LIVE BLOG: The Growler at the Great American Beer Fest

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Updated: September 27, 9:30 a.m., from a Nameless Corporate Coffee Shop on a Sunny Street in Downtown Denver

A total of 275 professional medals were awarded yesterday to 242 different breweries, and since seven of those medals went to Minnesota breweries, we tracked down Phil Platt, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, to see what tasters were sampling at his booth. Over the course of the weekend, he poured sips of Indeed Brewing Company’s Dandy Lager, Bauhaus Brew Labs’ Wonderstuff, and Surly Brewing Co.’s Todd the Axe Man, a crowd favorite. He also mentioned that he’d recently heard about a new project in development back in Minnesota — something similar to a CSA box, only for craft beer. Though he wouldn’t name names, he hopes to see it succeed.

Later in the evening, after side-stepping spilled pale ale and dodging more than a few puddles on two feet, we chatted with Matt Hauck and Niko Tonks of Fair State Brewing Cooperative. They’d run out of Läctobäc at their booth, but we tasted their hopped-up Pahlay’Ahlay and Cromulence, a sour wheat beer with lemon and orange zest. While in town for GABF, the guys enjoyed touring the Coors brewery and were especially excited to have visited TRVE Brewing, which is known as “Denver’s True Heavy Metal Brewery.” Once they get back to Minnesota, they’ve got two barrels of sour ale to get ready for tapping on October 9.

We closed out the night with a brew at the GABF’s official after party at the Falling Rock Tap House, where roughly every single person in the state of Colorado showed up to stand completely still forever between the sidewalk and the bar. We’d heard a rumor they had Russian River’s Pliny the Elder on tap earlier this week, but by the time we showed up the crowd had drained it all. We settled instead for Firestone Walker PNC, greasy late-night pizza at the Mellow Mushroom and a long walk through downtown. This morning, we’re packing bags and saying adios to Denver with a bottle of Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company’s Schwartz Bier, a German-style black lager.

Thanks for joining us at GABF. Until next time!


The Growler caught up with Surly Brewing Co.'s Head Brewer Todd Haug at the GABF. Photo by Aaron Davidson

The Growler caught up with Surly Brewing Co.’s Head Brewer Todd Haug at the GABF // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Updated: September 26, 5:00 p.m., from The Great American Beer Festival at the Colorado Convention Center

One of the longest lines we’ve seen so far at GABF was for 3 Floyds Brewing Co. out of Indiana. All throughout Friday night’s event, their queue snaked a good 40 people deep, all of them waiting to try brews like Battle Priest, Permanent Funeral, Wigsplitter and Zombie Dust. In front of all those thirsty beer dabblers, however, was a familiar face. Behind the fold-out table — its black tablecloth soaked with spilled beer — Surly Brewing Co.’s Head Brewer Todd Haug was in conversation with a few of his pals, and we made our way over to say hey.

Despite being tired from travel, a sleepless night spent listening to records in his hotel, and his work back home in Minnesota to prepare for today’s SurlyFest, Haug had a sample cup in hand and was working his way around the event to try a few beers.

“I don’t like drinking from a little plastic cup,” he said. “When I have a beer, I like to have a beer. I like to get to know it.”

Still, he listed a few breweries he was looking forward to trying. Among them were Devil’s Backbone, Bagby and Societe.

“There are over 4,000 beers here and so many I haven’t heard of,” Haug continued. “How do I know a beer isn’t good just because I haven’t heard of it?”

Wise words from a guy who knows a thing or two about beer. Cheers!


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Updated: September 26, 12:30 p.m., from The Great American Beer Festival Awards Ceremony at the Bellco Theatre

While munching on complimentary breakfast burritos outside the Bellco Theatre, we ran into the gangs from Insight Brewing and Fulton Beer. With five beers entered into the competition, including Sunken City, Hell Chicken and Devil’s Companion, the Insight team was eager to get inside the auditorium and learn if they’d take home any hardware.

Fulton Beer’s Ryan Petz stopped to chat for a moment before the ceremony began, mentioning he’d just been to the Denver Beer Company’s taproom for their 2015 Collaboration Celebration. For the event, the Fulton team worked with the Denver Beer Company to create Hoppy Sake Ale, a 5.9% ABV offering.

As for the GABF awards, Fulton is taking home the bronze for their Lonely Blonde, which was among 38 total entries in the English-Style Summer Ale Category.

It’s a lively atmosphere here, not unlike a sporting event in terms of conversation and enthusiasm. Beer names like Rock Out with Maibock Out (Hailstorm Brewing, Illinois) are getting laughs, and with 92 categories to get through, the program —much like the festival-goers — keeps chugging.

Here’s how a few more Minnesota breweries have fared on the national stage today:

  • Mankato Brewery won the silver medal in the Pumpkin Beer category for their Pumpkin Grinder. Interestingly, this category had no gold-medal winner. It’s the only medal that wasn’t awarded this year.
  • Steel Toe Brewing was awarded the silver medal for their Size 4 in the Session IPA category, which featured a huge 161 entries.
  • August Schell Brewing Company won Bronze in the Vienna-Style Lager category for Firebrick, placing among 46 total entries.
  • Fitger’s Brewhouse took silver in the German-Style Doppelbock category for their Procrastinator Doppelbock. This was a smaller field, with 26 total entries.
  • Bemidji Brewing Company’s Double Porter grabbed the silver in the Baltic-Style Porter category.
  • Bent Paddle Brewing Company won the silver medal in the Extra Special Bitter category for 14º ESB, placing among 67 total entries.
  • Fulton won bronze for Lonely Blonde, which was among 38 total entries in the English-Style Summer Ale Category.



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Updated: September 25, 10:00 p.m., from The Great American Beer Festival at the Colorado Convention Center

The Colorado Convention Center covers about six square blocks and feels like it covers six or seven more. It might be theoretically possible to walk from one end of the building’s interior to the other in roughly ten minutes, but to achieve that you’d have to remove all the tables, velvet-rope mazes and colorful Margaritaville-style displays from 750+ breweries, not to mention herding out 60,000 craft-beer lovers with their pretzel necklaces and sample-cup koozies.

The food’s your standard convention-center fare, with hot dogs, super nachos and stiff pepperoni pizza filling up the food pyramid.

And the noise. You can’t hear a thing over the constant buzz of conversation — not your friends, not the friendly brewer talking about his favorite strain of wild yeast, and certainly not your phone (if it actually could pick up a signal). Your sore feet, ringing ears and confused palate all combine to form an assault on the senses.

But honestly, none of that matters because there is so much beer; you’ve never heard of all of these breweries. 5 Rabbit Cerveceria out of Chicago? They don’t have a line, so give ’em a try! As for the breweries you have heard of, well, they’re pouring samples of everything from flagship IPAs to one-off sour collabs and barrel-aged rarities you’ve only read about in the beer-geek forums. You can’t turn around without seeing something new, and who can refuse a freebie?

So grab a two-ounce pour of Destihl’s Lynnbrook Raspberry Berliner Weiss and a slice of that pepperoni, then settle in for some entertainment. Up on the Karaoke Stage, there’s a parade of happy beer drinkers dressed in their strangest costumes, all competing for a big shiny trophy and, like, two seconds of your attention.

Native Roots Dispensary, Denver, Colorado // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Updated: September 25, 5:00 p.m., from The Hotel Curtis

After that four-course meal and a second helping of dessert — a Butterscotch Budino with peach jam and coconut granola — Chief Economist of the Brewers Association Bart Watson, Ph.D., highlighted some milestones recently achieved by the U.S. Craft Beer industry.

  • 20 million barrels of craft beer were produced in 2014, accounting for 11 percent of the total beer market. That total could reach 25 million barrels this year.
  • Just this week, brewery number 4,000 opened in the U.S. This is the largest number of operating breweries since 4,131 were open 1873, and that number is likely to be topped this year.
  • 75 percent of people over the age of 21 in the United States live within 10 miles of a brewery.

In short, people now have easy access to fresher, more flavorful beer, and many have a serious interest in the ingredients used to make it. During the Q&A, one media member referenced a cannabis-infused beer available at this year’s GABF: “Does craft beer pair with cannabis?”

While this question drew more than a few laughs from around the room, the subject of legalized/recreational marijuana is certainly on the mind of those who’ve traveled to Colorado for this year’s event. With more than a dozen dispensaries in Denver’s downtown area and a few hours to kill before tonight’s GABF events, visitors seemed eager to learn about the oils, calming sprays and Peanut Butter Nirvana edibles available just around the corner.

Updated: September 25, 12:30 p.m., from Kevin Taylor’s Opera House in Denver, Colorado

We’ve sat down for a Media Luncheon in the brick-walled basement of Kevin Taylor’s Opera House here in Denver, presented by the Brewers Association and It’s a working lunch, so all throughout the room journalists from across the country (and the globe) have their WiFi turned on and laptops open, waiting for the plates to arrive.

The menu, which will feature poached shrimp, crispy duck leg pastrami, fennel sausage and more, is paired thoughtfully with brews from Allagash Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery, Ladyface Ale Companie and Left Hand Brewing Company. After a busy morning spent traveling, it’s a warm welcome to the Mile-High City.

Our speakers, which include Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association, Eric Wallace of Left Hand, and Adam Dulye, an executive chef and the man responsible for planning the menu, are all excited to share their ideas about advancing the relationship between food and beer. “We’re here to help beer regain its place at the dinner table,” Dulye says, and we here at The Growler are ready to dig in.

Check back soon for photos and updates.

The Growler is descending on the 2015 Great American Beer Festival and will be bringing you live updates here throughout the fest. Check back and refresh this page for new photos and reports from our crew at the fest.

About Brendan Kennealy

Brendan Kennealy is a writing and PR professional who lives and works in St. Paul. Find him on Twitter here: @extrapalemale.

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