Great American Beer Festival 2009 – Part 3

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

The Brews Cruise rolled on to our next destination, the Oskar Blues Brewing Company. I was excited to hit Oskar Blues because the founder, Dale Katechis, is originally from Florence, AL. He also was a bit of a trend-setter when he got started. He wanted a quality beer that he could take with him on the river, so he decided to only packages his microbrews in cans. They make brews such as Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub, and Ten Fidy.

At the Oskar Blues Brewery, lunch was provided for us. It was a nice little barbecue pulled pork setup that really hit the spot. Again we went on a brewery tour of the facility. Theirs was interesting in that the place was built inside what basically was a big warehouse so all of the brewing, fermentation, and bottling takes place in one big room. Again showing that each brewery has their own neat culture, Oskar Blues has a batting cage setup inside of their place. For some reason I didn’t get any pictures from inside this brewery. Maybe something to do with the third straight brewery we had visited with unlimited samples as well as on-the-bus brews during the drives between breweries.

At this point after 3 tours of microbrewery facilities a couple of things were very interesting to me. One was the size of the operations. All of these facilities occupied very small spaces. I guess that is where the micro in microbrew comes from. All of these breweries could easily fit into the footprint a standard restaurant building takes up. Another neat thing was that while each facility had all of the same types of equipment and processes, they each had their own culture and feel. You could tell the employees all take enormous pride in their work, their company, and the unique culture that exists at each facility. I wonder how this compares to the large mega-breweries. Also, not sure if this is a Denver thing, but all of the breweries were very big on recycling everything possible. All glass and paper was recycled, and even the used grains that were left at the end of the brewing process were shipped off to farmers for use as feed for livestock. It was very impressive to see this type of commitment to as green a process as possible.

After the tour, back on the bus we went for the last brewery of the day. We headed over to the Avery Brewing Company. This brewery stood out because it was just sort of right smack in the middle of a strip mall (Google Maps Satellite View). The party bus was cruising through a strip center past insurance companies, dry cleaners, Chinese take-out places, and then all of a sudden, the Avery Brewing Company. Definitely proved that you do not need a lot of space for a microbrewery. I had never heard of the Avery Brewing company but was very pleased with the brews that we had there (Old Jubilation Ale, The Beast, Mephistopheles Stout). I also was introduced to a style of beer that I had read about but never tasted and really couldn’t even fathom. The Sour Beer style (more accurately, the Belgian Sour Ale – read Sour Beer for Beginners). The best way to describe this concoction is to take a perfectly good beer, then add the sour flavor of a CryBaby sour candy. Now for most out there, I’m sure this sounds positively awful, but it actually wasn’t bad. You definitely couldn’t drink 6 of these babies, but one of them was quite nice. Avery had two different sours to taste and I enjoyed them both. When talking about sours with the group, it seemed to delineate along the lines of those that liked the flavor of pickle juice liked sour beers and those that didn’t couldn’t stand sour beers. An interesting experience nonetheless. We decided to forgo the brewery tour at Avery because it was quite crowded and we had a table with our Alabama transplant friends and some comfy chairs.

At long last the joy of the Brews Cruise had to come to an end. We boarded our bus to head back to downtown Denver. I used the ride back to catch a little bit of shut-eye. This of course proved to be too much for Rob to resist, and he proceeded to take pictures of me and send them out to all of our friends with various captions thanks to his trusty iPhone 3GS. Just this past weekend I ran into a friend and was telling them about the GABF and he mentioned he had seen the pictures. I just assumed he was on the distribution list from Rob but he was actually joking (guess he just figured that anyone that visits a beer festival must have a gaggle of incriminating pictures out there…not true in our case).

Upon arriving back at the convention center we decided to hit the hotel for a quick 20 minute nap before trying to meet up with some friends from the Back of the Bus Crew. Unfortunately that 20 minute nap turned into a 4 hour nap leaving us waking up late into the night. We met up with some friends of Rob’s and checked out Sing Sing’s Piano Bar. A nice loud dueling piano type setup.

Sing Sing's Piano Bar

Now the dueling pianos there weren’t bad per se, but I’ve spent most of my dueling pianos time at Pat O’Brien’s in The Piano Bar down in New Orleans. That is the cream of the crop piano bar, so anything other than that is really just amateur hour. Also, the fact that I had not eaten anything since lunch time caught up with me with a splitting headache and nauseous feeling. I decided to call it an early night, while Rob went and had some late night fun with his Denver peeps.

Click to read Part 4.

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