With the madness that was Friday behind me, I woke up on Saturday early to do a bit of work, then made my way downtown to the Colorado Convention Center for the third—and my final—session of the Great American Beer Festival.
However, unlike the previous two sessions—as well as the later session on Saturday night—the Saturday afternoon session was available exclusively for members of either the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) or the Brewers Association (BA), and as such, it has historically been the least crowded session of the festival. In addition, a number of breweries hold specific beers until this time slot, so as to give the members of the aforementioned organizations a chance to try them.
After trying quite a few beers from the well-known breweries on Thursday and Friday, I decided to spend my last session concentrating on intersting beers and breweries that might be a bit less well-known. To that end, the first beer I sought out after walking in the doors was Tampa Bay, Fla.-based Brew Bus Brewing, where they were serving samples of Tummy Sticks, a 4.2 percent ABV Leipzig-syle gose conditioned on dill pickles. Now, I love dill pickles, and I love goses, but I was unsure what I was going to think of this concoction that combined the two until I drank it. Somewhat surprisingly, the beer was quite good, with the sour and salt notes combining quite well with the dill pickle flavors that are present on both the palate and the finish. Intrigued, I talked to the brewer, who told me that the beer was actually conditioned on whole dill pickles that are cut in pieces, instead of just juice.
Moving on from that interesting beer, I eventually stopped at Eugene, Ore.-based Oakshire Brewing’s booth, where which was serving a variant of its Hellshire stout named Brunch In Hell, a 14 percent ABV Russian imperial stout aged in Kentucky brandy barrels and conditioned on Vermont maple syrup and single origin Brazilian Conquesta coffee. Excellent does not even begin to describe it, as the bitterness from the coffee really tamed the maple syrup sweetness, leading to a surprisingly balanced profile that I really enjoyed.
While wandering around, I decided to make a stop at the Silent Disco section, sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery. While I was not sure what to expect before I got there, it turned out to be pretty much exactly how it sounds: people wore wireless headphones and danced to the music of a live DJ that only they could hear. It was a bit odd to see the expressions of people dancing their butts off when all I could hear was the sound of people on the show floor dropping their tasting glasses and the announcements over the speakers, but it was a cool idea that was extremely well executed.
I then made my way to Prison City Brewing, where I asked for a pour of Lights Out at 11, an 11 percent ABV imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans. You may remember this brewery from when I gushed about it during my coverage of the Denver Rare Beer Tasting event, where I was blown away by the Barrel-Aged Wham Whams imperial stout. While Lights Out at 11 was not quite that good, it was still one of the better stouts I tried, and I really wish the brewery packaged their beers so I could trade for some of it.
Taking a break from trying some lesser known breweries—as well as taking advantage of a line that much shorter than usual—I hopped into the line for Firestone Walker Brewing Co., where I asked for a pour of Parabola 2017, a 14.5 percent ABV Russian imperial oatmeal stout brewed with hallertau and Zeus hops along with nine different malts before being aged for one year in a variety of bourbon barrels, including those that previously held Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace. As I mentioned in my review earlier this year, I found this year’s incarnation to be a bit thiner than in year’s past, although the complexity and overall profile were as enjoyable as ever. A great stout as always, and I was actually quite happy with the change to 12-ounce bottles that Firestone Walker put into place this year for all of its Proprietor’s Vintage Series releases.
By this time, the session was almost over, so I started making my way back to the door. On the way, I stopped for the final time at Atlanta, Ga.-based Wrecking Bar Brewpub’s booth to try Juice Willis: Dry Hop with a Vengeance IPA, a 6.5 percent ABV IPA brewed with Ekuanot and Eureka hops. While the name was amazing, the beer itself was also quite good, with a creamy mouthfeel and dominant flavors of mangos, pine and lemons.
That was the end of my coverage of the Great American Beer Festival, and I then made my way back to the hotel, where I commenced packing in anticipation for having to get up early for a 5 a.m. flight out of Denver.