Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tasting Notes from the 2012 GABF

2012 GABF Tasting NotesNow that the 2012 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over, not only can I reflect back on this year's festival in pictures, but I can also reflect on every single beer that I tried from my notes. Yes, notes. I'm one of those geeks who carry around a notebook to the GABF and rate and comment on every single beer I try. Why? Simple, if I hadn't taken down notes then and there I'd have no way to remember what the heck I spent 4 hours a session tasting.

I knew up front that there was no way possible (unless you're a douchebag) to try every single beer in the convention center. So, I had to be selective, and pick the styles and breweries that I either knew best or really wanted to try.

While I ended up trying several more beers than I wrote down, I tended to take notes on just the ones that stuck out in my mind. So the basis of comparing notes with others who attended, here is a list of some of the more noteworthy beers I tried during the 2012 GABF. Let me know if you tried some of these same beers and what you thought of them. You'll notice that I tend to favor a few particular styles and I did taste a lot of Colorado beers. I won't rate any beers below 3 stars here.

Notable Beers from the 2012 GABF
In no particular order or style... Scale of 1 (worst) * to 5 (best) stars *****

Wynkoop Brewery (Denver, CO) - Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout - yup, the beer made with bull balls. Roasty, a hint of smoke and no trace of slimy balls (not that I would know what they tasted like anyway).
* * * 1/2

River North Brewery (Denver, CO) - Whiskey Barrel-aged Quandary Quad - This Belgian-style Quad had quite the kick to it. OK, so I tasted it at the brewery the day of GABF and not inside, but still, this was one hell of a dark quad. I could smell & taste the bourbon barrel. Awesome beer.
* * * *

River North Brewery (Denver, CO) - Also tried their Hello, Darkness Black IPA. A lot of roasted malt taste packed with a ton of hop bitterness. Quite good.
* * * 1/2

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver, CO) - Sentience - An absolutely wonderful barrel-aged sour Quad. This ended up winning a Silver medal in the Wood- Barrel-aged Sour category.
* * * *

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver, CO) - Surette - A sour Saison. Both funky and intense on the sour side. Enjoyed it.
* * * 1/2

Fat Heads Brewery (Middelburg Hts, OH) - BattleAxe Baltic Porter w/coffee - they had 2 kinds of this beer on tap, one with and one without coffee. I chose the one with coffee. What this beer lacked in the nose, it made up in taste. Big coffee taste mixed with a wonderful light roasted porter.
* * * 1/2

Three Floyds Brewing (Munster, IN) - Zombie Dust - billed as an undead Pale Ale. This had a clean crisp and quite hoppy flavor and a hop bomb aroma. This beer was a fan favorite and drained all kegs quickly. Must try!
* * * *

Sun King Brewing (Indianapolis, IN) - Bourbon Barrel Wee Mac - This beer had a wonderful bourbon nose on top of a malty Scottish Wee Heavy ale. I found this to be much much better than their regular Wee Mac. One of the best!
* * * * 1/2

Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR) - The Abyss 2011 - This is one of my favorite imperial stouts that's been aged for a year. Rich, chocolate, coffee-tones, thick. However, served as it was, not as good as I remember, still good.
* * * 1/2

Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR) - Black Butte XXIII (2011) - This was last year's edition of their imperial porter. Made with orange zest, chocolate nibs and chilies. The mix was delightful! I had seconds.
* * * *

New Belgium Brewing (Ft. Collins, CO) - Peach Porch Lounger. Sure it's local, but I hadn't had it yet. Wonderful peach sour nose. Not quite as sour as other sour ales. Both sweet and sour. Not bad.
* * * 1/2

Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA) - Enjoy By 11.09.12 IPA - This is their brand new fresh hop ale that they intend for people to drink within a few weeks of release and not later. One of the best fresh, and I mean fresh, hop ales I've tried. Crisp, citrusy hop now - yum!
* * * *

Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA) - 2008 Imperial Russian Stout - Love those aged imperial stouts! Heavy chocolate, toffee, molasses aroma. Thick and sweeter than most but easy drinking.
* * * *

Shine Brewery (Boulder, CO) - Rise-n-Shine Porter - Listed as JuJu Porter in the program but displayed as Rise-n-Shine Porter. One of the funkiest roasty porters I've tried. Different yet enjoyable.
* * * 1/2

Yak & Yeti Brewpub (Arvada, CO) - GF Apple Ale - This tasted like a cross between a hard cider and a light pale ale. Quite tasty for a Gluten Free beer. Sweet and ez drinking.
* * * 1/2

TRVE Brewing (Denver, CO) - Hollow Idol India White Ale - Quite pale in color, sweet and very hoppy with a drying touch. Surprisingly good!
* * * 1/2

Elysian Brewing (Seattle, WA) - The Great Pumpkin - I revisit this beer each year at the GABF. Lots of spice, and a powerful taste from high ABV.
* * * 1/2

Elysian Brewing (Seattle, WA) - Dark O' the Moon - Noticed they also had a pumpkin stout (love those). A lower amount of spice than the Great Pumpkin, roasty, just a hint of pumpkin. Nice balance.
* * * 1/2

The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA) - Red Poppy - One of my all time favorite sour beers. Intense sour nose and taste. Can't get enough of this! Sour lovers dream.
* * * * 1/2

Russian River (Santa Rosa, CA) - Framboise for a Cure - I try something different from them every year and the line is usually long. A sour ale with raspberries. Tart and sweet with a subtle fruit flavor.
* * * 1/2

Denver Beer Company (Denver, CO) - Graham Cracker Porter - After trying this at GABF I ended up having a full pint of this later on at the brewery. Yup, smells like graham crackers. The crackers do a number on my tongue, dry, roasty with just a hint of the cracker. Different, but notable.
* * * 1/2

Avery Brewing Co (Boulder, CO) - Oud Floris - No visit to GABF is complete without trying their barrel-aged wonders. This is a sour brown ale that's tart, dark and awesome. One of my top picks!
* * * * 1/2

Avery Brewing Co (Boulder, CO) - Odio Equum - Another barrel-aged sour. Lighter in color, intensely sour ale. Wonderful.
* * * *

Big Choice Brewing (Broomfield, CO) - #42 Poblano Stout - brewed with peppers yet with little to no heat. Adds a nice kick to a decent stout.
* * * 1/2

Odell Brewing Company (Ft. Collins, CO) - The Meddler - an Oud Bruin style sour ale. This brew was only mildly sour yet very drinkable. Could use more sour.
* * * 1/2

Firestone Walker Brewing Co (Paso Robles, CA) - Wookie Jack - a black IPA. Dark and hoppy and damn good! A crowd favorite.
* * * *

Trinity Brewing Co (Colorado Springs, CO) - Oh Face! - A sour Saison made with pumpkins and lavender. Interesting combo but worked well. Medium sour and quite funky.
* * * 1/2

Founders Brewing Co (Grand Rapids, MI) - Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) - One of my Holy Grail beers that I've sought and finally found. Barrel-aged stout with bourbon. Notes of coffee, molasses, roast, and oh so tasty! Near perfect.
* * * * 1/2

Big Rock Chop House (Birmingham, MI) - Berliner Weiss - Ever since I fell in love with this style I seek these out. This was a great example, wheat with a hint of funky sour goodness.
* * * 1/2

Backcountry Brewery (Frisco, CO) - Breakfast Stout - Medium roast, coffee tones, low ABV stout. I could do this for breakfast.
* * * 1/2

Funkwerks (Ft. Collins) - Deceit - I tried this because they won GOLD for this in the Belgian-style Strong Specialty category. Big Belgian flavor and a wonderful mix of malts with mild bitterness.
* * * 1/2

Weasel Boy Brewing (Zanesville, OH) - Bourbon Barrel-Aged Anastasia Imperial Stout - Walked over to try their regular Anastasia that won gold, but noticed they had a barrel-aged version. Tried both and oh man! The bourbon barrel version was so much better! Great aroma.
* * * *

Cambridge Brewing Co (Cambridge, MA) - Cerise Cassee - Couldn't pass up this booth as they are known for good sour ales. This one had an intense sour flavor! Oh ya. Something about Brett, Lacto and Pedio beers.
* * * *

Cambridge Brewing Co (Cambridge, MA) - Ozymandias (Anniversary Beer) - Dark and intensely sour ale. Even more sour and better tasting than their Cerise. One of my top picks!
* * * * 1/2

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI) - Soberhumano Palena Ole - Solid fruity sour ale, but not as remarkable as others they've made.
* * * 1/2

Lucky Bucket Brewing Co (La Vista, NE) - Lamda Lamda Lambic - A surprise find. Noticed they had a couple lambics. This is practically a distilled cherry lambic weighing in at 15% ABV. Frozen, drained and blended. Amazing beer! One of my top picks. Glad I stopped here!
* * * * 1/2

Willoughby Brewing Co (Willoughby, OH) - Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter - smells just like its name - like a Reeces only with a kick. Peanuty taste with subtle chocolate tones. Decent.
* * * 1/2

Holy City Brewing (N. Charleston, SC) - Pluff Mud Porter - This brew won the Gold medal for porters this year so I had to try it. A very dry and roasted malt flavor porter. Very enjoyable and ez drinking.
* * * 1/2

Flat 12 Bierwerks (Indianapolis, IN) - Cucumber Kolsch - Here's a light refreshing beer with an unmistakable taste of cucumber. I love them in salads and this taste worked remarkably well in a beer.
* * * 1/2


There were many other beers I tried but didn't have quite the lasting memories as the above beers did. I'm sure there were dozens if not hundreds of other quality beers I didn't get a chance to try. There's always next year!

So did any of you try these beers at the GABF? What did you think? Were there others you thought were spectacular? Drop a comment and let us know!

Related articles:
- 2012 GABF Wrap Up in Pictures.
- Thursday Night at the 2012 GABF in pictures.
- Walking Denver - Getting some exercise pre-GABF in Denver.
- Colorado wins 35 medals at the 2012 GABF.

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