The 2018 Great American Beer is underway, and the first day of the event held some surprises as well as some very, very good beers. Tenemu’s coverage last year was presented in a chronological format—that is, describing about everything that happened to me and what I did in the same order that I experienced it—I have decided that this year’s coverage will be made up of the same questions every day that I will answer with both relevant descriptions and photographs.

What was the most interesting new thing about the Great American Beer Festival this year?

One of the things that jumped out at me was the dedicated line that Weldwerks Brewing Co. set up for badge holders, i.e. brewers, press and media, sponsors and judges. While the regular line took an average of about 20 minutes—I stood in it to time it—the dedicated line took less than 30 seconds for a pour, meaning you could essentially walk up and choose what you wanted with almost no wait time at all, assuming you had a badge.

What was the best beer you tried?

While there is no doubt that both the Weldwerks Coconut Medianoche and Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche—the latter of which has only been released on draft so far—were wonderful, I have to give the edge to Forager Brewery’s Pudding Goggles, a 10.3 percent ABV imperial porter brewed with coconut and cinnamon. Sweet, thick and featuring a great finish, the porter is almost perfectly balanced and really shows off what the brewery can do, although I am looking forward to comparing it to the much more acclaimed Nillerzzzzz imperial vanilla stout at the Denver Rare Beer Tasting.

What was the most interesting beer you tried?

That would be Dionysus Brewing Co.’s Peach on Through, a 7.5 percent ABV wild ale aged in French oak barrels with cinnamon, peach and vanilla beans. It was incredibly unique, well-balanced and very extremely approachable, with the sourness of the base accentuating the flavors of the adjuncts.

What did you do other than wait in line for small samples of beer for hours on end?

Since the first session did not start until later in the afternoon, I decided to fulfill a long-time want of mine and travel up to Glenwood Springs, Colo. to a little place called Casey Brewing & Blending. Situated on the bank of a river, the small facility is home to one of the best sour breweries in the country, but it does things quite different from most other breweries.

For one, the Casey tasting room is not open for specific hours like you would find on a more traditional brewery tasting room. Instead, the brewery sells a set number of tickets—usually between 20 and 30 total—for tasting sessions only on specific days of the month, currently the first and third weekends of the month spanning Thursday through Sunday. The tasting sessions not only include a fairly extensive brewery tour but also includes extremely generous pours of three different beers and affords attendees the opportunity to purchase vintage bottles to drink on-site.

However, perhaps the thing that is most different compared to that majority of other breweries is the fact that the limited tasting sessions are the only way to visit the brewery and purchase beer. In fact, Casey will—and has—turned people away who make the almost three-hour drive to the brewery from Denver but do not have tickets to a tasting.

The drive is long—as mentioned above, almost three hours—but gorgeous, with roads winding through high mountains above and large rivers below. When we got there, I was a bit surprised at how small the brewery was, although it is significantly larger than it looks on first inspection from the outside. Our tour had about 20 people in it, and the tour guide was personable and fun, going through the history of the brewery as well as some information about the brewing process and beers that the brewery produces. After that, everyone proceeded to drink some of the bottles from the on-site menu and make their selections before heading out again.

While there will be a more extensive post about my visit on the site in the future, it should be noted that one of the representatives at the brewery confirmed that Casey is planning on adding a coolship in the near future, which will be installed in a room above the brewery itself.

What surprised you about the event compared to last year?

I have to say, I noticed the sheer number of people that were present during the first session almost immediately after entering the facility. Although the Thursday night session last year was well-attended, it was not overwhelmingly busy by any means, a feeling that I had multiple times last night as I fought through the crowds to get to a booth.

What was the longest line you stood in, and what did you try? 

The aforementioned regular Weldwerks line was the longest I stood in, and I ordered the Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche imperial stout, which was well worth the wait.