Great American Beer Festival 2009 – Part 1

Part 1 of a series of posts about the GABF. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Back in May I was cruising the Free The Hops forums as I’m want to do and ran across a posting about the Great American Beer Festival held annually in Denver, CO. Just the name alone sounded intriguing so I decided to do some investigating. As it turns out that festival is listed on all kinds of Man Things To Do Before You Die type lists. It is apparently Beertopia, Beerapallooza, Beerhalla, the Beery Gates, and Beervana all rolled up into one. It seemed that an epic adventure was there just waiting to happen. Once I got adventure approval from my better half I enlisted my buddy West-Coast Rob who is always up for excitement and new experiences. These posts will chronicle our time in Denver for the GABF from Tuesday, September 22, 2009 to Sunday, September 27, 2009.

Tuesday was a travel day for me with nice boring flights from MOB->MEM->DEN. Upon arriving in Denver I got to see first hand the monstrosity that is the Denver International Airport. I remember studying the airport’s baggage system in grad school. It is a case study on how not to run a software project (Article from Scientific American about the project). Calling this airport the Denver Airport seems to be a bit of a stretch. Google says it was about 24 miles from the airport to our hotel. In Mobile if I drive 24 miles, I’m in a different city and I’m almost at the beach. Also, Denver is sorely lacking on adequate affordable transportation from the airport into downtown. Cabs $50, Super Shuttle $20, Hourly Bus $10. Nothing like hopping on Bart in San Francisco or the “El” in Chicago.

Rob and I elected to go with the Super Shuttle van for our transportation to the hotel. Since the airport is so far away, the shuttle driver refused to leave until he had filled every bit of space in our van (he even tried to fill some space that didn’t actually exist, luckily those elderly passengers refused to squeeze in between everyone).

On the ride into town, I was lucky enough to be seated next to two brewers that were in town as judges for the GABF (Great American Beer Festival). One was Brock Wagner from the Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, TX and the other was Chuck Skypeck from the Ghost River Brewing Company and Boscos in Memphis, TN. They were super nice guys and we had a great conversation about how they got started in the business, how things have changed since they began brewing, and what they saw for the future of beermaking. For someone that has been thinking about getting into homebrewing, this was an absolute treat. Thanks guys for the interesting conversation! Poor Rob got stuck up front riding shotgun, so he spent the trip into town keeping the van driver from killing us (which I’m very thankful for).

After checking into our hotel (the Ramada on Colfax Ave next to the tattoo parlors) we headed over to the Rock Bottom Brewing Company on 16th Street to meet up with Melissa, one of Rob’s friends that lives in Denver. There we enjoyed some wonderful Rock Bottom brews with Melissa and her coworkers. They all showed some wonderful hospitality to the out of towners. Here is my poor blurry iPhone pic of their beer board.

Rock Bottom Brewing Beer List

After imbibing for a bit we left in search of food (yes, we left a restaurant to go find a restaurant). That search led us to Hamburger Mary’s. After some great food (I had the enchilada’s with green chilies) and drinks, we discovered we were in for a special treat. At 9pm on Tuesday’s, Hamburger Mary’s has Drag Queen Bingo. They passed out bingo sheets and stampers and treated us to a hilarious 2 hours of bingo excitement.

Hamburger Mary's Drag Queen Bingo

If you are in town on a Tuesday night, you must go check this out. It was quite vulgar and profane, but in all the right ways. Unfortunately neither Rob, Melissa, nor I won any of the bingo games. So close, but no bingo.

On the way back to the hotel we swung by one more place before calling it a night. We checked out the Streets of London Pub on Colfax. A delightful place with a very Punk Rock meets Hell’s Angels meets Soccer Hooligans type vibe. And it was $2 You Call It which you just can’t beat.

Finally we retired to our Ramada (which we would later find out is referred to as the Rock-mada) to call an end to day one.

Click to read Part 2.

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