The Great American Beer Festival

On September 24-26, the Colorado Convention Center is hosting the annual Great American Beer Festival.

Regarded as one of the top 1000 places in the US before you die, the GABF has over 2000 beers from over 400 breweries across America. Put on by the Brewers Association, the event runs from 5:30-10:00 each evening (each session costing $55, with Designated Driver tickets costing $20). There is also a ‘members only’ event Saturday afternoon from 12:30-4:30 costing $45 dollars. This is open only to Brewers Association or members of the American Homebrewers’ Association. You can purchase a one year membership to the AHA with your ticket for a total of $83.

A major component of the GABF is the beer competition. Breweries submit various beers for consideration. The beers are awarded medals based, not on ‘place’ in which they finish, but how well they meet the expectations of the style of beer they have created. The prize, apparently, aside from bragging rights, is to have your picture taken with Charlie Papazian

List of breweries attending.
GABF website

Hops, cont.

As we learned in the the Bare-Bones Basics: Hops, hops contribute significantly to the character of a beer, both in flavor and aroma. While bittering hops are a very noticeable and hard to  ignore quality, the subtler aspects of finishing hops can be slightly more difficult to characterize without putting forth the effort to look for them. Indeed, often we are given beer too cold, and these characteristics are difficult to perceive.

Remember, your sense of taste and smell are very strongly linked. When drinking a beer, you need to let these two things blend together in order to get a full feel for what the brewer was trying to present to you. There are a lot of options when using finishing hops, allowing the brewer to chose between a wide array of aromas: spicy, floral, citrus, fruity, earthy, etc. The brewer makes a conscious decision as to if an how he wants to dry-hop. As a drinker, it’s your duty to look for what choices he/she made. It’s there so you can appreciate it.

Enjoy the full extent of your beer.

Amarillo Rye APA

We haven’t really done a big, in your face, hoppy beer. This beer will hopefully remedy that. We were inspired by the Western Michigan vs. Michigan football game to go for something that seems ‘western’. Amarillo is a West Coast hop and rye seemed like a good, olde time addition.

We did our first partial mash for this recipe. I don’t think we got very good efficiency, but that will only help with the hop utilization and cut down on some of the alcohol.

We were unable to take an initial gravity due to ‘equipment failure’, i.e. we melted our tube we used for measuring it, so your guess is as good as ours as to the actual efficiency we got unless someone offers to run it through a GC-mass spec.


  • 2lbs American 6 Row Barley
  • 2lbs Malted Rye
  • 1lb American Crystal 10L
  • 1/2lb American Victory


  • 60 Minutes
    • 3lbs Pale Liquid Malt Extract
    • 1oz Amarillo Hops (8.6% AA)
  • 45 Minutes
    • 1oz Amarillo Hops (8.6% AA)
  • 30 Minutes
    • 1oz Amarillo Hops (8.6% AA)
  • 15 Minutes
    • 4lbs Pale Liquid Malt Extract
    • 1/2oz Amarillo Hops (8.6% AA)
    • 1tsp Irish Moss
  • Flameout
    • 1/2oz Amarillo Hops (8.6% AA)


We were actually planning on going with White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001), but in our haste/obliviousness we ended up with California V Ale Yeast (WLP051). I actually think it might work better for the beer we’re going for. WLP001 ferments really cleanly and lets all the ingredients provide the flavors. WLP051 still ferments cleanly, but provides fruity/citrus notes that will hopefully work well with citrusy Amarillo hops.


We filled our carboy up to about 5.5 gallons and threw it in the closet. It started fermenting by the morning (roughly 7hours, could have been less though).  It smells really hoppy and citrusy. It’s been fermenting for about 5 days now and is still bubbling multiple times a minute. It will probably stay in the carboy for another week or so before we bottle.


  • Volume: 5.5gal
  • Predicted OG: 1.068 (assuming 60% efficiency)
  • Actual OG: 1.064
  • Bitterness: 65 IBU
  • Alcohol: 7.8% ABV

Review: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

As some of you know, Flying Dog recently relocated from their Denver brewery to their new Maryland facility. Sad news for yours truly, who’s fantasies included a small house in Denver within walking distance from said brewery, but alas, it was not meant to be. However, the transition to their Maryland facility was allowed Flying Dog consolidate to a more high tech and efficient facility.  The move was in reponse to increased hop and malt prices, in addition to the loss of several contract brewing jobs.

Now, none of this is going to hinder the ability to get yourself some Flying Dog beer. In fact, I’ve noticed a marked increase in tap houses carrying various Flying Dog brews. The place where I go when I want to get a non-local beer, now carries the Flying Dog Imperial Porter on draft regularly, and it is becoming one of my favorite drafts around.

The Gonzo Imperial Porter is a tribute beer to Hunter S. Thompson, as many of you know or could have guessed. It’s an appropriately strengthed imperial porter coming in at around 7.8 ABV.  It’s stuffed full of 120L crystal, black and chocolate malts giving it a great body and mouth feel. It’s  hopped with Warrior and Northern Brewer hops and finished with a decent amount of Cascade, though I don’t pick up much of the citrus from the Cascade in the aroma, which is dominated by a toasty roasted scent. The hop character, though certainly there, doesn’t get in the way of the maltiness of the beer, as it should be with any imperial porter.

This beer won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup in 2008, and is a member of their ‘Canis Major’ line of brews, along with their other big beers, like their Kerberos Tripel, Horn Dog Barley Wine (another one of my favorites), and Double Dog Double IPA.

I really like this beer and recommend you give it a whirl the next time you see it around.  Oh, and I’ll close with a feature on every bottle of Flying Dog, and one of my favorite Hunter S. Thompson quotes, “Good people drink good beer.”

English Stout Recipe

We came up with this recipe because we wanted to try to reuse our yeast from the Strong Mild. We were going for a fairly malty, sweet stout.


  • 6.6lbs Pale Liquid Malt Extract
  • 1lb Roasted Barley
  • 1lb 120L Crystal Malt
  • 0.5lb Chocolate Malt
  • 0.5lb Lactose
  • 2oz Northern Brewer Hops (≈6% AA)


We put the roasted barley, crystal and chocalate malt in a muslin bag and put it in 3.5gals of water. We turned on the heat and let the grains steep until the water hit 170ºF.  We pulled out the grain and brought the tea to a boil.  We added 1/4 of the LME and 1oz of the hops.  Let it boil for 45 minutes then add 1tsp of Irish Moss and the lactose.  We added the other ounce of hops in the primary.

Initial Impressions

It seems a bit too light, and may be a bit too sweet. We’ll be moving it to bottles pretty soon, so hopefully we can get a better idea of it then.

Founders Fest 2009

This is really late. I’m publishing it without further review to get some content going.

A downtown street festival celebrating beer sounds like a great idea, no? That’s the inspiration for Founder’s Fest, the 2009 edition of which was the second in a series. The concept is good: people, music, beer. The implementation, however, left a little bit too be desired.

Founders closed a block of Grandville St. directly in front of their tap house, and had the parking lot in front of their building open as well. The Tap House was not open, which was an unwise choice. There was a large tent near the entrance with row of tables and foldout chairs, and at the opposite end of the block a mobile stage was set up for the bands to perform. About halfway between, there were a beer tent and food tents from three restaurants. On this sunny day, being able to step inside of Founder’s would have been a welcome opportunity for all involved, especially with the garage door-style front to the building, the entire thing could have been left open, so festivalgoers could meander in and out. The setup, with the seating tent very far off to one side, was highly counterintuitive.

Make no mistake about it, this was not a cheap event. There was a $15 charge to enter, along with beers priced at $4, $6, and $12 for a 14-ounce cup. What it boiled down to was $15 for the right to spend more on each beer than you would at a normal day at Founders. Sure, the cover was to offset the costs of closing the street, etc., but much of that seemed so unnecessary to me. If the tap house had been open to the public (even with the garage doors open), there would have been much more space, and closing the street may not have even been necessary. The food, from area restaurants, was also more expensive than one would expect.

The Cottage Bar, Sami’s Gyro, and Maggie’s Kitchen were the food options. The options were good enough, with the American, Greek, and Mexican cuisine, respectively. I went with a gyro from Sami’s and (as mentioned above), it was more expensive than it typically is if you order one in the restaurant. The setup was also subpar here, as there were no defined lines for people to wait in, and the tents seemed to be situated right in the way of an area most people wanted to walk through.

The beer selections were… lacking. On top of costing more than they typically do, there were fewer options available than one would see simply walking into Founders on an average night. The distribution was done by purchasing $2 tickets, which you exchanged 2-3 of for a beer (or half beer, for the rotating taps). The tent was set up as a free-for all, which was actually pretty cool, not to mention the multi-taps – which were on the sides of Airstream-style trailers.. When I first arrive, I though that the taking of tickets might be done a little… inconsistently, and they wouldn’t really care to make sure that every beer was paid for in full (a la the winter beer festival from the Michigan Brewer’s Guild). This was not the case, meaning that it was just really expensive beer.

The local bands that played were standard-to-good examples of a local music scene, though I had never heard of any of them. There were some eclectic jams – but I guess that worked out fine for much of the clientele of the Fest. As bands were tearing down or setting up for their sets, a hippie drum band, which seemed to be composed mainly of Founders employees, played on the front porch of the building. It made the whole thing feel rather Ann Arboreal – and that’s not a good thing. Hippie drum circles suck.

This event is great in theory, but the planners need to pay a keener attention to the details of making sure it’s set up to operate more smoothly in future years. The physical layout and pricing options were the most egregious parts. Like many bars, the problem was primarily that the purveyors weren’t thinking about the setup through the eyes of the consumer, and therefore set it up illogically in certain aspects. As someone who was not a planner, but rather a customer going through the motions of the whole thing, it was easier to see what could be improved upon in future years.

Elsewhere: MLive previews the event.

Review: Fraoch Heather Ale

Fraoch Heather Ale is not only Scotch-style, but is also actually imported from Scotland – where they’ve been brewing it for more than 4000 years(!). On the nose, this beer is fairly fruity, though the aroma doesn’t really find its way into the flavor. It has a light feel, and finishes cleanly. As far as flavor, it doesn’t taste as malty as I usually expect Scotch Ales to be, and doesn’t have the flavor of a slightly stronger beer, though not all Scotch Ales are higher in alcohol content, those are the type that I’ve experienced. Though the flowery, fruity aroma doesn’t make its way into the flavor, there is a honey flavor added. The suggested serving temperature of Fraoch Heather Ale is slightly warmer than the fridge.

Fraoch Heather Ale
Fraoch Heather Ale