Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pink Boots at the Great American Beer Festival

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." ~Plato

Photo above, L to R: Carol Stoudt (Stout's), Jenny Talley (Squatter's), Natalie Cilurzo (Russian River) and Teri show off their pink hair streaks and clothes in honor of October's Breast Cancer Awareness month.

October 11 - 13: Thursday was the first day of the festival. My first responsibility was to be on time for the "Women in Brewing" live radio broadcast from the festival. Carol Stoudt and Jenny Talley were my fellow panelists. Tom Dalldorf and Carolyn Smagalski were the hosts of the half-hour program. (Photo below, L to R: Carolyn, Teri, Jenny, Carol and Tom.)
Afterwards Jon and I had a brief intermission to taste a few beers and say "Hi" to a some brewing friends at the festival. Then we were off to the basement of the Marriott Hotel where Broomfield, Colorado's KROC homebrew club was having their big annual meeting. KROC stands for Keg Ran Out Club, and by hosting their meeting during the GABF, KROC has been very successful in getting GABF Judges and other beer industry luminaries to speak.

I had a small role at the meeting. My job was to introduce one of the speakers, Lucy Saunders, the beer and food writer who just published her 5th cookbook, "The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer."

Lucy had arranged for luscious chocolates to be sent from Madison, Wisconsin. She also arranged for New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan to send their yummy Poet Oatmeal Stout for the beer and chocolate pairing. The pairing was great and I stayed up way too late watching the entertaining procedings.

Friday after the Alpha King Challenge judging, I was on duty at the festival at 5:30 pm at the new "You Be The Judge" booth. This is the first year they are doing this, and judging by the number of people lining up, it's already a success.

The photo at left shows me showing three visitors how to judge an American-style Imperial Stout.

Two GABF judges at a time have a one hour shift. We judge a beer with festival goers and explain to them how the judging process works. Each group got about 15 minutes, depending on if there were people in line.

The festival was so noisy that I almost lost my voice talking loud enough to be heard. I hope next year the booth has sound-proof glass around it, like at the Food & Beer Pairing Stage, and I hope they put four Judges on duty at a time. It is very hard to explain a little about your career, your background, the GABF judging process, and then judge a beer with visitors and show them how to fill out comments sheets, all within 15 minutes!

The folks who visited me really enjoyed their time and were most grateful for my explanations. Some of them had dreams of becoming professional brewers or owning breweries someday, so I also had to fit a bit of career counseling into our time together!

Then Jon and I wandered through the Midwest and Pacific sections looking for interesting beers to try. After the fest closed down we headed to the Stewards' Party, where the Stewards let us taste any of the beer left over from the competition. We ran into many old brewing friends and stayed up too late.

Saturday, our friends Scott and Krystyna met us at the festival. Jon watched the awards ceremony, something I've done for the last 17 years. Not being associated with any brewery this year freed me up to 1.) Skip the awards ceremony and 2.) Not be tied to a brewery booth. Therefore I took my two friends in tow to show them some of my favorite beers. The lines are shortest during the awards ceremony, so it was a great time to get some tasting in.

After the awards, I grabbed Jon and headed for "Michigan" in the Midwest section of the festival hall. I wanted Jon to taste the beers from Short's Brewing Company in Bellaire. Jon is from Michigan, and most West Coast brewers mistakenly believe that the Midwest is a craft beer wasteland.

We west-coasters think we invented Craft beer. Wait! We did. (OK, Anchor, New Albion, Cartright's, Sierra Nevada, Grant's and Mendocino Brewing Companies mostly did.)

Joe Short is brewing some of the most cutting-edge beer that I tried on my long journey. I tried his "Nicie Spicie" beer last July at the Michigan Brewers Guild's annual Summer Beer Festival. Joe was kind enough to smuggle in two bottles of his Nicie Spicie so Jon and fellow Judge Mark Dorber from Suffolk, England could try it too.

In the photo at right, L to R: Jon Graber, Teri and Joe Short.

After Joe brewed the beer, he spent all his free time during the next two days zesting lemons and oranges into his open fermenter. Then he cracked four kinds of pepper into it: Telecherry, green, white and pink pepper. Two days later he racked the Nicie Spicie off the zest and spices. The beer was juicy citrus with a nice pepper bite.

Other interesting beers Joe had at the festival included a Spruce-tips Imperial India Pilsner, a Licorice Stout, and some super hoppy fun beers that I forgot the names of. He entered 19 beers into the festival. It took so long to write up the descriptions that he missed his opportunity to bring draft beer. "Oh well," said Joe. "No problem. We'll just bottle everything up on our little Meheen bottler and serve from bottles at the fest." So that's what Short's did.

One of the most fun things about Joe is the stories he tells about brewing his beers. He's breaking all the rules, having a blast, working his butt off, and making knock-your-socks-off extreme beers.

He told us a long story about his challenge to make a 35-degree Plato Triple IPA for Short's first anniversary. He used 65 pounds of hops in 7-barrels. The wort was so strong he could hardly get the yeast started and the beer took four months to ferment out. Needless to say it was served a year later at Short's second anniversary. He aged some of the beer in different wooden barrels. He dry-hopped one Bourbon barrel of the IPA with fresh grapefruits. Sam, Vinnie and Tomme must be proud!

After the Members-only session ended, we went to The Cheeky Monk, a new Belgian bistro, for dinner with Scott and Krystyna. I had the pork tenderloin medalians with a cherry sauce, served with draft Duchesse de Bourgogne. It was a great combo.

It was a cold and rainy evening. A perfect evening for a nap before the post-fest festivities. Jon napped but I was either over-wired or over-tired and couldn't sleep. I had a cheese headache from eating pizza at the Stewards' party last night. Dairy is a bad idea for me, as I am allergic to it. Not in a deadly way, but in a painful-for-several-days way.

At 10:00 pm, Jon headed up to the Judges Hospitality Suite and I tried to sleep but couldn't. Jon called me at 11:00 pm and said, "Come up here, it's a really nice party." So I did.

Last week when I was at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Distillery I'd come up with the idea that the GABF Judges really needed to try Stranahan's because it is so good. Chris Swersey gave his permission, and all four Stranahan guys were there, and kind enough to bartend and pour tastes and drinks of their delightful libation.

I wanted to take a photo of Jesse Graber in his big white cowboy hat, along with fellow Judge Brad Kraus in his gray cowboy hat and nifty new snap-front cowboy shirt embroidered with hops and barley. Jesse left just before I could get the two of them together, so I grabbed Markus Stinson, brewer at Elysian Brewing Company. Brad (left) and Marcus (right) posed for my cowboy photo at right.

Because of the cold and wet storm sweeping Denver, I'd already decided that I would not try to drive across the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City tomorrow. Rather, that I would wait until Monday when the weather was due to clear up and warm up. Therefore, Jon and I stayed at the party until two in the morning. Then I slept well.

1 comment:

Rich Milliron said...

Well today I finally see an article on your adventure, in one of the many fine beer journals! This afternoon, at Sierra Nevada, I picked up the latest Ale Street News, and there it was…. “Pink Boots and All”. Between the fact that my number one brewery just came out with their Celebration Ale (my all time favorite) and reading that article - I was in hog heaven! I just think it would have been nice if these magazine guys would have had an article, back in their June edition – so more folks could have followed you and your experiences.

The article is excellent, Tony Forder did a great job. I remember that picture of you and Gretchen at Basil T’s, and thinking that she really does look like your sister – not just a fellow female brewer.

Sounds like you and your hubby had a great time at the GABF. I’ll make it someday! It was neat to see that some of the breweries you visited, won medals.

It’s October 17th , and you’re almost home. It’s kind of sad that the adventure is ending, although – I’m sure you can’t wait! Like a good book, you don’t want it to see that last page. During the summer, I didn’t want the final Harry Potter book to end, so I kept forcing myself to just put it down. With your story, because I started mid-stream, I’ve been able to save about three weeks in the middle of the summer, that I still have to look forward to. This blog stuff is pretty unique!

Thanks Teri. ~Rich