brewing a traditional “kettle sour”, this beer has a live culture of lactobacillus creating more depth than a typical kettle sour.
Larger sized batches of sours are now in the plans – we will let you know as soon as the Pink Passionfruit sour is on tap!