Archive for gabf

Rules for Great American Beer Festival

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2014 by cueball

My vacation this year has taken me to Denver, CO for my favorite event on Earth: Great American Beer Festival.  Here are a few rules I’ve developed from previous trips.

Rule #1

If you have tickets for the opening day, don’t try to get in the Convention Center right at 5:30. There will be a line.  A very long line.  It will seem endless, and it won’t be moving.  If you can, enjoy Denver, grab a bite to eat and walk around the downtown area, it is beautiful.  Then, once its 5:30 go to the line and start walking towards the entrance.  You will get in, in no time.  Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way.

Rule #2

Either get the GABF app for your phone or make sure you grab a program on the way in. They both will provide you with a floor map and brewery list.  It makes finding the breweries you want to try really easy.  The reason you will need a map and a brewery list is you need a plan.  There are around 600 breweries and 3000 beers at this shindig. You will not be able to visit every booth and taste every beer even if you go all three days.  Now, you don’t need to work this like the D-Day Invasion, but you do need to have some idea of where you want to start and what you want to taste.  Personally, I pick a style or two I want to try and then concentrate on then start at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic sections.  Once I’ve spent time going through those sections I just go and find other beer to try in the styles I’m concentrating on for the night.

Rule #3

Do not wait in a long line for a taste.  Again there are 600 breweries and 3000 beers, in all likelihood if you go walk around and taste other beers the line will probably go do if it is something you really have to try.  Also, if it is a brewery that has a national distribution do not stand in line for that beer.  The only two exceptions to this rule are a special brew from a nationally distributed brewer or a brewery that has a lot of buzz and little national distribution at this point.  This year’s new brewery with ridiculous buzz is Asheville’s own Wicked Weed.  Well-deserved buzz by the way. I’m glad I’m NC local because I was not going to stand in that never ending line last night.  Long live #NCBEER.

Rule #4

Experiment.  You are in a place with almost 3000 beers. Try a style you’ve never had.  Try a style with experimental ingredients.  Try a brewery you’ve never heard of and try a couple of their beers.  If you see a booth with no one tasting a beer and one of the brewers or someone else who works at the brewery standing there looking bored, go up try a couple and talk to the pourer. You will learn so much about the beer and the brewery and you will find something new to drink.

Rule #5

Don’t taste big flavors early.  If you start the day with smoked beers, bourbon barrel aged beers, gose’s, or any other strong flavors you will spoil your taste buds for a bit.  Save those big flavors for your last tastings. You’ll enjoy them a lot more.

Finally, a bit of advice.  Use Google Maps to find food if you are not from Denver or like me have a friend who lives in Denver to go with you. My recommendation:  Sam’s No. 3 Diner.



Posted in life with tags , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2014 by cueball


I recently found a podcast, Tasting Notes, which combines two of my favorite things:  beer and music.  Each week, the hosts, Reis Hansen, Adam Mackie, and Tony Porreca, and a guest taste craft beer and try to match it to a song or an album.  It is an interesting and way to taste beer, talk about the beer, and talk about the how the beer is made.  If you like craft beer it is a fun and informative listen.

On the last show, the guest was Ben Howe the head brewer of Idle Hands Craft Ales and the owner of Enlightenment Ales. The thing that stands out is Howe’s passion for craft beer.  He loves every part of making beer, from the original conception of the beer to the name of the beer to the artwork on the label.  He has a true unquenchable passion for what he does. 

As consumers of art, literature, music, beer, food, we can all tell when someone truly has a passion for what they are doing.  We can tell when someone creates something that is more than just a thing they are doing for money.  You can tell when someone puts not only their skill but their soul into a project.  That is probably why I like craft beer and podcasts.  There is very little money in either.  The people who do these things and are successful are the people who care the most about what they are doing.

There is so much stuff out there, how do you distinguish between what is worthwhile and what isn’t. You really can’t.  What you can do is sample as much stuff as you can and hope you experience those worthwhile things more often than not, and the distinguishing characteristic about the things that are worth your time is the passion behind them.

That is why events like the Great American Beer Festival are great.  Even though GABF can be a shit show of people trying to get drunk 3 ounces at a time, if you really care about craft beer you do get the opportunity to interact with the brewers and let them tell you about their beers.  This may be the most fun part of the experience.  Anytime you have passionate, articulate people talk to you about their passion, you will learn a lot. 

That passion is a hard thing to find for many people.  Some are lucky and they find their passion early and work to hone it for years.  Others, wander about looking for it, with it just out of reach.  They know it is out there. They know there is something missing in their lives that they should be doing.  Sometimes those people find it, but more often than not, they don’t and settle for something that at least pays the bills. 

So here is to all those fortunate people who have found a way to make money through their passion.  They have never worked a day in their lives and they are the luckiest of us all.  May they continue to entertain and feed us. 

Stuff You May Need To Know About Craft Beer

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by cueball


Beer Styles

  • Indian Pale Ale (IPA) – Originally, a British Pale Ale with a lot of hops added so that the beer could last the long trip from Britain to India before the advent of refrigeration.  Now it is a hoppier version of a pale ale.  Currently, there are 3 sub-styles: British IPA, American IPA (hoppier), and the Imperial (or double) IPA (hoppier still).
  • Pale Ale/Brown Ale – The basic British tradition beer styles.  The difference between the two is the brown ale is darker (of course) and a little sweeter due to the different malts used.  As with most beer styles originating in Europe the American versions are more.  More hops, more malt, more alcohol.
  • Porter/Stout – Porters are strong, dark beers first brewed in Britain with little hop profile.  Stouts are a darker, even stronger tasting version.  Often described as chewy or meaty.
  • Pilsner – A lager.  Usually pale in color and rather light in taste.  The most popular beers style worldwide.  Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Heineken.  Often described by craft beer aficionados as “fizzy water.”
  • Lager versus Ale – This difference is due to the yeasts used to brew these styles.  The lager yeasts ferment longer, at colder temperatures, and provide a “cleaner” taste.  Ale yeasts ferment quicker, at warmer temperatures, and give off more flavors.

Style and Tasting Stuff That Can Make You Sound Kind of Smart

  • IBU – International Bitterness Units, the measurement of the hop bitterness in the beer.
  • ABV – Alcohol By Volume, how much alcohol does your beer contain.
  • SRM – Standard Reference Method, is a measurement of the color of the beer.  The higher the number the darker the beer.
  • Lacing – The bubbles left on the side of the glass from the head as you drink your beer.  A good beer in a good clean glass will leave a nice lace.

Pretentious Style and Tasting Stuff You Don’t Need To Know Yet But Might Hear If You Hang Around Any of Us Homebrewers Too Long

  • Diacetyl – A butterscotch flavor found in some beers.  If too prominent it is an off taste and signifies an unsuccessful beer.
  • DMS – Dimethyl Sulfide, definitely an off taste found in lagers that are fermented at too high a temperature.
  • Original Gravity – Original gravity.  Basically, the amount of sugars in the wort before fermentation.
  • Final Gravity – Final gravity. Basically, the amount of sugars found in the beer after fermentation.  Helps tell you how much alcohol is in the beer.

What Does This Remind Me Of?

Posted in beer with tags , , , , on February 24, 2013 by cueball

Beer tasting should answer 5 questions.

  • What does the beer look like?
  • What does the beer smell like?
  • How does the beer feel in my mouth?
  • What does the beer taste like?
  • Do I like it?

As a taster you should be able to answer those questions intelligently in language that anyone can easily understand.

I want to ask a sixth question with my tasting notes:  What does this beer remind me of?  For me beer, bourbon, music, and literature all have emotional memories for me.  I associate tastes and sounds with specific moments and I think about that every time I take a drink.  I may not write about the specifics of moments, but I want to relate those memories in a general sense to what I’m drinking and why I do or don’t like it.

The deeper into craft beer you get the more you will find that different types of judged competitions have different guidelines they follow for judging beer.  For judges at large competitions (BJCP sanctioned) it is not enough to judge how good the beer tastes, judges also look to whether a beer is a good representative of the style.  Each style has certain guidelines that define appearance, aroma, feel, and taste that it has to meet to get first place.  The most common style guides are the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide, the Brewer’s Association Style Guide, and the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Style Guide.

Now, for most normal people, you taste a beer to see if you like it.  Again, the deeper you are into craft beer the more you kind of care about whether a beer meets the style benchmarks, but even then, you are just trying to find something worth drinking.

As a slightly abnormal person, I drink a lot of beer and have begun to develop my palate to taste differences in beers within styles.  It can be a fun experience to be able to taste something and say, “That isn’t quite what I expected from an IPA.”

Take my recent experience with the Devil’s Britches IPA from Highland Brewing.  I bought it knowing it was IPA.  However, when I started drinking it, I knew something was different about it.  I had gone in with the expectation of your average hoppy American IPA (a distinct style under BJCP, Brewer’s Association, and GABJ style guides).  Instead, as soon as I tasted it, I knew something was different.  It is what Highland calls a “red” American IPA.

Now, as a normal beer drinker, I was surprised by the taste of this particular beer, but grew to quite like it the more I drank it.  I have recommended this beer to others.  However, I don’t know how it would fair in a beer competition in its style.  It might push the limits of what an American IPA too far to win any BJCP competitions.  As a beer drinker, that does not matter as long as I like it.

It is entirely possible that the best tasting beer in a competition does not fall into any of the prescribed guidelines and the worst tasting beer in the competition hits every guideline perfectly.  Luckily, even if the beer doesn’t hit all the guidelines, judges worth a crap will still give it high marks if it tastes good (it still probably won’t win) and they will kill a beer that tastes like crap.  They are after all beer fans.

All of that is to say this:  In the tastings and notes I will do for this blog (it will be such a sacrifice) I will respect the style guidelines the BJCP has set down, but I will not let those style restrictions decide on what I recommend.

Next up I’m going to give a short glossary of terms.

Beers from GABF Day 1

Posted in beer with tags , , on September 30, 2011 by cueball
  1. Anderson Valley, Mowkeef Saison
  2. Brugge Brasserie, Quadripple
  3. Bull & Bush Brewery, The Legend of the Liquid Brain Imperial Stout
  4. Carolina Brewery, Copperline Amber Ale
  5. Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Duck-Rabbit Rabid Duck Russian Imperial Stout
  6. Eel River Brewing, Organic Porter
  7. Elk Mountain Brewing, Ghost Town Brown
  8. Elliot Bay Brewing, Bourbon Barrel Pumpkin Ale
  9. Feather Falls Casino Brewery, Squirrel Tail Brown Ale
  10. Great Divide Brewing, Belgian Style Yeti Imperial Stout
  11. Heretic Brewing, Evil Cousin
  12. Hollister Brewing, Big Box Brown Ale
  13. Long Valley Pub and Brewery, Joes Nut Brown Ale
  14. Mother Earth Brewing, Dark Cloud
  15. Natty Greene’s Pub and Brewing Company, Smokey Mountain Porter
  16. New Glarus Brewing, Blacktop IPA
  17. Ninkasi Brewing, Oatis Oatmeal Stout
  18. RJ Rockers, Bald Eagle Brown Ale
  19. Smuttynose Brewing Company, Robust Porter
  20. Southern Hops Brewing, LeeRoy Brown
  21. Thomas Creek Brewery, Conduplico Immundus Monachus Imperial Belgian-style Porter
It is hard to find a bad beer in this bunch.  There were a couple that did not meet expectations, but there is nothing I would not give another try on Saturday.  My favorites:  Mowkeef Saison from Anderson Valley and Rabid Duck from Duck-Rabbit.