Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great American Beer Festival - From the Other Side

So over the weekend I did something that I had never done before. Don't get me wrong, living in Denver I have been to the Great American Beerfest plenty of times, but this time I volunteered. If you are unfamiliar with the GABF then I am guessing that you're probably not much of a beer geek.

The GABF is the largest beer festival in America; where American breweries can showcase their beers and compete against other breweries around the country. It is not only for the little guys, the big three compete as well. The only stipulation is that the brewery must be located in our great nation.

Imagine a large convention center filled with rows and rows of tables. Upon those tables are pitcher after pitcher of beers brewed from coast to coast. Upon entry you are given a tasting glass where you can taste as little or as many beers that you want. You get the idea...

I was chosen to pour in the Rocky Mountain region and wound up standing in front of New Planet Brewing out of Boulder, Colorado. I am not gluten intolerant nor do I follow a gluten free lifestyle, however I found it quite the perfect match seeing as I want to bring in more gluten free variety to my store and I had never run across their beer before.

About 15 minutes before doors opened our team captains came by and said we could start filling the pitchers and taste some of the beers from our region. Quite a necessary step when hundreds of people are going to come up to you and ask about a beer you may have never even tasted before. I was expecting something not quite up to my liking with what I was pouring but was greatly impressed with my tasting of the New Planet offerings. Tread Lighty was a nice light summery ale that was much better than some of the other gluten free offerings I have tasted before, and their 3R Raspberry Ale was a fruit beer that was perfectly done. The raspberry flavor was fresh and slightly tart and didn't leave a syrupy sweet feeling as a lot of fruit beers tend to do. This is a beer that would easily sell to the masses that can consume gluten. I tasted some others around my area and got ready for the crowds to rush in.

The hoards of beer lovers began to show up in front of the table and the pouring began. 1 ounce and 1 ounce only was really the only rule to follow and it was one of the easiest jobs I have done. The best part about volunteering is that you are allowed breaks where you can go and try beers from different regions.

I was able to meet some great people. Not only the costumed masses, (above was a couple completely covered in denim) but was able to network with some of the brewers competing at the event. Pedro and Seneca Gonzalez, the owner/brewers of New Planet were probably some of the nicest people I have ever met. Pedro being extremely sensitive to gluten, left his former life as a non-profit accountant to live his dream of brewing great beer for the people who share his love of beer but cannot drink it. Not even a year in they have grown greatly. Not too long ago they were selling the beer out of the back of his truck but now have established themselves with a local distributor and are growing greatly in this region. As I can attest to, good things happen to great people. Pedro and Seneca walked away with a Bronze medal for their 3R Raspberry Ale in the Gluten Free category. The most amazing part is this beer was only released to the public in the last few months. I am excited to try to gluten free pale ale they were telling me about; it is being developed and will be released shortly.

It was a great experience and will probably only volunteer at the GABF from now on. My favorite beer from the day was probably The Lost Abbey's Red Poppy Ale but I pretty much enjoyed everything I was able to try. The only disappointment about the festival is I think the medals should be a little bigger (Seneca is wearing theirs in the above picture).

Click here for a list of winners at the GABF

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