You’ve heard the legend of a cavernous hall filled to the brim with beer from around the country. Maybe you’ve even experienced for yourself the glories of unlimited pours of more than 3,100 brews. But you haven’t seen the Great American Beer Festival—the country’s largest annual suds celebration—from the perspective of Team Stone before…until now. We just got back from this massive and spectacular event, and are ready to give you a behind-the-scenes view of our GABF experience
To the casual observer, our newest collaboration beer may be perceived as an attempt to make a statement about gender equality in the brewing industry. How could someone not think that? After all, we’re no strangers to making statements through the ale medium and, c’mon, we went and tapped two of the country’s best female brewers—Tonya Cornett from Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company; and Megan O’Leary Parisi, the fermentation mastermind behind Washington, DC’s highly anticipated Bluejacket. We get it, but honestly, the only things we were looking to secure when getting these two into our brewhouse were beer smarts, creativity and enthusiasm, and these two brought all three in sudsy spades! Need proof? Well, we’ve got it, and it goes by the name 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter.
Here at Stone, our brewers love to create aggressive, high octane beers like Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout and, of course, the Arrogant Bastard Ale family of in-your-face goliaths. But even we, the challengers of beer’s historic limitations, realize that for every beer drinker there is a time, place and need for something sessionable. So, in 2002, we took our first swipe at crafting a libation under five percent ABV to give our fans a lower-alcohol option packed with big-time flavor. That creation would come to be known as Stone Levitation Ale.
Great American Beer Festival… the name says it all. Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say those four words strung together in that order is darn near poetic. Every year, many of the nation’s greatest breweries descend upon Denver for a three-day beer-a-thon, much to the delight of the ecstatic 49,000+ attendees that are lucky enough to nab tickets.
Beyond pouring about 36,000 gallons of beer (check out some other cool GABF stats from the Brewers Association), this is also the premier beer judging competition for U.S. brewers. And while we don’t always walk away festooned with shiny medals, we ALWAYS have a damn good time. This year was no exception. Though we did get some neat-o awards!
Whew, well, the Great American Beer Festival is over, and now, just over a week after it ended, things are finally getting back to normal.
It’s hard to encapsulate just how much work goes into putting together the GABF.
The sheer enormity of America’s premier beer festival, which occupies a staggering 300,000 square foot portion of the Colorado Convention Center, requires a seemingly endless swarm of green shirted volunteers, along with hundreds of security guards, cleaners, and staff. All told, 49,000 beer fans attended this year, with tickets selling out faster than ever before (literally in days once they went on sale months earlier).
The feeling of walking into the GABF is incomparable. With excitement building for months in advance, the line to get in nearly a mile long, virtually half the crowd dressed in a variety of absurd costumes, and a gaggle of bagpipers in full Scottish regalia playing at an almost inconceivable volume, the buzz and excitement somehow manages to fill every corner of the cavernous room.
It was an incredible joy to meet so many Stone fans, many of who had very nice things to say to us as we poured countless 1 oz. tasters of our precious beer. And to see so many people wearing Stone t-shirts, hats, and the like was a disproportionate show of pride from our loyal legions.
Overall, the 2011 Great American Beer Festival was a characteristically rewarding and tiring experience. Stone Colorado Regional Sales Representative Chris Cantrell put countless hours into planning Stone’s presence at the festival and lined up a series of tremendous events at some of the fantastic craft beer establishments that have cropped up around Denver in recent years.
Stone CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch was out and about with characteristic verve, signing copies of our book, “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.” with co-author Randy Clemens and posing for a seemingly endless series of photos with fans.
Several other members of Team Stone, including yours truly, made their presence felt, either by helping with booth set-up, pouring beer, or appearing in a rigged and preposterous quiz game against Durango, Colorado’s venerable Ska Brewing Co. (who were the victors of said game; we’re contesting the results and demanding a rematch).
All in all, it was a tremendously good time and an unparalleled opportunity to try an epic assortment of incredible craft beers; which is, of course, the point of the whole exercise.
In fact, the tidal wave of extremely high quality offerings at the festival can only lead this beer lover to a larger conclusion: that now is, undoubtedly, the best time & place in history to drink beer…and you don’t even have to be at the GABF to do that!
The Great American Beer Festival is one of the world’s classic beer drinking experiences. This will be the 30th year of this epic celebration of American brewing, and it’s almost impossible to put into words how much it has changed.
From its very humble beginnings, to the colossal event it is today—which nearly takes over the city of Denver for three amazing days—the GABF is the ne plus ultra American beer festival.
In case you couldn’t tell, we’re very excited about it. The GABF is always an amazingly good time. From pouring beer on the festival floor to seeing old friends at the great beer bars around town, the GABF is more than the world’s premier beer drinking opportunity, it’s a gathering of the craft beer tribe.
In celebration of this fact, we’re putting together 5 worthy events at some great craft beer loving venues in Denver. For details on these amazing events, head over to the Stone Brewing in Colorado Facebook events page.
As for the Festival itself, we’ll have a very special opportunity for fans: Stone CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch will be signing copies of our brand new book, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance, along with co-author Randy Clemens.
The book is an insider’s guide on the history of Stone, and it shares homebrew recipes for many of our celebrated beers including Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, Stone Smoked Porter, and Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.
In addition, it features recipes from the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens like Garlic, Cheddar, and Stone Ruination IPA Soup, BBQ Duck Tacos, and the legendary Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings, among other fascinating tidbits contained in the tome.
The dynamic duo of Randy & Greg will be signing & selling books at the Stone booth on the Festival floor at the following times: Thursday 9/29 from 7:30-9:30pm, Friday 9/30 from 6pm-8pm, and Saturday 10/1 from 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm.
But that’s not all, folks. We’ll also be pouring a bevy of wonderful Stone beers at our booth, including:
- Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
- Double Dry Hopped Stone IPA
- Stone Levitation Ale
- Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
- 2011 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine.
Yeah, you’re not going to want to miss our booth.
Alas, the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over. All 495 competing breweries have packed their beers and headed home, some with shiny pieces of bling dangling from their necks (or if you’re Jeff Bagby, A LOT of bling), others sans bling but with the bolstered pride that comes from wowing thousands of beer fans with their delicious creations. Ken Schmidt happened to be part of the latter camp, and although he didn’t win in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF, he came away with his head held high from the insane buzz that Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter generated. He called me during the fest to relay the results of the Pro-Am and left this message:
Just like at the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter was the object of bountiful adoration. It was the first keg to blow at the Pro-Am table, and it generated the longest lines. Ken said that he had a blast competing in the GABF, but it was only part of the exhilarating journey that began with his victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. “Competing in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF was thrilling,” Ken said, “but being chosen by my brewing peers and the panel of eight from Stone (to help brew the Pro-Am selection with Stone) holds the greatest excitement for me. It has been a wonderful journey.”
We anticipate our next AHA Rally and homebrewing competition will be some time in March. Sign up for our homebrewing email newsletter for updates. When I talked to Ken on Monday, he said that he’s already brainstorming some more special brews to share. If they’re anything like his Aloha Plenty, we’ll be giddily awaiting their appearance.
Monday night we had a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) send-off party in the Bistro for Ken Schmidt, the gifted home brewer behind the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter recipe. Local beer enthusiasts came by to wish Ken luck and to taste some of the delectable beer he’ll be competing with in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. Word on the street is that the beer is maturing nicely, with the coffee notes prevailing in the beginning and the coconut and macadamia nut coming on later as the beer warms up. Some starry-eyed beer geeks were so impressed with the beer and its creator that they even asked Ken to sign their bottles—proof that Ken is a bone-fide beer-lebrity now.
Word spread so fast about the deliciousness of the revered brew that all the cases allocated to the Stone Company Store sold out by 7pm Monday night. The beer only enjoyed a brief 8 hours of shelf life before every last bottle found it’s way into the anxious hands of local beer enthusiasts. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens also drained their allocated keg, so don’t expect to get it here any time soon (we are sometimes able to squirrel away a little for special appearances, so keep your eyes peeled for it in the future). Lest you now feel in the depths of despair, here’s some good news: we’re still distributing the beer to certain lucky locales, and we put together a list of places where you can find it. Southern and Northern California, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, Massachusetts, Washington, New York, and Colorado will all be getting some eventually, but it may not arrive until as late as mid-October, so ask your local specialty bottle shop and be patient. Our collaboration brews are notoriously low yield and extremely limited in availability, so count your blessings if you’re in one of the above locations.
If you are fortunate enough to find Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, then raise a glass to Ken for fashioning such divine nectar, and wish him luck at the GABF!