After the series of unfortunate events on Wednesday, I was hoping that Thursday would bring me better luck. The day began early, starting with a trip to Casey Brewing Co. in Glenwood Springs.
Wait, didn’t you visit Casey Brewing during last year’s GABF?
Indeed I did, but I wanted to see the brewery’s new taproom in Glenwood Springs, which opened earlier this year. While a new taproom is not usually that big of a deal, this location happens to be the only place to try the first stouts that Casey has ever brewed, specifically Synthetic Substitution, an imperial stout brewed with cacao and coconut and Stout Tribe, an 11.1 percent ABV imperial stout brewed with vanilla that is a collaboration with Mikerphone Brewing.
However, before I visited the new taproom,I stopped by the original brewery to have a couple of pours. Of course, I had an ulterior motive, as I wanted to see if I could photograph Casey’s brand new coolship, which has been installed on a floor above the main brewery, with tubes running from the coolship, through the floor and to the containers on the bottom floor to make it easier to transfer the beer.
Unfortunately, I was told there were no photographs allowed, but I did manage to spot the label for a brand new, as-yet unannounced beer: Funky Blender Preserves Blueberry + Raspberry. Normally, a new Casey creation is not a huge deal—there are multiple new beers seemingly every month—but this happens to be only the second time so far that the brewery has incorporated blueberries in to a beer.
After a tour and a drinking a few beers, it was time to visit the new taproom in located in the downtown area of Glenwood Springs.
While it does feature a smaller footprint compared to the original brewery, the facility features more than 20 beers on tap as well as bottles for sale to-go and outdoor seating.
According to a post on the brewery’s Instagram page at the time it was announced, the purpose of the new location will be to show off some of the sour blends, IPAs, stouts and collaboration beers that are being produced, as well as “a healthy amount of guest taps from our friends throughout the state!”
What did you do after that?
After making the drive through the mountains back to Denver, I stopped by the hotel for an hour to do a bit of work, download photographs and get a quick bite to eat. Then I was off to the opening session of this year’s GABF, which is being held in four different sessions over three days.
What was the most interesting new thing you noticed about this year’s Great American Beer Festival on Thursday?
Unlike years prior, attendees were given taster glasses made of glass instead of plastic. A spokesperson at the event told me that the GABF was looking to upgrade the experience for attendees this year, and glass tasters is one of ways it is accomplishing that goal. However, if someone drops and breaks their glass taster, it is replaced with a plastic one.
Other than just walking around visiting different brewery’s booths, what one place did you spend the most time?
After hearing that there were some changes to the Jameson Distillers Caskmate’s section during this year’s show, I was very interested to check it out and see for myself. The series debuted in 2018 and includes a number of different Jameson Caskmates Drinking Buddies collaborations that pair different craft beer brewery’s creations and Jameson Irish Whiskey barrels.
While the layout was essentially unchanged from last year—with breweries lined up all around the interior wall, a stage on the far end with a D.J. and a bar, tables and games in the middle—there were a few more breweries pouring beers, and the extra space opened up the section noticeably.
As I walked around the interior wall trying various beers, I was drawn to Parish Brewing’s booth, mostly due to the fact that they were showing off 32-ounce crowlers of the beers they were pouring, albeit unopened. Those beers turned out to be the best tasting creations in the Jameson section that I tried: Irish Coffee Stout, a barrel-aged imperial stout conditioned on coffee and vanilla and Barrel-Aged Candied Pecan Stout, an imperial stout aged in Jameson whiskey barrels conditioned on roasted pecans, korintje cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans.
However, as good as both of the aforementioned stouts were separately, a friend told me to combine the two in one taster, and the result was heavenly: thick and flavorful, with the roastiness of the coffee stout cutting the sweetness of the candied pecans and cinnamon nicely.
What was the best beer overall that you tried on Wednesday?
That would be Ology Brewing Co.’s Juice Lab: PBR, a 5 percent ABV berliner weisse-style ale brewed with passionfruit, blood orange and raspberry. Tart on the palate but sweet on the finish, it has a pure flavor of fruit that is missing in quite a few of the beers in this style. It was easily the most enjoyable beer I tried that night, and the fact that it was from a brewery I had not heard much about until then was just icing on the cake.
What was the most interesting beer you tried?
While I tried a number of different styles throughout the night—a list that included sours, IPAs, brown ales, barleywines and porters—the winner of that question was incredibly easy to choose: Huntington Beach, Calif.-based 4 Sons Brewing’s PB&K, a peanut butter and jelly sour blonde. While both the peanut butter and jelly flavors were distinctly present—on the palate and the finish respectively—the balance of the flavors in the sour ale’s profile was problematic.
What surprised you about the event compared to last year?
As I was walking around trying samples of beer, I noticed that the vast majority of booths featured pour lists that only had the names of the beers, with no indication at all about what the style or ABV was. In fact, there were a few breweries who had apparently heard from people trying their beers and rectified the situation by writing in that aforementioned information on their posters in the booth.
What was the brewery with the longest line that you saw?
Weldwerks Brewing Co., and it was not even close. While the lines tend to move quickly—when I waited in the line, it only took about five minutes to get to the front—the number of people waiting and the length of the line was visually overwhelming for some people, who I noticed decided to skip it and try something else.
What was the weirdest thing you saw during Thursday’s session?