This year's Great American Beer Festival was substantially shorter than my previous GABF trips, but I had a ton of fun crammed into 14 hours. My flight was not terribly eventful (though not perfectly smooth). I had the luxury of sitting next to two men going on a hunting trip. One of the men is a dentist, so my in-flight napping dreams were about dental surgeries, blowing things up, and shooting wild game. It was actually quite educational. I now know all the ways in which to kill a feral hog.
A came away from GABF
with a few themes this year. 1. Food is important. On many
fronts, the food was vastly improved over previous years. 2. New
beer styles and breweries should be embraced. 3. Growth is a double edged sword.
With growth, there will be growing pains. I'll talk about these themes
throughout my 2012 GABF posts.
Lunch started with a very special brew called Paparazzi Pale brewed by our
very own Julia Herz. It was a
bubbly wet hopped (freshly picked at that!) delight. Camaraderie is a
reoccurring theme in the beer industry. Everyone is AWEsome. Getting
to taste some of Julia Herz's brew
was an awesome experience, yet another thing that we could all share.
I'll take a moment to touch on something that is really important in all
communities that are scaling. Curating a community is important.
Very important. Over the last few years, the beer community and attendance
at GABF has exploded. The numbers presented at the media lunch was 44.7%
of GABF ticket sales were to Colorado residents. 55.3% of GABF tickets
were sold to out-of-state visitors! Word is that the tickets sold out in
about 45 minutes. That's amazing. It is amazing that demand and
interest has grown like weeds in my garden, but I do caution that this growth
must be curated carefully.
Growing pains is a common issues for many organizations and communities.
With larger numbers comes more noise and more variance. I likely sound
like a stats nerd now, and I admit that I am. A concern that many
long-time craft beer enthusiasts have is the introduction of not so awesome
attitudes into the community. How one decides to deal with less than
awesome is a personal choice. You might think that not everyone has to
drink to kool-aid, but I really like the craft beer kool-aid. It is the
kool-aid of supportiveness, bonding, and desire for high quality beers.
The second welcome beer was the Brainless on Peaches by
@EpicBrewing. It was a very, very
lovely aromatic beer that finished dry. Here's theme two: embracing less
middle of the road beers. Peach beers are not unheard of or uncommon, but
they are much less popular than pale ales or IPAs.
A big thanks to all our supporting breweries for sharing their delicious
The first course was an amazing braised pork belly with caramelized onion,
cherry and California ale jus, pretzel, Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese corstini
paired with Telegraph Brewing's
California Ale. The delicious fat of the pork belly paired well with
strength of the beer. Sweet sauces with slight tartness cut with effervescent
bubbles. This was very well-balanced.
I must say that I am biased. I love pumpkin. So when I declare
this to be OMFG amazing, the pumpkin flavor didn't hurt. This pumpkin
sorbet was incredibly smooth, rich, and creamy with bold pumpkin flavors.
The salted toasted pumpkin seeds on top contrasted nicely with the sweet sorbet.
This dish was paired with the Vida y Muerte from @5RabbitBrewery.
It had Latin influenced flavors in the beer, and this is yet another example of
embracing the atypical. Austin's own
Twisted X has a varieties of Latin influenced beers, which have been well-recieved.
This was my favorite course.
Next up was the Braised Colorado Lamb Shank braised witth Odell's Cutthroat
Porter, severed with golden beer and cranberry risotto, Bulls Blood Micro
Greens, and Mint Vinaigrette. It was paired with the Elevated IPA by
La Cumbre Brewing and Le Saison
Noire by Catawba
Valley Brewing. As you can see, this was not a frugal offering. This
course was made for someone like me, a hungry someone.
The Hyatt did a fantastic job executing this dish. The sweet caramely
and unami flavors of the tender meat was perfect with the bitterness of the
microgreens, texture of the risotto and tanginess of the cranberry. It
could not have been done better. Though the two beers that were served
with the course were vastly different in they way that they paired, I
appreciated both beers with this dish.
I'm not sure who did this to my plate. It must have been a lamb eating
gnome. I'd blame it on @VestaTheDog,
but she was at home.
Yet another course that has a leg up on my love list. I love almond,
and I present to you this apple crepes filled with almond frangipane and
cardamon caramel paired with Flying Fish
Brewing Exit 4 and Maui Brewing La
Perouse White. I don't remember much else from the dish besides the
almond. That's all I could focus on.
The two beer pairings were also well-balanced. Dry finishes paired with
sweet were great strategies. The pairings at this lunch were probably one
of the best ones as a whole. None of the dishes were too busy or
outlandish that the beer couldn't balance them. The food was all so
well-executed that they didn't draw out any flaws in the beer either.
The last course was Buratta Cheese, Taylor gold pear brulee, and cranberry
job paired with Founders Brewing Blushing
Monk. This raspberry infused bevy had enough tartness to moderate the
creamy goodness of the cheese. This was a lovely pairing that I'll likely
be serving in my own home in the future. I've been to a vast variety of
beer pairing meals, and this is the first time that I've had fruit infused beers
as part of the course. This stresses again the second theme of GABF this
year: embrace the not as mainstream beer styles.
The Orange County Beer Blog had a
film panoramic camera. I thought that was pretty awesome.
And here's a photo taken with the panorama feature on my iPhone5.