Yesterday was Day 1 of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and it didn’t disappoint. This year there are over 800 breweries in attendance with over 3,800 beers to choose from. Among those breweries were 11 that are representing Missouri. Those breweries are:
2nd Shift Brewing Co
4 Hands Brewing Co
Crane Brewing Company
Double Shift Brewing
Flat Branch Pub and Brewing
Logboat Brewing Co
Main And Mill Brewing Company
Mark Twain Brewing Company
Piney River Brewing Company
Schlafly Beer/The Saint Louis Brewery, LLC
Stockyards Brewing Company
POURING BEER WITH 2ND SHIFT
While attending the festival as a paying customer is an experience in and of itself, I wanted to get a glimpse of what the brewers’ experience was. Lucky for me, the good folks at 2nd Shift gave me that opportunity. For about 30 minutes, I helped pour beers and answer questions for the folks that were having their first #getchyasum experience. There were dozens of people that came through during that time frame and most of them seemed to find 2nd Shift by coming directly over instead of stopping as they passed. That showed that people were seeking out the good things they’d heard.
The three beers that 2nd Shift had available was Katy (American Wild Ale), Technical Ecstasy (Czech Style Pilsner), and Art of Neurosis (American IPA). Since styles weren’t listed on the sign for their booth, most conversations started with describing each beer. I’ve had each of those beers numerous times so this wasn’t an issue. The surprising thing to me is that the IPA was the least requested beer from people. The Technical Ecstasy and Katy were about tied for most pours but the IPA was the definite third. Based on that small sample size, it looks like collective beer nerd palates are shifting away from hops and going for things that are “new” to America’s craft beer scene. It was a lot of fun interacting with all of the people there, including the brewery reps I got to pour alongside.
Beyond the Drinking
It's not just beer drinking that happened either, there was plenty of beer education as well. I stopped by the Beer X room on the hall floor to attend a “You Be the Judge” session to hear an expert talk about evaluating beer. The expert that I sat with was Michael Hall, who is a past President of the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). Yeah, I’d say that qualifies him as an expert.
Mike sat with three of us as we evaluated a German Helles. He discussed how to evaluate all of the aspects of the beer, as well as how to put names to aromas and flavors that you pick up. The interesting takeaway for me was that the GABF does not rate beers according to the BJCP guidelines and their 50 point scale (the same way we rate beers on this site). Instead, they rate beers on how close they are to style without assigning a number. Mike explained that that the BJCP focuses on evaluating one beer at a time, where at the GABF, judges are given 12 beers at a time to evaluate side by side. Essentially, scoring this way gives a judge the best chance of making sure the best beer moves on in the competition. There 312 IPAs entered into this year's competition so there were a lot of judges on hand.
The final thing that I did at the Festival is drink beer. The pours were one ounce each as opposed to the typical two ounce pours I’m used to at festivals back home. I actually liked this a lot better. All I needed was a taste because I had plenty to get to. Did I try “whales” while out and about? You betcha. I had Cable Car (2015) and Veritas 017 from Lost Abbey. I had Apropos of Nothing from Rare Barrel. But for all of the “whales” around, there were other great breweries there that were trying to spread the word about their offerings. Some of my favorite beers (in no particular order) that were more under the radar were:
Burn ‘Em Brewing: Duke Silver (7.7% ABV Porter) – “Made for the jazz man himself”
Transplants Brewing Company: Filbert (6.5% ABV Brown Ale) – “This flavorful dark and malty brown ale is brewed with hazelnut and chocolate. You might have to resist the urge to try to spread it on your toast for breakfast.”
Noble Ale Works: Naughty Sauce (5.4% ABV Milk Stout) – This is a “golden stout” meaning it uses light, not dark malts and is gold in color. It’s brewed with coffee and served on nitro.
Within the first hour, a few people mistakenly dropped their tasting glass which of course was followed by a loud "OHHHHH!" from all of those within earshot of the faux pas. By the end of the night, it became much, much, much more frequent. At one point, I actually walked past a group of guys who had their phones out recording and one of them smiled at the camera, turned around and dropped his plastic glass on purpose so he could get the insane reaction on film. With all that being said, it never turned into a drunken mess which was awesome. I only saw one person get escorted out for being intoxicated and it was actually a volunteer who was pouring beer. Yikes.
That’s the brief recap of Day 1 of GABF. Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for a recap of Day 2. Cheers!