Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The inaugural Denver Rare Beer Tasting

Denver Rare Beer Tasting IThere was a brand new event this year during the Great American Beer Festival. It was the inaugural Denver Rare Beer Tasting (DRBT) at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in downtown Denver. The DRBT was a benefit for Pints For Prostates - "Reaching Men Through the Universal Language of Beer". The event was held on Friday, September 25, 2009.

A limited number of tickets (450) were sold to this event. Several dozen volunteers, Wynkoop staff and several of the brewers were there to help pour beers to help raise money for Pints For Prostates. The tickets sold out very quickly as craft beer enthusiasts were eager to try a line-up of 25 of the most limited edition beers to be found all in one place.

The line to get into the event started building an hour before the event and must have stretched nearly 2 blocks long. I had arrived about 90 minutes early and went inside to check things out before hand. The Wynkoop was absolutely packed with patrons no doubt enjoying a free pint from the coupon on their GABF ticket.

I managed to grab my free pint and wandered upstairs to look at the setup for the DRBT. There I saw a big table filled with tasting glasses, programs and pens. The volunteers were getting ready. I was promptly booted out and went to stand in line outside. There I met several fellow beer fanatics who loved to talk about beer. The time went quickly and soon we were headed inside.

The event started at 1:00pm and lasted 3 hours. Below is the line-up of beers that were available:

Alaskan Brewing Co - '99 & '08 Alaskan Smoked Porter
Allagash Brewing Co - Allagash Fluxus 2009
Avery Brewing Co - Voltron Barrel Aged Sour Ale
Boston Beer Co - Samuel Adams Utopias 2009
Bison Brewing Co - Bison Reunion '09 Double White Ale
Brooklyn Brewery - Brooklyn Wild 1
Deschutes Brewing Co - Double Black Butte Porter XXI
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Raison D'Extra 2006
Foothills Brewing Co - Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout
Great Divide Brewing Co - Old Ruffian Barley Wine 2008
Harpoon Brewery - Glacier Harvest '09 Wet Hop Ale
Highland Brewing Co - Big Butte Smoked Porter
Jolly Pumpkin - Bier de Mars Grand Reserve '06/'07
Lost Abbey - The Angel's Share '09 Brandy Barrel Finish
Michelob Brewing Co - Mich Brett
New Belgium Brewing/Elysian Brewing - Trip II
New Glarus Brewing Co - New Glarus Golden Ale
Odell Brewing Co - Odell Crimson Shenanigans
Oksar Blues Wet-hopped Whiskey Barrel-aged Gordon
Rogue Ales - Rogue John John Hazelnut
Saranac Brewing Co - Saranac Imperial IPA
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co - Barrel Aged Scotch Ale
Stoudts Brewing Co - Stoudts Old Abominable Barleywine '07
Stone Brewing Co - Stone '08 Old Guardian Barley Wine
Wynkoop Brewing Co - Wynkoop Barrel Aged Berserker Mead

Talk about a fantastic line-up! The vast majority of these beers were over 7% ABV and in one case (Utopias) it was 27% ABV. Attendees were given 3 ounce samples but many found themselves limiting their samples to just 1 ounce at a time due to the strength of the brews.

Below is a slideshow of some of the highlights from this event. If your browser won't display the following slideshow, please visit to view the entire slideset.

If you wish to use any of these pictures on your own site please be sure to put Fermentedly Challenged blog in the credits. Thanks. Read more about the individual beers after the break below.

For myself, the highlight of the tasting event was meeting in person so many people that I had only known previously over the Internet, that was including many of the brewers like: Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Doug Odell (Odell Brewing), Garret Oliver (Brooklyn Brewing), Peter Bouckaert (New Belgium), Greg Koch (Stone Brewing), Dave Chichura (Oskar Blues) and many others. There were also a couple of celebrities there including George Wendt (Norm from Cheers). Rick Lyke was also on hand (founder of Pints for Prostates) to welcome in the crowd.

I had the pleasure of finally tasting my first glass of Sam Adams Utopias. This big bad beer weighs in at 27%. It was surprisingly smooth. The nose was like a vanilla brandy. The strength of it hit me up front and was a tad on the sweet side. I immediately got a big glow out of that brew. Well worth trying.

Oskar Blues Whiskey Barrel-aged Gordon was a completely different animal than their regular Gordon. It had both a whiskey and sweet malt overtones and was noticeably sweeter.

New Glarus' Golden Ale was a nice light colored ale with the aroma of a Belgian ale and a bit of Brett funkyness. Very smooth.

New Belgium Trip II had a big hop aroma. It had Magnum and Citra hops, lemongrass and grains of paradise blended in. It was light with a medium body with a dash of funkiness. Mildly spicy.

The Lost Abbey The Angel's Share was aged slightly in brandy barrels. It was dark brown mellowed barleywine that was creamy smooth. Ryan, the head brewer, poured me some and loved to talk about his beer.

Jolly Pumpkin Bier de Mars Grand Reserve '06/'07 was a cloudy orange color with a toned down Brett smell. It was wonderfully sour and funky. Love it! Easy drinking. Not quite as sour as their 2009 version.

Dogfish Head ran out of the 2006 Raison D'Extra but was pouring some of their 2009. I could smell the raisins in this beer! Slightly bitter and coated my tongue. A very enjoyable, solid brew.

Foothills 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout. There was a big vanilla presence in the nose here. I tasted the bourbon characteristics. It had a subtle roasty flavor. Not bad at all. The beer was 4 years old but the barrels were 23 years old.

Avery Voltron was a late entry into the tasting. It's a barrel aged sour ale with a nice funky bret smell. IT's brown, cloudy with red highlights. Mildly tart. Subtle, easy drinking. Not as powerful or tart as other sours. 9% ABV. Decent.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter XXI - this was the 2009 version of their double porter. It's as good as last years XX version. Nice roasty chocolate malts.

Odell's Crimson Shenanigans was aged in virgin oak barrels for at least 3 months. Slightly cloudy brew with a bretty funk. It was a tad on the sweet side and weighed in at 10.3% ABV. Only 2 oak barrels of this were made.

Stone's '08 Old Guaridan Barley Wine had a distinctive Stone hop aroma. I'd call this a hoppy barley wine. It was smooth but with a big over-the-top taste.

Wynkoop Barrel Aged Berserker Mead - this was the only mead in the event. It had a vanilla like aroma that reminded me of the Utopias. It was sweet with a big alcohol kick. It was wine-like.

Overall Impression

I didn't get a chance to try every single beer at the event but after 3 hours of sampling and mingling with the crowd I doubt I would have had enough time to do so.

The DRBT was one of the big highlights for me for the entire week. I'd do this event again next year for sure. The beer, people and atmosphere were second to none. I was even inspired enough for the cause and got a PSA test from my doctor in August.

If any of you get a chance to attend this event next year DO IT! Be sure to grab your tickets early. I believe they went on sale a month or so in advance.

Click here to read Rick Lyke's summary of the event.

The Denver Rare Beer Tasting was a great way to kick off the Friday activities. From there I immediately went over to the Flying Dog FBAG party. More details on that soon.

Related articles:
- Volunteering at the 2009 GABF.
- Hot picks from the 2009 GABF.
- 2009 GABF Thursday session highlights.
- Colorado top winning state at 2009 GABF.

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