Where to begin?? What a whirlwind of a week! Some amazing events all week that culminated with Alesong Brewing and Blending bringing home the 2016 Gold Medal in the “Brett Beer” category for Touch of Brett! But to back up a bit, it was my first time attending the event and the spectacle certainly lived up to its billing!
1) Events surrounding the fest: The sheer volume of brewers and beer enthusiasts all in one place makes for a great opportunity to host other beer-centric events outside GABF itself and we took full advantage of the opportunity!
2) The festival floor: breweries from all over the country pour their beer as samples for the thousands of attendees who flock to the event to try beers that they can’t normally get. Such madness!
3) The competition: the largest in the world. Breweries can enter up to five beers into 96 categories that are then judged blind with medals for the best three examples of each style.
What the Funk Invitational
We were invited to pour Touch of Brett and Tangled up in Blueberry at What the Funk and it was an awesome event – certainly the best fest that I’ve attended in terms of consistently high quality and rare beers! It was a great fit for us in terms of being able to pour next to dozens of like-minded brewers (and sample their delicious offerings!!) and also because of the audience it draws. One of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing is because we love sharing our excitement for the beer we make with other people and it was really fun interacting with the passionate crowd at What the Funk. All in an amazing event! Thanks to Crooked Stave and CSA for organizing and inviting us!
Mercantile Invitational: The Brewer’s Table
One of the biggest educational efforts we as an industry (and especially this niche) need to focus on is showing people that beer can pair with food just as well, if not better than wine does. This dinner, hosted by one of the best restaurants in Denver (the Mercantile) was an incredible showing of the food/beer pairing concept. We had 6 courses prepared by 8 different chefs from all over the country (plus one from London) that were each paired with two beers from one of 5 amazing breweries attending (plus us). Everything served was incredible, but a personal favorite was fresh cheese made that morning with milk from a local sheep farm with matsutake mushrooms foraged from the surrounding hills and paired with Crooked Stave’s L’Brett d’Apricot. And a close second, seared tuna with a butternut kimchi paired with Jester King’s Even More Jeppe. Delish!
Cheers to Avery, New Belgium and Odell (and all the others we didn’t have time to check out) for opening up their doors to other brewers during the week! So great to connect with other brewers and share ideas and processes!
Great American Beer Festival
At Alesong, we didn’t have the volume available to pour beer at a booth inside the fest, but did spend some time checking out the fest as consumers and for this first timer, it was even crazier than I imagined. So many breweries you’ve never heard of from all over the country! Navigating the crowds is a bit challenging, but really fun to catch up with fellow brewers and sample everyone’s best offerings!
Although we didn’t have high hopes that we’d win anything in the competition given the sheer quantity of beers entered (7,200!!), it’s a great opportunity for us to get real, critical feedback from experienced judges in an unbiased forum so we entered the maximum 5 beers for judging. We’ll receive that feedback in the coming weeks and hopefully be able to put it to use improving our beers across the board. Being able to win something, though was truly an amazing finish to an amazing week.
As the awards began, I knew deep down inside that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but it’s really hard not to as you see other breweries up on stage celebrating their medals. By the time our first category came up (Brett Beer) I was a nervous wreck (check the pit stain from our stage photo!). I was thinking to myself, “hopefully we can squeak out a bronze and go home with something,” but after hearing the bronze medal and the silver medal be announced for other breweries, I was pretty sure we didn’t make the cut and caught out of the corner of my eye Brian’s head droop with what I’m sure was a similar feeling…
And then “the gold medal goes to Touch of Brett, from Alesong Brewing and Blending” came booming across the speakers! Brian shot out of his chair in jubilation and I quickly followed. Matt was a bit more reserved (apparently he’s been there before), but it’s safe to say we were all ecstatic to be recognized on that board at all in our first year of production. It’s quite an honor and was the most amazing finish to an awesome week!
Cheers Colorado! Can’t wait to see you again next year!