There was a time when it seemed The Great American Beer Festival was little more than the best all-you-can-drink happy hour under one roof. But when it rolls into Denver Oct. 11-13, please don’t revert to your beer-chugging college days. Beer deserves better.
It’s time to step up to the level of connoisseur. Admittedly, we didn’t know how to do that, either. So we enlisted the help of Ro Guenzel, brewer at Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, and Sean Davis, a Boulder home brewer who has a batch of suds available at Mountain Sun. We discussed tips and tricks of the trade and quickly learned that drinking beer was something that required an education. More than a few samples of Left Hand brews were passed around to help us test our new knowledge. This can be a tough job. In the end, we came up with this foolproof plan of how to conquer the GABF without getting too drunk to decipher a red ale from a milk stout:
Map Out Your Night
There are hundreds of brewers and even more types of beer in the Colorado Convention Center’s hall. Try and drink them all, and you’re guaranteed a ride home courtesy of the local ambulance company. But if you wander aimlessly, you risk leaving without a beer buzz. Check out beertown.org for maps of regions and breweries to build a gameplan before inebriation.
Find Beer Geeks
One of the best things about our educational roundtable was sitting with two proud beer geeks—they are one of the friendliest breeds of geek, and their knowledge of hops and barley is stupefying. Seek a certified geek of your own for tidbits such as the super secret beer no one else knows about, and where to find the best chili pepper beer. A quick note on finding one: They are the ones with a notepad who swirl before swallowing.
Learn To Taste
Beer can be more complex than wine and has the ability to take on so many kinds of flavor. Before tasting, take in the color and sediments to see how well it’s filtered. Then stick your nose into your glass and enjoy the aroma. When you sip, swirl it, note the carbonation and enjoy the aftertaste. This is where a pen and pad comes in. After a long night of tasting, your scrupulous notes will remind you which to buy next time you head to Liquor Universe.
Clean Your Palate
Possibly the greatest invention of all time, the pretzel necklace fills your stomach during a long night, serves as a beer-drinking abacus and is an easy way to start up a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Oh, and it helps rid the flavor of the previous beer so you can make proper comparisons. Water works well, too.
When To Go
If you like to party, the Saturday night crush is the way to go. If you’re ready to be a connoisseur, try the Thursday night or Saturday day session. Also check out various seminars and classes offered.
Rinse your taster frequently, drink lighter tasting beers first, wear shoes you don’t like, and designate a sober driver, grab a hotel room or take advantage of RTD.