The Great American Beer Festival returns this Thursday through Saturday at the Denver Convention Center, and once again New Mexico breweries will be well represented. This year the Crew is dispatching yours truly, plus Franz Solo, via the magic of press passes (Luke will also be there, but as a civilian, and we just want him to focus on having fun and not worry about work). We will be on hand for the sessions on Thursday and Friday nights, plus Saturday afternoon, and the awards ceremony before that.
For those who have never been, GABF is a massive event. It takes over a convention center several times the size of ours here in Albuquerque. In fact, the total space for the festival is equivalent to seven football fields. Breweries from around the United States will be on hand, some represented at hundreds of booths, others are just on hand for the competition.
There will be 12 New Mexico breweries represented, plus Marble gets a second booth this year (ah, the benefits of having two small brewer licenses between downtown and the Heights location). The majority (Bathtub Row, Bosque, Boxing Bear, La Cumbre, both Marble, Santa Fe, Sierra Blanca, Starr Brothers) are in the Southwest region, grouped with breweries from Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. Dialogue Brewing will be in the Meet the Brewer area, while Blue Corn, Canteen, and Quarter Celtic will be in the Brewpub Pavilion. The New Mexico Brewers Guild will also have a booth along with the other state guilds, pouring beers from breweries without their own booths.
A lot of this probably does not mean much to many of you, who did not get (or even try to get) tickets to the event. For most folks back home, us going up and talking about what a great time we are having is almost a little callous. Our main goal with this event is to provide coverage of the awards ceremony, while also letting everyone in Denver know about the greatness of our breweries (more tourists can be a good thing), and of course trying lots of new beers that you can either seek out on your next vacation or via distribution.
Speaking of the awards ceremony, this year we have been privy to the competition beer lists for most of our local breweries. The awards ceremony happens Saturday at 10 a.m., and will be broadcast live over the internet. You can go to the GABF website that morning and find the link, but be forewarned, it is a notoriously fickle broadcast. We will have live updates via all three of our main social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). We also hope to have some live FB videos from the event. Since there are two of us, it should go a little smoother than last year. (Sorry again about the shaky cam motion sickness, Lonnie.)
Here are the competition lists we were sent from the Guild or directly from some breweries. Some may be incomplete, or are missing a key bit of info (name of beer, or which category that beer is being judged in). We are listing them by awards category, so you know which ones to pay attention to and which ones to run over and refill your coffee mug.
- 4 Fruit Wheat Beer: Bosque Elephants on Parade, Sierra Blanca Cherry Wheat
- 8 Chili Beer: Sierra Blanca Green Chile Cerveza
- 9 Herb and Spice Beer: Blue Corn Ginger Braggot, Chama River Haru, Red Door Vanilla Cream Ale
- 11 Coffee Beer: Blue Corn Apparition Pale Coffee Ale, Rio Bravo Pinon Coffee Porter
- 15 Honey Beer: Nexus Honey Chamomile Wheat, Turtle Mountain Pour les Abeilles
- 17 Session IPA: Boxing Bear Featherweight
- 18a Other Strong Beer: Marble Double White, Nexus Imperial Cream Ale
- 19a Experimental Beer: La Cumbre Hibiscus Quercus
- 20 Fresh or Wet Hop Ale: Bosque Acequia IPA, Quarter Celtic Clark
- 23 Belgo American Pale Ale: Second Street Diablo Canyon
- 24 American-Style Sour Ale: Ponderosa Sour Belgian Brown
- 26 Brett Beer: Flix Brewhouse Eater of Worlds
- 28b Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer: La Cumbre Ryeot on Bourbon,
- 29 Wood Aged Strong Beer: Bow & Arrow Cosmic Arrow Brett Saison, Chama River Natalia Polnoch’
- 34b Zwicklebier: Marble Pilsner, Rio Bravo La Luz Light Lager
- 36a American-Style Pilsner: Canteen Laid Back Lager
- 36b International-Style Pilsner: La Cumbre BEER, Quarter Celtic Pedro O’Flannigan’s
- 40b American Amber Lager – California Common: Second Street Rod’s Steam Bitter,
- 41 German-Style Pilsner: Bow & Arrow Jemez Field Notes, Santa Fe Freestyle Pilsner, Sierra Blanca Desert Pilsner
- 42 Bohemian Pilsner: Boxing Bear Body Czech Bo Pils, Canteen High Plains Pils, Dialogue Bo Pils, Sidetrack Pilsner
- 47a Munich-Style Dunkel: Marble Dupy’s Dunkel
- 49b German-Style Bock: Marble Maibock
- 50a Doppelbock: Flix Brewhouse Now and Later, Nexus Doppelspock, Turtle Mountain SCH
- 52 Blonde Ale: Starr Brothers L.A. Woman
- 53 German-Style Kolsch: Canteen Kolsch, Chama River Kolsch, Steel Bender Lloyd’s 3 O’Clock Kolsch
- 56 English-Style IPA: Santa Fe Happy Camper IPA
- 58 American-Style Pale Ale: Marble Pale Ale
- 59 American Strong Pale Ale: Second Street 2920 IPA, Santa Fe 7K IPA
- 60 American-Style IPA: Starr Brothers Starrstruck, La Cumbre Project Dank
- 61 Imperial IPA: Second Street Imperial IPA, Canteen Astro Hound
- 62 American-Style Amber/Red Ale: Red Door Roamer Red
- 63 Double Red Ale: Steel Bender Red Iron Red, Boxing Bear The Red Glove, Bosque IRA, Starr Brothers Red Zepplin
- 64 Imperial Red: Marble Imperial Red
- 66b Special Bitter: Sidetrack Pub Ale
- 67a American-Style Extra Special Bitter: Rio Bravo Amber
- 67b Extra Special Bitter: Steel Bender Sparkfitter Amber
- 69 Irish-Style Red Ale: Sidetrack Railhead Red, Quarter Celtic Crimson Lass
- 70 English-Style Brown Ale: Sierra Blanca Bone Chiller, Santa Fe Nut Brown
- 71 American-Style Brown Ale: Blue Corn End of the Trail Brown Ale, Ponderosa Bellamah Brown
- 72 American-Style Black Ale: Bosque Fifth Value, Quarter Celtic Bruce
- 73 Berliner Weisse: Bow & Arrow Way Out West Sour, Dialogue Berliner Weisse
- 74b Contemporary Gose: Marble Passionate Gose, Rio Bravo Peach Gose
- 79 Witbier: Flix Brewhouse Luna Rosa, Red Door Trapdoor White Ale
- 80 Classic Saison: Bow & Arrow Sun Dagger
- 85 Belgian Tripel: Flix Brewhouse Tripel Whammy
- 86a Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale: Ponderosa Preacher’s Daughter
- 89 Robust Porter: Starr Brothers Lampshade Porter
- 90 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout: Steel Bender Blue Bullet Stout
- 92 American-Style Stout: Marble Cholo Stout
- 93 Sweet or Cream Stout: Boxing Bear Chocolate Milk Stout, Red Door Paint it Black Milk Stout
- 94 Oatmeal Stout: Blue Corn Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout, Sidetrack Dark Engine Stout
- 96a Scottish Ale: Nexus Scotch Ale
The American-Style IPA category is always announced last, due to the fact it is the biggest (270-plus entries last year). And, yes, Chama River was still able to enter beers even though it technically no longer exists. Not sure how that works, but it does.
Among the beers with mystery categories, there is Dialogue’s Biere de Mars and Sour Raz, Rowley Farmhouse Ales’ Saison du Sarlacc, and Turtle Mountain’s Hard Bock Life. We can probably guess the categories, but for now we will just list them as unknown. We also know that Spotted Dog has beers in categories 57a (Australian or International-Style Pale Ale), 80 (Classic Saison), and 93 (Sweet Stout or Cream Stout), just not the name of any of those beers.
If any other New Mexico breweries have beers entered, we will find out one way or the other.
How well have our breweries done in the past? Well, Boxing Bear was the Mid-Size Brew Pub of the Year in 2016 and Marble Brewery was the Small Brewery of the Year in 2014. Canteen/Il Vicino has won 12 medals since 1995, Marble has won nine medals since 2011, and Chama River will try to add one or more to its total of eight since 2002. New Mexico has routinely ranked in the top percentage of medals in relation to state population and number of breweries.
If any of you are headed up and spot us amid the crowd (it can happen, just ask Michael Waddy from Kaktus), come over and say hello. We will always be more than willing to share what great beers we have found in our wanderings.
Some final tips if you are going.
- Download the GABF app for your phone if you have not already. Tag the breweries you want to visit, and they will show up on your map. This is invaluable.
- Keep an eye out for timed releases. Many of your favorite breweries will have small runs of some of their most exclusive beers. They will likely be announced on social media, so make sure you follow your favorites.
- Hydrate! There are water stations everywhere. They are not just for washing out your glasses. Yes, it might send you to the bathroom faster than you want, but unless you are a human camel, you will have to go sooner or later.
- Do not drive downtown. This is not just a safety issue, it is to spare you from the chaos of thousands of pedestrians in different states of inebriation, Uber/Lyft drivers, hundreds of taxis, one-way streets, and a whole lotta police. Leave the car at your hotel/friend’s house/Air BnB, wherever you are staying. Oh, and the cost of parking in downtown Denver goes through the roof during GABF, if you can even find a spot.
- Check the main website for all the off-site events, and do a quick Google search for others. This could be especially relevant if you are not attending all the sessions, or you need something to do during the day besides wander aimlessly around downtown. Some of these are as fun as GABF itself, some might be even more fun if you are into certain beer styles that are represented at their own events.
- There are too many good food options to possibly list here in Denver, but a few of our favorites include Jelly for brunch/breakfast, and then Rhein Haus, Freshcraft, Wynkoop, Rock Bottom (for a chain, they’re quality), and Breck on Blake (great guest beer menu) for lunch/dinner. There are plenty of food options within the convention center as well, so please do not attempt to get through a session on little or nothing but beer in your belly. It will not end well.
- Breweries within spitting distance of downtown include some of our favorites, like Prost, TRVE, Great Divide, Our Mutual Friend, Ratio, and Spangalang, plus Crooked Stave if you love sours. Also, Bierstadt Lagerhaus, which is up by Crooked Stave, comes with the seal of approval of La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway. In fact, we fear that if we did not recommend you go there, Jeff would probably disown us and abandon us somewhere in the wilderness.
OK, that is all from us for now. If you have any questions at any point this weekend, whether you are going to be in Denver or are staying home, do not hesitate to contact us via the usual ways.