Friday, October 2, 2009

A trip west for family and the Great American Beer Festival

Musings on a 6 day sojourn to Denver and San Diego

This trip originated as a visit to see my parents, was then augmented by an offer to attend the GABF in Denver. Along the way much food and drink consumed, so I thought I would review a few of the places we went to.

The Denver experience was great, time with my brother and sister-in-law and her cousin and wife. Mucho thanks for hosting. I really enjoyed Boulder, we made several trips there, including a wonderful Italian dinner, but the highlight had to be the Avery Brewery/tasting room. Since it was GABF week, they had special rotating kegs on all week. Many were versions of sour beers, infused with Bret, many were good, a few awesome, the bottled one Dave bought (Sue Generous) was a good example, well soured with plenty of flavor behind. Despite the industrial park setting, they have a nice outdoor cafe, lots of seating, well worth a stop when in Boulder. The other pubs we tried there were so, so, forgettable and now I have.

The GABF was wild, some 5,000+ folks each session on the floor of the Colorado Convention Center. We got there at the 5:30 opening time for the last session on Saturday and the line was at least a 1/2 mile long. In the end even though we got in 40 minutes after opening we still had plenty of time. Must have sampled 50+ one oz. tastings. Some decent pub type food. Huge floor area, lots of brewers were down to one offering, nowhere near the 2100 offerings at the beginning, never go again on Saturday. Highlights from Allagash, Dogfish Head, Southhampton, New Glarus, The Bruery, and many more. Tried to take notes, impossible. But the winners were announced by then, we tried to hit them to see what the judges were thinking. A must event once for beer lovers, as I've learned since the off site events make a big difference, we'll hit more next time.

We tried to stay in nominal shape, did a nice hike in Boulder, rode a $2K lovely bicycle in San Diego, and had a long walk in SD. Overall I gained weight but only a pound or two.

San Diego, recently named top beer city by Men's Journal, included The Blind Lady, Tornado, and the Linckery. All outstanding in their own way, Toronado a killer place. Some 30 beers on tap, and on Mondays all are $3.00. Amazing. Great local selection which I was seeking, decent Belgian offerings, great atmosphere, top notch.

Overall, I'm still liking the Chicago scene for food, and we did make 5th in that MJ poll, but I would swap our beer scene for SD. It's getting closer though with the recent additions of Metropolitan Brewing, Half Acre, and Publican.