GABF 2019: Brewers and owners share what they love about the fest

The New Mexico Brewers Guild booth at GABF was busy all night for executive director Leah Black, center, and board member Jess Griego, left, of Bosque.

After getting the chance to see the original Sierra Nevada brewhouse and meet founder Ken Grossman (more on that next week), I took the time before the opening session of the Great American Beer Festival began on Thursday night to try and track down New Mexico brewers and brewery owners for a quick quote.

The operative word there was tried, because most of them were wandering around, too, instead of being at their booths, awaiting the massive influx of humanity that was about to pour into the Colorado Convention Center. For those who I did manage to find, I asked them one simple question: What does the Great American Beer Festival mean to you, and what does it mean to your brewery?

Here are a few of their responses, plus photos from the wild first night.

Brewmaster Dave Chichura was back there somewhere at the Ex Novo booth.

Jason Kirkman, co-owner/master brewer and distiller, Tumbleroot: “It’s just a fun event. I think, twofold, one, it’s fun to introduce our stuff to people in Denver and make a connection between them and Santa Fe, and hopefully invite them to come to our place. It’s also a chance to hang out with all the other New Mexico brewers, even though we have to leave the state to do it. And then, it’s always good to get some inspiration from other breweries around the country.”

Rob Whitlock, head brewer, Starr Brothers: “It just means a good time, it means beer, the beer culture getting together. We’re part of that culture, part of that scene. This is the whole country, we all have fun, we all share. And, if we’re lucky, we walk away with some medals. If we’re lucky.”

Dave Chichura, brewmaster, Ex Novo: “I always like it because, first off, you get a chance to have interaction with people who are drinking your beers. You get immediate reactions. I love the social aspect of it. I’ve been doing this a long time. I get to see people I’ve met the 20-odd years I’ve been in the brewing business. I didn’t go in the past year. This is my first time seeing it with the entire convention center, which is pretty remarkable. It’s fun, it’s a damn good time getting to see old friends, and a lot of good industry camaraderie.

“What it means for Ex Novo, for us this is our premier being here from our Corrales location. We get to make an impression on people who may not have heard of us, or may have just heard of us from the Portland brewery. They get a chance to try beers from both locations and get a little bit better idea of who we are.”

Second Street and Sierra Blanca are side-by-side as GABF went back to having breweries grouped geographically this year.

I would have tried to talk to more people, but by the time I found Dave, the noise from the crowd was getting so loud that it almost drowned him out. At that point, I said to heck with it and marched off to find friends and try some beers. There were many, many stouts, including Double Barreled Maple Stout from Avery (with a special single tapping of Triple Barreled straight from a barrel), Maple Oligarch from Breakside, and plenty of other good ones that did not have maple in them.

Today (Friday) will see several of us skip out of the session early to see Amon Amarth, At the Gates, and Arch Enemy perform down the road at the Fillmore. Saturday we will all be up bright and early for the awards ceremony at 10 a.m. Look for a quick recap of the results Saturday afternoon, with quotes from brewers being added as I hopefully have better luck tracking them down.

Remember when Franz Solo and Red Door created this recipe? They have it at the booth and it’s entered into the competition!

Also, thank the elder gods that Lyft has a half-off discount on my account through the weekend. Better safe and broke than rich and in trouble.


— Stoutmeister

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