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It’s Go Time!

It’s Friday morning and the 2008 Great American Beer Festival has finished judging all the beers. I am hearing numbers near 3000 beers this year. It will surpass the 2008 World Beer Cup as the largest commercial beer competition in the world. These my friends are exciting times.

Now that my judging duties are done, I can turn my energies to more pressing things (also known as relaxing and getting my drink on) Tonight, I will work the festival floor before heading back to the hotel to consume many of the remaining bottles from the competition. When I finally pass out, it better be for good. You see, I have trouble sleeping the night before the awards. It’s silly but very true.

Tomorrow, around 11 AM, I will hopefully wake and make preparations for the Saturday and the awards ceremony. We’ll gather for our annual Chipotle visit and ensure that we do not break from tradition. This dates back to 2003 when Jeff and I won small brewpub brewery of the year. Since then, you can count on seeing us at Chipotle on Saturday before the fest. We’ll inhale a burrito before heading to the hall.

It will be an antsy morning and early afternoon as we wait for the ceremony. It’s crazy. But then, Chris Swersey will take that stage and with his first “welcome,” it will be go time. As I mentioned in my previous post, I think the beers we have sent this year are amazing. There are always question marks and beers that didn’t travel well but at the end of the day, I have never been more confident about our beers. And confidence in our beers isn’t something I lack. We’ve sent 11 beers. So let’s break them down for you here.

Tomorrow, around 2:00 we’ll find out how we have fared. Let’s just say my expectations are incredibly high. My parents have even traveled to Denver to be a part of the festivities. We’ll open the ceremony like last year with Judgment Day. It took the Gold Medal in Specialty Beers last year and we never looked back. It didn’t win in San Diego but was very well received. The batch we have sent is amazing and really should stand out. However, rumor on the street is that there were “many” beers brewed with raisins entered this year. No surprise there. A raisin beer has won the Gold twice in the last 3 years. If Judgment Day hits the board, it might signal a monster day for us.

We won’t have to wait too long as our next beer is Brouwer’s Imagination Saison and its entered in category 14. American-Belgo Style Ale. This beer won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup so I know it plays well with the judges. What remains to be seen is how this new category shakes out. I have my thoughts but will share them later. Matt Boney wants to crash the stage should this beer win. Look for a smiling publican if it does.

Cuvee de Tomme will rocket from the gates next at Category 18 Wood and Barrel Aged Sour. Cuvee is our most decorated beer AND it has won the last two Gold Medals at the 2007 GABF and 2008 World Beer Cup. How do I feel about our chances. Let’s just say that Cuvee rarely misses and leave it at that.

The very next category is Aged or Vintage beers. We have 2 beers entered here. The Angel’s Share 2006 and Veritas 003. I think we have two amazing beers in this field of beers. I hate competing with two beers in the same category but this was the best fit. Everyone in our tasting panel picked The 2006 Angel’s Share on their lists. I certainly agree with them. Veritas 003 will most likely get bounced for wood flavors but you just never know…

We’ll have to wait for a while as the lager categories will munch up a good portion of the middle rounds. We come back to play at category at Category 47 Imperial IPA. We entered Hop 15 here. Given how many great Double IPA’s are out there, you won’t find me holding my breath on this one. I didn’t even place it in our top 8 beers which count towards the Brewery of the Year Awards. Awesome beers rule this category. I would like to grace the stage again someday for Hop 15 so let’s hope.

They’ll march through the rest of the American Styles before heading for Belgium. We have entered several beers here. First up is Ne Goeien Saison. This was the collaborative beer that we brewed with Hildegard from Urthel. It’s pretty spot on and may be the best chance we’ve had at winning this award. I’m hoping it happens. The beer scored very well in our tasting panel. Would’t surprise me in the least.

The next category is Belgian and French Style Ales. We dropped Devotion in here to see what would happen. Most of the tasters mentioned too bitter for style. I won’t be ignorant of their scores. However, I still think the softness of this beer makes it a wild card for me.

We’ll be watching the board intently as category 62 is Sour Ales. We have entered Red Poppy and Isabelle Proximus here. I just can’t get away from the marvelous depth of flavors that Isabelle puts forth. This was a unanimous pick last weekend at our tasting. For me, it would be very special. All five of the Brett Pack would join me on stage. That is a photo I’m hoping for.

Red Poppy won a Silver Medal at the World Beer Cup. It’s an awesome beer. I just think it will get buried at this competition. I would love to be pleasantly surprised but wouldn’t bet the farm on it. This is one burly category filled with amazing beers.

Last but certainly not least will be Serpent’s Stout. This is category 72 Imperial Stout. This beer has aged so gracefully, I can’t help but think it has a legitimate shot. This is one mother of a category as well. Even so, this beer tops my list along with Isabelle Proximus.

That’s it. Tomorrow at 1:30, Mayor Hickenlooper will exit the stage and it will be go time. It’s ridiculous to think about a monster day at the GABF given our success of late. But, we’ve put in the the time so forgive us for dreaming of riches and glory. My guys have earned it as well. We’ll see you out there…

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