GABF by the Numbers: Coffee, ‘Session’ Beer and Winner Geography

Over the weekend, the Brewers Association announced their annual list of winners from judging at the Great American Beer Festival, offering the best of American beer out of 7,923 entries across 98 categories.

Among the joy of all the winners, there was also some confusion. With 105 entries, Fruited American-Style Sour Ale was decided to not have one good enough for a gold. Session IPA awarded its top medal to a beer with 5.8% ABV. The first-place finisher for American-style IPA went to a beer its brewery does and does not list as a pale ale. Whoops.

Even if there are some confusing aspects of what was decided, there are still worthy numbers to crunch (and overanalyze).

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I went to GABF with a Plan. I Found This Story Instead.

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I may have made a beer fest faux pas. I had a plan for the Great American Beer Festival.

Not necessarily a long, marked up sheet with beers I wanted to try – that can simply be disastrous with the pressure you put on yourself – but a short list of breweries I wanted to see. I was interested in their booths and what kind of attention they may receive from the thousands of committed beer lovers milling about the Colorado Convention Center.

The idea was to find these tables with hope of acquiring fodder for stories for All About Beer. I had good intentions. Things did not go as planned.

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The Data Behind Your GABF Beer Samples

Heading to Great American Beer Festival? Hope you like hops.

Thanks to Porch Drinking, festival goers have an advance preview at the many beers that will be served to thirsty enthusiasts descending on the Colorado Convention Center. Want an idea of what to expect? I crunched some numbers pulled from a continually updated list at Porch Drinking, as submitted by breweries.

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Let’s Have Some Fun: A Few Words on … What Makes a Good Beer?

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What makes a good beer?

Is it the effort brewers put into it? Is it the drinking experience?

Is it the bull testicles?

Maybe not so much the last one.

Bon Appetit (via Yahoo) recently released a list of the strangest beers in America, which led me to think once again about the novelty of beer and what that means for craft beer drinkers.

The list ranges from Wynkoop’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout – which I had at the Great American Beer Festival and liked – to Uncommon Brewers’ Bacon Brown Ale (another bacon beer?) and even Flying Dog’s Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, despite oyster stouts being, well, kind of common compared to bacon and testicle beer.

The missing link to good beer, apparently.

The missing link to good beer, apparently.

That list pairs well with the 10 best perceived (national) beers in America, which is comprised of all the usual suspects like Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, Heineken and Sam Adams, which tops the list.

Um, those aren't punching bags, sir.

Um, those aren’t punching bags, sir.

So sure – when comparing bull testicles to Bud Light, one is going to seem rather strange. But maybe they taste the same to some. (Oh snap! A BMC burn!)

But seriously, folks, what makes a good beer?
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Don’t believe the hype or: The descent into beer madness … “The Session” Dec. 2012

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King of hype men hyping a beer that needs no hype. Yeah boy.

session_logo_all_text_300There is something apparently romantic about the idea of being on stage, screaming, waving a towel in the air and pouring Cristal/water on women.

Or, at least, that’s what Flavor Flav has taught me … along with many ways to avoid poor life decisions.

In hip-hop or rap, the role of the hype man is pivotal: “A hype man is a figure who plays a central but supporting role within a group, making his own interventions, generally aimed at hyping up the crowd while also drawing attention to the words of the MC.” When it comes to beer, is the hype pivotal as well?

This is the essential question posed by David as part of this month’s “Session” blog post, where each month, a different beer blogger chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. This question is one that I think has become more and more prevalent in today’s industry – just look at the hype surrounding the novelty of beer

This is the future of hype.

This is the future of hype.

Liquor-strength beer bottled inside the carcass of a dead rodent dressed in a tuxedo. With a top hat. We have entered a time of a beer arms race, however it’s not always where the loudest wins. Hype can be a subtle thing, after all.

So what does this all mean? Warm up your vocal cords, grab a bottle of water and let’s hit the jump. Don’t forget to bring a towel.
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Achieving Beervana … or: The Perfect Beer World Nov. 2012 “The Session”

For this month’s “Session” blog post, Jorge over at Brew Beer and Drink It has posed the question of the Perfect Beer World. That is, what will bring us closer to creating our ideal state of be(er)ing. See what I did there?

There are lots of places to start – perhaps world peace would encourage greater brewery collaborations? Saison du BUFF, anyone? But I’m not going to waste my time with such trivial, Kumbaya-like thinking. World peace is a pretty big task when we have a few easy fixes right here at home.

So let’s grab a brew, salute the flag and hit the jump to see how we can create the Perfect Beer World right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, and maybe get some help from our friends around the globe too.
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Great American Beer Festival: Night 2

GABF “Safety Team” protects us from potential slippage caused by projectile vomit.

This post reflect beers I enjoyed (responsibly) on Saturday night of GABF. For my thoughts from Friday night, check out my previous post.

Here’s what I learned from night #2 at the Great American Beer Festival: people will throw up and they will throw up with greater purpose than Friday night.

Another thing I learned from night #2: breweries are bad at rationing their beer. It was near impossible to visit a booth and not have some or even most beers crossed off on their serving list because they just simply didn’t have enough to last through Saturday night.

Nonetheless, these disappointments didn’t deter me during Saturday night’s session in Denver. There were still some great beers and perhaps my favorite of all from the festival. Read about what had my heart all aflutter after the jump.
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Great American Beer Festival: Night 1

So … day/night #1 of the Great American Beer Festival is in the books and it was a hell of an experience. Beer as far as the eye can see and lots of great conversations with brewers, brewery employees and beer fans alike.

Interested in a quick and dirty rundown of my inaugural visit and thoughts on a slew of beers? Hit the jump to see which beer kicked my ass the most and the biggest surprise of the night.
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A Few Words on … How I’m celebrating Oktoberfest

With Oktoberfest in full swing, I’m excited to be celebrating in grand style this year. Need a primer on Oktoberfest? Here you go. How do you celebrate Oktoberfest? Well, the next three weeks offer some great events I’ll be visiting. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Oktoberfest:

Oct. 6 – World Beer Festival

What excites me most about Durham’s annual beer fest is the growing North Carolina brew scene. Along with Beer City, USA, the state currently has 70 operating breweries, many of which show up for the World Beer Festival. Hell, North Carolina even has it’s own tent. Just take a look at this beer lineup. There’s a great variety of drinks, including mead, cider and (naturally) beer. I’m most excited to get my hands on some brew from NoDa Brewing Company from Charlotte, which isn’t regularly available in the Triangle. I also plan to show off White Street Brewing – one of NC’s newest breweries – to out-of-town friends.

Oct. 13 – Great American Beer Festival

It’s finally time to take the plunge. My fever pitch over attending this festival is reaching capacity. What can I expect from GABF? Hundreds of breweries and a couple thousand of potential beer samples. I know that Sam Adams’ Utopias have made an appearance at past festivals, so my fingers are crossed to get a pour of that. However, I’m making a beeline for the West Coast section because I finally get the chance to sample some Pliny the Elder from Russian River – one of the most highly regarded brews in the world. Thankfully I’m going to two sessions at the Great American Beer Festival, so I hope to have ample opportunity to get my liver hands on great beer that normally doesn’t come close to the Triangle area. New Glarus, anyone?

Oct. 20 – Mystery Brewing tour

I’m capping off my month of beer with a group tour of Mystery Brewing – a local brewery that opened up earlier this year. It’s run by Erik Lars Myers, author and general mad scientist when it comes to brews. The brewery keeps up a wide variety of constantly-changing beer options, so I can’t wait to hear from him about how and why he comes up with the ideas for each one. Plus, the beers have pretty cool names like Waggledance, Lockwood’s Retreat and Papa Bois. Even better, Mystery puts partial recipes right on their site, so if I’m feeling adventurous, it could mean trying out a clone brew.

Tips? Tricks? Words of wisdom?

At each of these events I hope to grab some pictures or even video to highlight the sights and sounds of what’s going on. While I’ve been a regular at the World Beer Festivals, I’ve never been to GABF or taken a brewery tour. Is there anything worth keeping an eye out for? Is there anything you’d be interested in reading about? Drop me a line via Twitter or leave a comment.

(Photos sourced from allaboutbeer.com, greatamericanbeerfestival.com and mysterybrewing.com)