BeerAppreciation LLC participated in the two of the largest U.S. beer eventsScene at the beer fest this fall, the The Great American Beer Fest in Denver (granddaddy of all beer events, 25 years and going strong) and the newcomer Brewtopia event in Manhattan.
GABF was all you would expect, with reportedly over 40,000 attendees over four nights, hundreds of brewers and thousands of beers to sample. I participated on the brewer side thanks to the support of Manayunk Brewing and BeerAppreciation supporter Chris Firey. I had the pleasure of pouring tastes of Manayunk’s fine brews for hundreds of beer enthusiasts and others seeking different beers to drink, and hung out with the beer cognoscenti.
Pouring tastes at the beer festI also served as steward for the Alpha King beer tasting held at the Falling Rock Tap House, (the best beer bar west of the Mississippi besides Toronado in San Francisco). Sponsored by Hop Union, the Alpha King tasting crowned the hoppiest beer in America. Beer tasters, among them Philadelphia’s own “Home Sweet Homebrew” man George Hummel, evaluated 48 of America’s bitterest, most highly hopped beers.
The brewing community is a fraternity and of nice people, and brewers are proud of what they create. It was wonderful to see Philadelphia area brewers win a number of awards – Iron Hill, Mackenzie’s, Stewarts, Rock Bottom from King of Prussia, Bethlehem Brew Works and DogFish Head.
I was surprised, though, to find that the brewers were generally not at their booths on the GABF floor; volunteers did most of the sample-pouring. In some cases they were prepped by the brewers, in other cases they had little knowledge of the beer or brewery they fronted.
I also learned that the awards and tasting process can be a crap shoot. Assuming the beer is good, the difference between winning and losing depends on how the beer tasters feel at that moment. During the Alpha King tasting I witnessed a taster sniff his glass, throw his head back, wrinkle his face and say, “I taste cat urine,” while others reveled in the “fresh grapefruit.” Some tasters steadfastly ranked the sample based on how close the beer matched the definition of the style, regardless of whether they liked the beer.
The Great American Beer Fest is something special to be part of. The spectacle and the total focus on beer is a great experience for all beer fans. If you can hook-up with a brewery that can spare you a pass, you can hang-out at brewer-only events, and that’s worth it for sure. Thanks again, Chris! If you attended this event, please send me your comments.