Orange County Wins a Dozen at GABF 2023

Villains Brewing won their first GABF medal at the 2023 Great American Beer Festival Awards. Photo Greg Nagel

250 judges took nine days to judge 9300 entries from 2,033 breweries at the 2023 GABF. Orange County brewers took home a dozen medals overall, up one from last year. At this year’s Alpha King hoppy beer challenge, BreweryX kept the coveted Yakima Chief hop-helmet in OC, last year won by Radiant and 3rd place Santa Ana River Brewing Co.

Here are the 2023 Great American Beer Festival Winners:


  • Lost Winds – Huckleberry Phin Sour fruited American sour ale (1st GABF medal)
  • Golden Road HB – Guava Cart fruit wheat beer


  • Docent Brewing – Super Tonic coffee stout (3rd-time GABF winner for this beer)
  • Unsung Brewing – Chaos Erupts American-style strong pale ale
  • Stereo Brewing – Wall of Sound oatmeal stout (3rd-time GABF winner for this beer)


  • Laguna Beach Beer Co. – Tuava Guava RSM fruit wheat beer (1st GABF medal)
  • The Bruery – Because You’re Mine chocolate beer
  • Villains Brewing – Saca La Bolsita American-style lager (1st GABF medal)
  • Beachwood Brewing – Glenlongbeach Scottish-style ale (made in HB)
  • Docent Brewing – Trabuco American-style brown
  • Tustin Brewing – Midnight Oil American black ale or stout 
  • Docent Brewing – Double Nickles American style pale ale

GABF 2021 OCBeer Winners

image courtesy Brewers Association

GABF snuck up on us this year, with no real festival, but a combo wombo GABF/CBC trade show, except with super metal-GABF medals to sling around your beard so that people will declare you the winner of beers. Here are the Orange County winners for the magical year that is 2021. (9,680 entries, 2,192 breweries, 9 medals)

Brewer of the Year:

Radiant Brewing, 1-250 Barrels Brewery and Brewer of the Year


  • Bearded Tang Brewing Vlad the Barista Coffee Stout (first GABF win)
  • The Bruery Mischief (3rd GABF medal for this beer)
  • Radiant Brewing Second That Emotion – Hazy Pale Ale (first GABF win)
  • Stereo Brewing Robot Imperial Red Ale (second GABF medal for this beer)


  • Unsung Brewing Co. Let it Out NZ IPA
  • riip beer co. Black the Ripper (3rd GABF medal for this beer)


  • Karl Strauss Anaheim Golden Stout (Won as well in 2020)
  • SouthNorte Beer Co. Agavamente (first GABF win)
  • 1886 Elleigh’s ESB (first brewery GABF medal)

The Fest Inside the Fest | GABF’s Farm to Table Pavilion (Now “PAIRED”)

With SAVOR behind us, let’s rewind to an unexpected pairing at the Farm to Table Pavilion inside the Great American Beer Festival – or – I can’t believe I typed 1700 words about what?

Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography

The Kitchen Denver – Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography

Within three hours of flying into Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I witnessed someone nearly choke to death. “Don’t fucking give him the heimlich! He’s taking in air!” yells travel buddy/media compadre John Holzer at the bar. The hostess speed dials 9-1-1 as the poor bastard horks air, bent over like a jackknife. His buddy, jaw agape, starts lumberjack-pounding him on the back. “He’s choking worse than John Elway in the 1990 Super Bowl,” I say while looking around…wondering if I’d effectively trolled any locals.

Holding his curly hair under the bar, ‘Choke-man’ makes one last gasp as his buddy jabs at his back. He must have found the secret eject button, as a distinct splatter-noise on the ground preceded the sound of his lungs filling with air all at once.

The restaurant, now completely standing while watching, sighs and sits like they witnessed a healing at church.

“I’m okay…water just went down the wrong pipe,” Choke-man says, stroking moisture down his beard, purple-faced, dripping with sweat and embarrassment. His buddy plops down a fifty at the bar and they both leave in a hurry. “Thankfully I didn’t have to see a dude die right before GABF,” I say to the bartender. “Indeed,” she says, polishing a glass, nonchalantly, “who the hell chokes that bad on water?”


As with all great travel-stop traditions, I always stop in The Kitchen Denver for a lamb burger before the Great American Beer Festival. This practice started the year I sat next to Dave Chichura, the “HBIC” of Oskar Blues Brewery (now at Eddyline) at the time and split some littleneck clams over canned beers and fishing stories. The burger, dolloped with roasted red pepper relish and bitter greens, is a call to Denver, and more importantly, a great base to lay before drinking fifty-or-so 1oz beer samples in an afternoon.

The Kitchen Denver is sort of an odd duck with the beer crowd during GABF week. Nearby places like Freshcraft or Euclid Hall are packed to the gills with ninety-minute waits. At The Kitchen, there’s always an open spot at the bar and the food/beer situation always warms my post-flight gullet. Their beer selection and proper glassware is always on point.


The Colorado Convention Center – Reverse trashbear juxtaposition

Back to the splatter at hand, my appetite has completely vanished. Good thing too. I scored a Farm to Table Pavilion ticket inside the GABF for tonight. Think for a second about the odds of getting a ticket to GABF that sells out in minutes, then nabbing an elusive Farm to Table ticket. It’s a fest inside the fest, except filled with award winning beers paired with James Beard nominated chef-driven food. It’s akin to finding the winning lottery numbers on Wonka’s Golden Ticket, then winning free beer for life, naked.

I leave half of my lamb burger uneaten, carefully chug the rest of my Blind Pig and walk straight to the Colorado Convention Center a few minutes walk away for press credentials. Denver’s gusty winds sweep me down the busy 16th street mall towards the giant blue bear on 14th and Stout.

This year, GABF’s Farm to Table is going to be farm…to table…to hand….to mouth…to….uh…hotel bed, to early morning jog. Badge around neck, I speed walk past the sick kilted ducks blowing bagpipes to get my appetite back. The fest starts in fifteen minutes.

P1060722The Great American Beer Festival is exactly how it sounds. Four sessions of the event sold in a measly thirty-two minutes (in 2014); 48,000 tickets in all. 3,500 beers are poured from over 700 breweries. The Farm to Table event inside is host to 450 and costs an additional $140  per person – 14 tables in all.

Denver itself buzzes during GABF. With beer events from 8AM til 2AM daily, the festival can almost seem like a side-show. Some show up to the city and get crazy at the many walkable breweries, taprooms and brewpubs.

P1080585Just like a kid running to the lunch line in junior high, I’m the first guy at the Farm to Table Pavilion. A brief memory of raspberry coconut zingers and fruit punch-stained lips flashes through my head. I was totally that dork years ago. Crazy to see thirty years later I’m still that kid, now entrenched in the beer world doing the same shit, except now it’s a tart Raspberry Berliner Weisse, or an earthy CoCoNut Porter.


I do have to admit, I’m a cynic when it comes to big food pairing taste events like this. Out of the fourteen tables set out today, I bet seven will be some kind mediocre slider with way too much bun. Four will be some kind of poké/wagyu/whatever on a partially stale chip. The rest? A plastic salsa cup with pork belly, short rib or some other wild game some hip new chef shot in the wild, cleaned and rubbed with grannies famous ten-spice blend. Bonus points if there’s some duck confit, terrine, or foie. At basically $10 a table, anything is possible and I hope for the best.

P1080613In before the beer-soaked horde, it’s fun to watch chefs putting the final touches on food prep. Beer bottles at each station are poking their necks out of buckets looking like refreshed kids at a public pool…perhaps saying, “hey guys, what’s going on inside this GABF?”. The hall smells vaguely like bacon amid the voluminous high ceilings. I circle the hall quickly and see where to drop anchor first, then chuckle as my statement quickly turns into a stupid pun.

P1080588Two guys, possibly twin brothers in their forties unload a mesh bag of oysters on a bed of dark, moist seaweed right in front of me. I pause as they slice it open. The twin with the sideburns grabs an oyster from the pile, shucks it and slides it over to me on a cocktail napkin, grinning. Without saying a word, I sip the liquor off the top, tilt the shell back and chew it up…naked. My GOD. Do I whip out my phone to take a photo? Do I ask for another? What’s the fucking protocol here, man? Who knew my first sip of liquor inside the GABF would be a dash of briny oyster juice.

P1080589The table sign reads, “Terrapin Rye Cubed Triple Rye IPA 10.7% ABV paired with Marin Miyagi Oysters on the Half Shell.” I grin and nod, thinking the pairing is a joke. “Pairing contains shellfish,” hahaha!

“A 10.7% Triple Rye IPA paired with oy-oysters?” I stu-stutter like my car is being towed. Terrapin’s beer rep bats her lashes and grins, “I know, right?”

Is she implying that the pairing might possibly be terrible? Does she know it’s crazy good? As I witnessed the bag opening, I assume she doesn’t actually know…right?

I’ve had oysters with fresh Murphy’s off the coast of County Cork, Ireland. I’ve had oysters with an old fashioned cocktail in Los Angeles. In Georgia where Terrapin Beer Company makes beer, do they prefer 125 IBU palate-wreckers to wash down delicate bivalves?

P1080587Tom Montgomery, one of the guys behind Monterrey Fish Market in San Francisco, turns the key and unlocks my second Miyagi shell, scooting it my way for another spin. I’ve always found that eating oysters is like kissing someone for the first time. With beer? It’s like kissing someone for the first time while drinking beer, which makes it exponentially more titillating.

P1080611The first oyster a mere peck, my goal for number two is to get to second base. I lick my lips and bite the corner of my lower lip while lifting up the green marbled-patina shell, making eyes with it. Edging closer, I admire its plump-pearlescent body shining back at me, eyes now crossed as I sip the liquor off the top and swish it around my mouth. My salivary glands burst as I take the slightest sip of beer to chase: rye spice, sweet malts, juicy hops and salty oyster brine coat my mouth as I swallow…eyes rolling as I lick my teeth clean.

Making eye contact with the beer rep, I pour a little bit of her beer into the deep oyster shell and nod, replacing the brine now in my belly.

Flicking the raw beast around my mouth, I bite down, noting its firm body. The slick texture exudes a subtle melon-cucumber note with a slight metallic twang; similar to tasting a Moscow mule in a copper mug. Sea salt washes over my memory banks and causes a good three-second daydream of me duck-diving a wave while body surfing back home in Newport Beach. Before gulping it down, I add a sip of the triple rye IPA to the cement-mixer that is my mouth and pause with Denver’s sunset suddenly blinding me outside the thirty foot tall glass windows. Wow, I can see the Rockies from here.

The silky spa like flavors implode into a super salty umami bomb. Chewing slowly, I swallow every last drop. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I don’t bother.

“Spitters are quitters” I think to myself, tossing the shell in a trashcan and downing the rest of the beer. I exchange cards with Terrapin’s beer rep. “I had my doubts, but goddamn that was memorable.”

“I know, right?”

“What are the odds that two things fly from California to Denver, meet in a huge beer fest and one eats the other?” I ask, innocently trying to keep the conversation going.

“I’m not from California,” she says.

I choke-cough and move on to the other thirteen tables, then step out into the main festival, joining 11,999 of my closest friends. Damn. GABF is awesome. Farm to Table? Not to be missed.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (at GABF)

Article originally published Winter 2013 West Coaster Socal – changed slightly

Congratulations! You’re giving birth to your first GABF! What’s that? You’re not pregnant? That’s just your natural beer belly? Ermagerd…so embersed. . Here’s a look at what to expect in the delivery room, as you will surely look pregnant after a week in Denver.


Session 1, Thursday Evening: Like a Virgin

Nerves fire on all cylinders as bagpipers squeeze their sacks and blow. Their quack-like drone ushers in some 12,000 thirsty people checking maps and apps one last time. The piper’s six minute march around the vast hall comes to a halt under an IMAX sized Michael Jackson poster. “Let’s do it for Johnny!” I say to a chuck-taylor wearing stranger next to me with my best Matt Dillon impersonation. Muscle memory takes over and I look for my first dance partner. I nab a 1oz sample of Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta, a delicious sour dark ale from Trinity Brewing in Colorado. It gets a twirl and swirl down my throat…twice.

P1060736The Thursday session is all about fresh faces; first time brewers can be seen in their natural festicular habitat anxiously wiping down tables and straightening signs one last time. I take a moment to watch GABF 1st timer Brian Schroepfer from Valiant Brewing in action wiping sweat from his brow, dealing with draft issues and delivering pitchers to his table like the 80’s arcade game ‘Tapper’. “I’m pretty proud and honored to be here” he says after describing his lineup of beers to eager fest goers.

On the other side of the table, session one is a great mix of freshly traveled bodies; 50% of which are from out of state. Myself included, nothing is better than a post flight beerfest with a bunch of silly Americans ready to party; one ounce at a time.

Go to session one if you like: Excitement of the first session of the year. Large amount of brewery representation at each booth. A fresh haul of beer and ample quantities of rarities. Not walking into the worst cropdusted gas bombs of your life. Guy/Gal ratio ~3:1. Costumed fest goer ratio ~1:100. Glass droppage level: one every 10-20 minutes.


Session Two: It’s Friday, I’m in Love

Friday night at the GABF is electric. Brewers trust the volunteers to booth-sit for a few hours and go out for a night on the town inside the festival. The silent disco is alive with booty bumpin’, Charlie Papazian is fist bumpin’, and even two strangers in the bathroom looked at each other and smiled. Session two is all about drinking great beer and getting weird in a busy party atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if you find waldo, cross paths with an actual beer wench, or see the second coming of beer Jesus…complete with a spirit-gum beard and those creepy vibram toe shoes.

Go to session two if you like: A great beerfest party atmosphere with lots of costumed fest goers. Groups of beer savvy ladies…not just designated drivers or the dirndl hoes…actual hop loving, sour loving, funky beer loving women out in force. Weather report: mid to high levels of ass-fog moving in over the Pacific Northwest with green clouds forming above the Great Lakes. Tasting glass droppage upwards of every 5-10 minutes. Rare beers kegs running out within an hour. Plan your attack.


Bruer Tyler King pours White Chocolate at the Farm to Table Pavillion

Session Three, Saturday Afternoon: Rocky Mountain High – Members Only, Brah.

American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association members need only apply for the Saturday afternoon session. Aside from actual glassware, this session is great to witness the ‘parade of brewers’ flooding in after the awards ceremony. It’s sort of like the running of the bulls in Spain as some Medal winning brewers are riding the highest of highs trying to get to their booth to put up medal stickers and snap photos. The GABF mobile app updates with the winners making it easy to navigate the hall and sample America’s best beer right on the spot. Of the many benefits being a member of the AHA or BA, attending this session is one of my favorites. Seeing a local California brewer take home more medals than the state of Maine is impressive and fills my heart with pride. Protip: go get a membership now, the included subscription to Zymurgy magazine is worth the price alone.

Go to session three if you like: actual glassware instead of a plastic sampling glass. Volunteers that will go over the 1oz line if you ask nicely. Floods of beer geeks rating their beer on printed spreadsheets. Day drinking. Sampling award winning beer without travelling all over the United States. Having your Saturday night free to roam around Denver’s bustling craft beer scene.


Special moment: Sampling my Beer Camp 94 Belgian Black IPA on the floor of GABF

Session Four, Saturday Night: Ohhhhhhhhhh Face

The final GABF session gets a bad rep among the press corps, which is probably why we weren’t invited to attend 2013’s session. Speaking only on my opinion of 2012, I witnessed human beer pong. I filmed a guy desperately trying to remain upright. I saw urinalbarf. But hey, someone has to finish the rest of the beer right? Some notable breweries ran out of beer and boarded up shop with handwritten “see you next year” signs. A buzzed sea of volunteers is left to deal with the onslaught of tipsy beer bros. My coverage focus quickly changed to capture the beer blight and anything-goes atmosphere. “The 1oz line is for the other sessions” a pourer mentioned while filling my glass to the rim.


Go to the final session if you like: A college beerfest atmosphere. All-you-can-drink Hefeweizen, pale ale, BMC, browns…speaking of browns, the gas being unleashed at every angle can be geeked out on. “Why, I think that gentleman had a brussels sprout and chorizo burrito for lunch!” “No no no you silly fool! It smells like a goat that ate Chicken McNuggets out of an overnight diaper!”, “Ahhh, yes yes, you are correct sir.” Go to session four if you like to watch old people nap. Go if you like to avoid brewers. Go if you like to hear a constant 300 person choir of glass dropping Ohhhhhhhhhhh’s. Did I mention the uncontrollable gas and loose pours?

Overall, the Great American Beer Festival is the best in the world. You really can’t go wrong with any session, just make sure and target the session that is best for you. Be sure to upgrade your internet connection prior to ticket sale day and work on your glass holding skills. Didn’t get tickets? I still highly recommend visiting Denver during GABF week. With overlapping events all over town from brunch to close, you really can’t go wrong. See you at 2014! If you see Old Rasputin, say hi!

Visit for more info.



Great American Beer Festival – OC Preview

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 8.58.37 PMSad as it is, a few of my favorite breweries won’t be at GABF this year. My hometown homies at Noble Ale Works, south county’s Cismontane Brewing Co. as well as Societe Brewing Co. down in SD didn’t make the registration cut. Their world-class beers won’t be touching the lips of craft beer desperados like a county fair kissing booth. While ‘merkans are stumbling around GABF’s halls and barfing on John Elway’s tassel loafers, Societe, Cismontane and Noble will be back at home, plotting their next attack while getting stronger than ever. I’ll miss ya boos.


Don and Dave Larsen (Cismontane/Good Beer Co), Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Co mix it up with Patrick Rue in the Bruery’s 2012 GABF Booth. Photo – Nagel

Of those lucky enough to make the big dance, I asked each a few questions for 2013:

  1. How many GABF’s is this for your brewery?SAISON_RUE_v01
  2. What are you bringing?
  3. What categories did you enter?
  4. Doing any events or excited about attending any?

“This is the Bruery’s fifth GABF, fourth will a full force of beer.” says their director of marketing Ben Weiss. Tart of Darkness, Saison Tonnellerie, Oude Tart with Cherries, Sour in the Rye with Peaches, and Chocolate Rain will be poured throughout the fest.

Bruery events! Go here, see the Bruery. Taste their beer. 


This is Valiant’s first GABF!
“We’re bringing Mounds of Grounds, Pathos, Fields Ablaze, Axiom, Stentorian and First Flight. We entered a few categories:
8- Coffee beer, 13b-Imperial Porter, 69-French & Belgian Saison, 43b-Belgian Style Dark Strong, 84a-Barleywine
newport-beach-brewing-companyThis is Newport Beach Brewing Co‘s tenth GABF, but brewer Derek Bougie’s fifth.
Pouring and submitted Newport Beach Blonde (44 Golden or Blonde Ale), Newport Coast Steam (37B American Style Amber Lager), Bisbee’s ESB (58B Extra Special Bitter), Funky Monkey (24A wood barrel aged sour beer – 3 bottles per session) and JDs Reserve #2 (23 Wood barrel aged strong stout). Derek says, “I don’t have any events planned but that doesn’t mean I wont get around. I will be driving over with the New BrewThursday guys so I know we will get around to some breweries. Which ones I don’t know yet. Most likely ones we haven’t been to yet. Im hoping to bring some hardware home for the OC.”
Bootlegger’s-BreweryThis is Bootleggers Brewery’s sixth GABF.
“We’re pouring Pumpkin Ale, Black Phoenix Stout, Dr. Tongue, Far Out IPA and Old World Hefe” says Patricia. They entered seven categories:Bootlegger Pumpkin Ale- Category 05B; Pumpkin Beer; Black Phoenix Stout- Category 08 Coffee Beer; Dr. Tongue- Category 13A Other Strong Beer; Far Out IPA- Category 52 American-Style India Pale Ale; Old World Hefeweizen- Category 66 South German-Style Hefeweizen; Lupulin Thrill IPA- Category 52 American-Style India Pale Ale; English ESB- Category 58A Extra Special BitterBootlegger’s crew along with Tustin Brewing crew will be boarding our own beer bus and touring Colorado Breweries all day Friday.  Stops includes New Belgium, Odell’s, Funkwerks, Left Hand Brewing and more!
Left-Coast-Brewing-CompanyLeft Coast Brewing Co – 9 years.
Oggis Pizza & Brewing Co – 13 years. They’re bringing:
Left Coast- Hop Juice, Trestles IPA, Tommy Session Pale Ale, Una Mas Amber Lager, Barrel Age Voo Doo.
Oggis – Double Up IIPA, Black Magic Stout, McGarveys Scottish, Paradise Pale Ale,  California Gold.
“We have really high hopes for winning medals for both companies. We are excited about releasing our Barrel Age Voo Doo on draft. We have only released it in bottles in our tasting room.”, Tommy Hadjis, General Manager.
Jerrod from Tustin Brewing Co. says, “We are pouring Golden Spike Blonde Ale, Blimp hangar porter, and Old Town IPA…two of which are GABF medal winners in the past. I entered ten categories. Not sure how many Gabf’s this us for Tustin.” Look out for the Bootleggers/Tustin Brewing Co. party bus!
Stay Tuned as I stalk Victor Novak around Denver! 
Special thanks to Brew Beer Blog for letting me quickly grab his brewery logos. #i’m lazy


The Great American Beer Festival is Decadent and Delicious

gabf lineA human shield surrounds the Colorado Convention Center as if to protect the building’s precious liquid contents. 2,700 beers sit inside; cold, vulnerable and perhaps a bit nervous to be percolated into their final transformation: Pee.

The Great American Beer Festival’s landscape sits before us like the Grand Canyon. In true American fashion, Scottish Bag Pipers squeeze their bags and blow to commence this epic three-day beer festival. I wipe the sheen of sweat from my brow and clench my butt cheeks in anticipation. What the hell am I going to drink first?

Goldilocks better not be drinkin’ my beer in there!

The parade of festival goers is as diverse as the beers inside. There’s the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebes, and the dickheads* – all here for one reason: Craft Beer. Mini-Pilsner plastic cups in hand, people prance in to find the perfect beer to wet their fest-whistles. Most have a plan in mind, but fuck all that. I choose to bounce around the festival like a shiny pinball, letting the occasional flipper bounce me back into action. With more than a quarter of all American breweries in this titanic-sized room, I like my odds!

Noble Ale Works head brewer Evan Price busts me taking an incognito shot.

A hundred people make a bee-line for Russian River Brewing Co’s booth. “It’s all about the Pliny”, says the guy next to me, sheepishly. Many people in the long line scope out breweries nearby like magazines in the grocery store checkout. My hometown brewery Noble Ale Works benefits from this as a number of people duck out of line for a pre-emptive strike.

Finally up front at Russian River, “I’ll take a number two, extra pickles” I say. The volunteer rolls her eyes. I clear my throat and ask for a Toronado 25th Anniversary (American Wild Ale) for my first beer. Despite my lame humor attempt, she levels my sample dead-even on the 1oz mark while squinting. My first sip makes me smile and sigh. I close my eyes and thank my Fairy Beer Mother. “Bippity, Beerpity, BOO!”, I say to Pliny guy. We tap our plastic festival glasses and part in different directions, thankfully. There’s nothing worse than a Pliny fanboy at a beer festival. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great beer…FOR ME TO POOP ON! JK OMG, calm down. You’re such a touchy reader, geez.

Credit Cambria Griffith, Golden Road Brewing

Kendra isn’t a fan of head. (thanks for the awesome pic, Cambria of Golden Road Brewing)

My first drinking buddy of the fest is Kendra Birdwell, GM and Cheesemonger of the Bruery Provisions in Orange. We graze over to the American Cheese Society’s booth and she vouches for the lineup. Feedin’ time at the cheese booth is slow like a bunch of heifers chewing cud. With fifty people in line, we move three feet in five minutes. “Ever milk a bull?” I ask. Thankfully it’s so loud she replies, “What?” while batting her alluring Zooey Desschanel-like eyes. “This line is nuts! Let’s drink some beer”. Indeed. We bolt like a bulls at a rodeo, aiming for the annoying clowns.

I thought for sure the line for Dogfish Head would be crooked, zig-zaggy, or shaped like an infinity symbol, considering their ales are for off-centered people. Nope. It was military straight. Sam Calagione is up front, high fiving, hand-shaking, kissing babies and posing for pics. Garrett Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery is doing the same! My new strategy while out of my region: skip the booth if it’s manned by all volunteers (unless they’re hot). If the brewers are there, stop in for a chat and a beer. If I like the first beer, get another. Repeat. If there’s a line > 10 people, hop in it and get whatever looks good.(Skipping ahead a blog post: this strategy worked out great! Many of the beers I sampled this way ended up winning awards!)

Golden Road’s Kissing Booth

My tasting strategy: With a 1oz pour, beer evaluation is basic. After a complete glass-rinse, I drink the rinse water to refresh my palate and to hydrate on a 2:1 water/beer ratio. I then take a whiff and a small sip to evaluate aroma, then swish the rest in my mouth to evaluate flavor and mouthfeel. I ask for a second pour if something gives me chub! I front load my non-hoppy beers for the first couple hours, then increase IBU’s as the session wears on; although palate fatigue didn’t seem to be an issue with 1oz pours.

Like a crazy man, I attend all four sessions of GABF. Here’s notes on each:

Joslyn Ellstrom opens her throat for Goose Island’s White Truffle Sour, a beer that turned my palate upside down.

Thursday: Great session! Not crowded, lots of rare stuff. Brewers linger at their booths and answer questions. Note to self: Go for lower ABV and IBU on the first day due to elevation change. You got shitcanned! Eat food before leaving for after-parties! Don’t choose a drinking buddy that will be there for only one day. They are running a 5K and you’re doing a marathon!

Nico and Shaun of 21st Amendment tidy up for the session.


Friday: Same as Thursday, but SUPER crowded. I had two drinking buddies tonight! The lovely LeAnn Hubbard (Selmas Pizzaria & Taproom Manager RSM) and beer blogger friend Joslyn Ellstrom (pic above). Note to self: Hit the cheese first. Ramp up ABV and hoppy beers here, or don’t, you charming, sexy man.

Saturday Afternoon: This is the members only session where they have real glassware. Pours get a little looser. Brewers are at the awards show and grabbing lunch during the first half, so expect a lot of volunteers. After the awards show, look for award winning beers to sample!

No happy endings at the DD lounge.

Saturday Night: Holy shit. Even the volunteers are drunk at this session! People are dropping glassware at a rate of three a minute. Full pours on whatever is left! Most of the good stuff is gone. On the way out, I ask a girl dressed like Nintendo’s Mario if she wants to jump on my mushroom.  She hums the Super Mario theme as I walk away into Denver’s cold, crisp night.

Overall: If you had to choose one session: go Thursday. If you want two, add Saturday afternoon. If you want to get barfed on, go Saturday night. With so much going on around town, there’s no way you will be disappointed.

Family Feud: “What smell is most likely after 3 hours at GABF?”

Other stuff! This festival is the biggest and best out there. Where else can you say, “I’d like to sample Berliner Weiss’ from all over the country, then DO IT in one hour? I did! Where else can you sample Pliny the Elder, Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich, Stone Brewing Co Enjoy By 11.09.12, Alpine Duet, and other beers back to back? I did! Where else can you discover Gruits, Cheecha, and a bulls balls Stout under one roof? Nowhere but the MF GABF. I went on a brett bender. I went on a sour bender. I went on a hop bender. I went on a barrel aged bender. I came and I conquered the Great American Beer Festival.

Gripes: The lighting. It’s bad enough you’re in a room with heavy drinkers with possible liver problems…the lighting made everyone look like stage three Jaundice. On Thursday, the lighting spiked up for a minute to normal levels showing it was option to dim them horribly. Environment Shmenvironment. Give us some light so we don’t look like Oompa Loompas!

Presentation on how not to drop one’s cup.

The cup droppers. Every time someone dropped a cup, a hundred Andrew Dice Clay’s pop out of nowhere and yell, “OHHHhhhhhhh”. I heard someone drop their cup on purpose and yelled “Ohhhh” on his own! Joslynn said a girl dropped her cup in the restroom! Ewww. Put the damn cup in your cleavage, you butterfingered dingus!

Overall: This was my first time at GABF and won’t be my last! I can’t wait for the next one! Denver (and Colorado) is a craft beer utopia! So many great food options, gastropubs, and beer loving locals. “Craft Beer has changed how beer is perceived and America’s role as a brewing nation.” – Julia Herz, Brewers Association.

I caught the Brothers Allstrom straightening their magazines.


Dave and Don of Haven Brewing, Natalie and Vinnie of Russian River and Patrick of the Bruery.


Ladyface Ale Companie’s GM Cyrena Nouzille! Such a pretty lady, too.

Get up off that arm butt! Social Spitfire Cambria Griffith of Golden Road has super human arm strength, btw.

I asked if they “tea bag” the bull testes in each keg, or how that worked.

Any now, sleeping old dudes at GABF:

*quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; John Hughes (There’s the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebes, and the dickheads) CHEERS. Thanks for reading. In case you missed it, here’s my pre-GABF post that is so raunchy my work’s net-nanny blocks it.

Yo GABF GABF! There’s a Party in my Tummy! (so yummy, so yummy)

It’s been a long time since my last trip to Denver! 30,000 feet up I can’t help but to reminisce about my last trip to visit a college girlfriend there. Not just any girl, a college dropout turn stripper. At the time, she was working at downtown Denver’s Shotgun Willies, a place that is still there after all these years. I’m not really in to strip clubs, but I thought, what the hell, boobs are great. “Ever had a lap dance?” she asked. “Never, well, not by a pro.” She waved a friend over and whispered in her ear.

Within seconds I was grabbed by the collar and shoved onto a black pleather armless sofa.  “I hope you like it rough, college boy” she said while grinding my lap like a bear itching its back on a tree.  Her four inch black stiletto heels dug into my knees as she waved her shoulder-length jet black hair across my face like a pom pom. I fogged up her thick black-rimmed glasses as Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blasted. Her librarian/dominatrix sort of vibe was working until she stuck her tongue in my ear and moaned, “ever get fucked in the ass with a strap-on?” I choked on my spit and laughed so hard that I was completely silent and shaking. The combination of driving two days straight while being strung out on truck-stop coffee had finally paid its toll. The thought of being ass-pegged by a stripper spun me into a crazed delirium. “You think you’re a big shot with a stripper friend, but YOU AIN’T SHIT!” she yelled as I snort-laughed while staring at her bald beefwhistle.

Denver, I’m sorry this is the only story that I associate with you. I hope to change all that this weekend.


Touching down in Denver, I shoot out of the jetbridge like a late 80’s John Elway running out of the locker-room tunnel to play in the Super Bowl. Instead of riotous applause, the terminal is morbidly quiet with phone zombies floating about in their private bubbles. I could shit on the floor and nobody would notice. I’m here with a GABF media badge, in Denver, to write about Craft.Fucking.Beer. I pound my chest, take a leak, and look for the Super Shuttle.

Do it yourself, assholes!

Next stop: La Quinta Inn: A quality three star highway-side shithole with no pool and do-it-yourself waffle bar.  I am all about the fucking waffle bar! By the end of this trip I will master that damn thing like I’m Gordon Ramsay with a bullwhip. On the shuttle, every poor son of a bitch is in a crappy mood. I sit by lady dressed in a velour track suit sprinkled generously with cat fur and yellowy cigarette tar. “Is that one of those smart phones?” she asks. “I still use an old fashioned cellular” digging through her ‘hoarder on a go’ purse. I notice she’s got a dozen prescription bottles. “Good God woman, got anything good in there? She digs further, pulling out a bottle big enough to hold a roll of quarters. “Here’s a few Risoprodol with Vicodin. What a few?” I’m liking Denver already.

Being a homebrewer, I’ve been toying with a smoked IPA recipe (tentatively called “Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass IPA”) for a few weeks and I heard Golden Road Brewing in LA is releasing the same style here at GABF. Stopping into their release event at the Kitchen Community, I literally hear someone say, “the toilet is full of love.” Take that as you will, gentle readers. These Los Angeles people don’t fuck around.

My name is Любовь Ансимова. Want to see my burning bush?

The Kitchen Community is a bright and airy gastropub sitting on a nice corner spot within the 16th Street Mall downtown. Menu options are everything from fresh seafood (Oysters, Muscles, Caviar) to a nice Lamb Burger. As the whole point of this stop is to try a Burning Bush, I have a can cracked and sent my way. Initially the aroma has slight smoke aroma balanced well with some hops. The fuzzy tan head is substantial, capping off a dimly glowing orange beer. I can easily equate the beer to dating a Russian model: First impression, not that smoky, little bit of booze and sexy as all hell. As the night wears on, all those cigarettes she smokes start to intensify. As you make out with her, you think to yourself, “this is the best smoked IPA I’ve ever had.” As the beer warms, the smoke really cranks up a notch. With rauch malt only 2% of the grist, I really need to dial my recipe back! Check it out if you see it!

GABF is here! I pick up my bright orange media badge and head in. Stay tuned!

GABF 2011 | The Year OC Kicks SD and LA’s Proverbial Ass

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver is the Grand Daddy of American Festivals. Heck, it even beats out Womyn’s Festival or even the Garlic Festival up in Gilroy! Lillith Faire on the other hand, might have edged it out if it didn’t die. I’m pouring out some of my 40 for my homegirls Sara McLachlan and KD Lang for that one. I’m kidding of course. This site breaks down a top ten of all Beer Festivals, and puts GABF at the top.

Birks? Check. Patchouli? Check. Balls? Not so much. RIP Lillith Faire, We will never forget you.

Great American Beer Festival, Denver Colorado
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is a three-day annual event hosted by the Brewers Association held at the end of September or the beginning of October in Denver, Colorado. The GABF brings visitors from around the world to sample more than 1,600 different American beers. Over 100 beer judges from the United States and abroad participate in the evaluations of one or more beer styles, ultimately judging 2,300 beers entered by more than 450 domestic breweries. Gold, silver and bronze medals in 69 beer-style categories are awarded, though not every medal is awarded in each category. 

Most Orange County Brewers represented in Denver this past weekend. Sitting in my comfy living room in Anaheim, I was relegated to watching twitter feeds and youtube videos. Thankfully I added OCBrewerswife to my twitter feed as she instantly made things more entertaining.

I apologize for those who saw my chonies along 14th street. Denver is friggen windy right now. Dresses & wind don’t mix – OCBrewerswife

The Silent Disco was pretty funny as well! I wonder what song was playing in these videos:

Oh! The competition! Orange County brewers won some stuff! I was happy to see OC kicked SD’s ass with only Port Brewing and Alesmith winning awards. Do yourself a favor and check out these awesome brews and brewpubs!

Category: 23 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer – 75 Entries
Silver: The Wanderer, The Bruery, Placentia, CA

Category: 64 German-Style Sour Ale – 13 Entries
Silver: Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, The Bruery, Placentia, CA

Category: 82 Old Ale or Strong Ale – 35 Entries
Gold: Papier, The Bruery, Placentia, CA

Brewpub Group and Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea, CA
Victor Novak

Category: 39 German-Style Schwarzbier – 26 Entries
Gold: TAPS Schwarzbier, TAPS Fish House & Brewery (Corona, CA), Brea, CA

Category: 63 German-Style Altbier – 30 Entries
Silver: TAPS Alt, TAPS Fish House & Brewery (Brea, CA), Brea, CA

Category: 69 Belgian- and French-Style Ale – 56 Entries
Silver: TAPS Biere de Garde, TAPS Fish House & Brewery (Corona, CA), Brea, CA

Category: 74 Robust Porter – 62 Entries
Bronze: Pier Rat Porter, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA