Photos, recap: Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Colorado - Reverb

Hot Shots: Great American Beer Festival @ Colorado Convention Center

Some 49,000 drunks, brawlers, brewers and beer geeks descended upon Denver and its convention center for the 30th annual Great American Beer Festival this past weekend. As it has always been, the people-watching was almost as good as the carbonated beverages, with red-stripe-shirted Waldos intermingling with one-man Western Oktoberfests, pretzel necklaces substituting for Munich’s ubiquitous softer snack. They were all there for one thing, though, in varying consumptions and reverence: the beer. Here are a few you should beg, borrow or steal for:

The Short’s booth was a mob scene again (if not quite on par with the Disneyland-like lines at Dogfish Head, Cigar City and New Glarus), after last year’s buzz from its key lime pie brew and other experimental treats. Even better was this year’s carrot cake-flavored ale, a dead ringer for the dessert. Too bad we can’t get the Michigan brewery’s product in Colorado. Yet.

Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery brought a tasty, dark-as-night imperial stout from Williamsburg. It was balanced and not overly powerful on the palette despite weighing in at a defensive lineman-powerful 11.3% ABV. Another imperial—this time a red—from Pizza Port of Solana Beach, Calif. was equally well-done and named Shark Attack.

The Bucking Bock from Rahr & Sons of Ft. Worth, Tex. was indicative of GABF’s hardcore specificity: it’s a German-style spring bock and beats the pants off Texas’ most famous b-word beer from Shiner. Colorado Springs’ Bristol Brewery knocked it out of the park with its Cheyenne Cañon Piñon Nut Brown. They pick and roast their own piñon nuts which lend an unbridled smoothness to the ale. To boot, 100% of the profits from the beer benefit the hiking and biking trails in the Cañon.

The bigger guys brought some good stuff, too: Anchor’s Humming has been on the market for two years and, dare it be said, it might be tastier than its, ahem, anchor: Anchor Steam. Great Lakes Brewery of Cleveland produced a couple of favorites: it’s extremely popular Christmas Ale and the more Glockenspiel Weizenbock.

Buellton, Calif. is most widely associated with wine country, but the new Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company might make some strides to tip the scale. Its Hoppy Poppy IPA was subtler than its moniker implies, the bite not too fierce.

A media luncheon on Friday exhibited some tremendous talent. Pennsylvania’s McKenzie Brew House produces a fantastic saison—the Vautour—which could turn some amateurs on to the difficult style. Devil’s Backbone of Virginia showcased a dark, delicious Baltic porter, Danzig, so named after both the city and Misfits singer. Nebraska Brewing Company poured the Melange A Trois, which later took home a gold medal in the “Wood-and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer” category. Governor Hickenlooper spoke at the event, echoing his sentiment that Colorado is the “Napa Valley of beer.” And, once again, for at least three days, he was right on the money.

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Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer and merrymaker. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.

Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.