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Monday, October 02, 2006

GABF After Thoughts


The 25th annual Great American Beer Festival is history and I've had a little time to consider the Lyke2Drink experience in Denver and have a few thoughts to share with the Brewers Association, brewers attending the event and beer fans thinking of going to next year's event. In no particular order....

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Mark Oct. 11-13, 2007, on your calendar for the 26th GABF.

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The Pro-Am Competition, which featured 36 winning recipes of homebrewers commercially produced by breweries around the country and then entered into a category for medal consideration was a stroke of genius. The gold medal beer, a Baltic Porter from American Homebrewers Association member Tom Nolan, was brewed by Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, N.C. There were a number of interesting styles from the homebrewers and it was the ultimate chance for the little guy to compete on the big stage.

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Something needs to be done by the Brewers Association to fix the Saturday night session. It's rowdy, with too many people who have obviously had a few too many before the gates even open. Many of the brewery stands completely run out of beer early in the session. Security has evaporated. Most of the media and many of the brewers in Denver do not go to the Saturday evening session. After several days of good beer, it's too easy to treat the session as a throw away, but there are people spending good money trying to taste good beer. If this is their only GABF experience, it is a bad one. The mood of the crowd was such on Saturday night that it could have turned ugly pretty fast. The GABF is a great event and it needs to respect itself from start to finish. If the Brewers Association is OK with Saturday attracting a crowd that is more interested in partying than in the beer, it should turn the awards area into a concert stage and bring in some bands, shut down most of the beer stands (many were closed by 8 p.m. anyway) and sell beer from a couple of large bars.

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If you live in California (39 medals), Colorado (28), Wisconsin (18), Oregon (14) or Illinois (12) you have a ton of great beer being made by local breweries. In all brewers from 35 different states took home a total of 203 medals handed out in 69 categories..

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The Brewers Association put on a great competition. In all, 104 judges from 9 countries tasted 2,402 different beers from 450 breweries. Only 8.45 percent of the beers entered ended up with a gold, silver or bronze, making it a tough award to earn.

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Brewers in Fort Collins and Boulder did sponsor media tours and tried to attract some of the tourists in Colorado for the GABF. This is a good idea. Access and promotion of these tours should be increased for day time activities on Thursday and Friday.

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As a drinks journalist, I'm lucky enough to get access to brewers and leading figures in the industry. I'm not sure that is the case for the average GABF attendee, unless they happen to be at the Boston Beer booth when Jim Koch shows up to pour some Samuel Adams. The GABF sessions sell out each evening closing out some beer fans and others in town for the event just don't want to walk the floor each night. The GABF could work in concert with the brewery restaurants in town -- Wynkoop, Breckenridge, Denver Chophouse, Rock Bottom, Flying Dog, SandLot, Bull & Bush and others -- and easily do a series of meet the brewer dinners. They could host a round on Wednesday night before the festival kicks off and perhaps one other night during the festival -- Saturday? -- so that the average beer fan could meet the people behind the beer and taste food and beer pairings. This dinner series might even attract locals who would never buy a GABF ticket. A portion of the proceeds could go to support a cause like the Denver Food Bank. I'm certain tickets would be in great demand.

1 comment:

Tedo said...

Rick,
I went to my first GABF this year and had a wonderful time. I love your recommendation for the local Brew pubs to host the Meet the Brewer Dinners, I think that would be a GREAT money maker for the restaurants and an awesome exeperience for the people. Hopefully its something that can get implemented.