After an incredible Friday, we arose for our last full day in Denver. We had tickets for the Saturday Members-Only session at the GABF which ran from 12:30pm-4:30pm. We figured a bit of grease might be a good way to start the day (though I’m sure the grease from the previous night’s Pete’s Kitchen run was still there). We decided to drop by a place we had seen on our daily walks through the city, Pete’s Cafe (or is it called Pete’s Steak House, there seems to be some confusion as to its name). This was a tiny little old school diner on Colfax. We had some good old fashioned breakfast food (eggs, sausage, and hash browns) that would get us through the upcoming tasting session.
Because we bought tickets to the Saturday session, we were given VIP entrance tickets to the Thursday session. Since this was the Saturday members-only session everyone was VIP. That meant we all had the privilege of standing in the same line outside. We unfortunately did not arrive very early (about 10 minutes early) and were treated to a line that wrapped almost entirely around the convention center. And unfortunately for us we followed the line around to the right instead of going left around the convention center (which would have saved us a ton of walking, it must have taken 5 minutes to find the end of the line). With the incredibly long line, it took us 30 minutes to actually get into the tasting session.
Finally at 1pm we made it into the Saturday tasting session. The big thing we wanted to try on Saturday was Sam Adams Utopias which would not be available till after the awards were handed out. Since we had a couple hours before we could queue up for the Utopias, we began another round of tasting. We tried to explore the smaller, unknown breweries and beers that we did not hit on Thursday.
For this tasting session, Rob donned the USA Jaguars gear that I had brought for him from Alabama. This prompted another Alabama encounter from one of the volunteers at the event. She was from Grand Bay but apparently had been gone a long time since she didn’t know what college South Alabama was (it was started in 1964!!).
We saw the X-Communicated Mormon Drinking Team:
The event was not limited to only microbrews. Coors had a cool booth that would shoot snow out from the mountains. They also had a Pre-Pro (Pre-Prohibition) beer that was quite nice.
Blue Moon was there (owned by Coors) and brought a Peanut Butter Ale that was out of this world. The peanut flavor was so incredible I can’t believe they don’t sell this one year around. It is apparently only made for the GABF.
I snapped pics of various breweries that I must have been impressed with though it is hard to make out the brewery information from these high quality iPhone pics I took.
After much tasting, we finally were ready to line up and await the tapping of the Sam Adams Utopias. Utopias has the distinction of being the strongest beer every created. It comes in at around 27% alcohol by volume and sells for $120 for a small 20 ounce or so bottle. They actually had to engineer yeast that could survive at such concentrated alcohol levels in order to create this beer. They only brew it every couple of years and do a limited release of a set number of bottles. Of course even with our law change, this is still not going to be available in Alabama. While we were waiting in line, we did see the creator of Sam Adams, Jim Koch, cruise through their booth. We had a really good spot in line so, though the wait was kind of long, we didn’t want to move and lose our spot. It also didn’t hurt that while we were standing there, we got to continually sample the other beers in their lineup (the Imperial Stout is incredible).
Finally the Utopias was tapped and furious pouring began. The normal GABF tasting sample is 1 ounce, but this high-octane brew was only offered as a 1/2 ounce sample.
Once we had our sample, we moved off to the side so we could truly savor the experience. The color of this beer was incredible. It had an amazing aroma with vanilla and caramel notes. We immortalized the moment with a pic of our samples before tasting them.
The Utopias was amazing. It if course tasted more like a liquor with no discernible carbonation. The vanilla and caramel flavor was very apparent and oh so wonderful. It is an expensive, rare and unique beer, but I could see having one of these around for special occasions. It is not available where I can purchase it (and it always sells out) but I really enjoyed this beer. Kudos Sam Adams for making something very special!
At long last we had to say goodbye to our GABF experience. 4:30pm came around it all had to come to an end. We enjoyed our time there and highly recommend attending if you like beer.
After leaving we had a few hours to kill before our next event, so we did some souvenir shopping at the 16th Street Mall. I picked up some gifts for the girlfriend, Casey, (since she was very clear about the fact that no gifts equals no ride home from the airport), and then headed back over to Katie Mullen’s to salute Arthur Guinness once more.
We had and appetizer of shredded German pot roast set on mini bread topped with pan gravy and seared red cabbage, paired with Horn Dog Barley Wine:
Spinach salad tossed with roasted pear vinaigrette, candied walnuts and red onion, paired with Kerberos Tripel:
Golden mushroom soup finished with sharp cheddar cheese and a good splash of beer, paired with Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale:
Beer mustard chicken and bangers, sauteed carrots and green beans buttered demi spetzel paired with Double Dog Double Pale Ale:
Chocolate Porter Fondue served with sour cream pound cake and sweet beer bread paired with Gonzo Imperial Porter:
End to end this beer dinner was amazing. The food was incredible. The company was great. One of our dining companions at our table, David, was an avid homebrewer so I got to pick his brain about the subject. He even gave me his contact info in case I had any questions if I decided to give brewing a try. Of course the big surprise of the night was when the Flying Dog folks were doing their final announcements about the dinner and asked where Doug Porter was. They somehow had found out that it was my birthday and had the whole place sing me Happy Birthday. Thanks Rob for being sneaky and making that happen! I had no clue he had arranged that. What a great dinner this turned out to be!
After dinner we made our way back to our hotel. Now I was expecting to head straight to bed since it was around 11pm and I had to be up at 6:30am to catch my shuttle to the airport. Rob had a flight out at 7pm the next evening so he had other ideas. He convinced me to head over to the Irish Snug for a nightcap. It turned out that there was a fellow playing Irish diddies and a great crowd participating in the sing-a-longs which turned out to be very fun. The musician that night was Brian Clancy. He has a live CD available online that really captures the atmosphere we got to experience that night.
While there we met a group of ladies that were celebrating their friend’s birthday come midnight that night. Since it was already my birthday, we were invited to join their group for the birthday festivities. They were a fun group. One of the gals works for Live Nation so we got to talk bands and music. Turns out that one of her friends, Todd Roeth, photograpphed my favorite musician Butch Walker when he was in town. Todd’s pictures of bands are amazing. Check out his site here. She was also the one that clued us into the fact that the Ramada on Colfax is referred to as the RockMada. Apparently it is close to the clubs and cheap, so all of the bands end up staying there. And sure enough later that night as we got back to the hotel, there was a band unloading their van to check in.
Somehow this group convinced us to leave the Irish Snug and head over to RockBar (Rockbar’s Myspace). This place was sort of like an old-school dark, hot dance club. I remember lots of early nineties hip-hop and rap being played and cold cans of PBR being provided by Rob. Definitely an interesting place. After RockBar winded down, we made our third and final trip over to Pete’s Kitchen for late night grub (and of course I had the Gyros Breakfast Sandwich again). If we had stayed in town a few more days, they probably would have named a booth after us since we just kept coming back night after night. Amazing food at that place and a great time with our new Denver friends. Thanks for making us feel like locals!
At long last (and one of glass of water later accidentally spilled by me into Rob’s lap) we headed back to the RockMada to bring an end to the Denver fun. When it was all said and done it was 3:30am when we finally went to sleep.
6:30am came awfully early, but somehow I managed to get up, get packed and dressed, and make it to my airport shuttle (Rob, of course, didn’t even hear me leave). The trip back to Mobile was very uneventful and unusually pleasant (probably mainly because I was in a daze thanks to only getting 3 hours of sleep).
The GABF trip turned out to be an incredible experience that I highly recommend. Rob and I had a blast. Here is my full picture gallery from the trip. So let’s wrap up with the final tally.
6 days, 5 nights, 1 brews cruise, 4 brewery tours, 2 GABF tasting sessions, 1 beer dinner, 1 Rockies game, ~250 GABF beers sampled, 0.5 ounces of Utopias, 4 airline flights, 14 days before I wanted to drink any beer after I got back to Mobile, lots of new Denver friends, and a grand total of 7,814 words across 6 blog entries detailing the trip.
Thanks GABF! Thanks Denver! Thanks Rob! Cheers to all!