GABF 2009 Observations Part 1

Our trusty correspondent sent us the following report from this year’s Great American Beer Festival. We hope to make it again at some point in the future. For now we can all experience it vicariously:

As long as I have lived in Denver, the Great American Beer Festival has
also been here.  The enjoyment on display by the participants
reminds one of something paganistic bordering on criminal. 
Shouldn’t we all be locked up for having this much fun?  How
is it that so many people can enjoy this one simple thing called
‘beer’?  

If there is one thing the GABF teaches, it is that the definition of
‘beer’ is no longer ONE thing in America, and is changing
constantly.  In fact, the definition of beer seems to change
each year.

Yes, the standards were there shining as brightly as ever: 
the super hoppy IPAs (really the winners in terms of successfully
different flavor varieties), the Porters, the quaffable
Lagers.  I consider these seperate food groups and they were
as delicious as ever…….but a few new trends were on display as well:

Observations in a nutshell—-

Ancient Recipes – It seems in an effort to provide different flavor
profiles, and perhaps because this allows brewers to play the part of
historians, some breweries are attempting to recreate recipes from
civilizations past.  Dogfish Head Brewery apparently did a
significant amount of research and planning, as they provided roughly
six different ancient recipes with a variety of ingredients. 
I hesitate to refer to the products as ‘beer’,  as they are so
different in flavor and often had a pretty high alcohol content (9%+),
but they certainly were the most consistently busy of all the breweries
at the GABF.  Will they commercially distribute any of these
ancient recipes?  Apparently, the brewery is trying to
determine if any of the recipes have real commercial viability right
now.

The ‘Sour’ Thing – First, let me say that I am a big fan of granny
smith apples, lemons, limes, margaritas, lemon rickeys, limoncellos,
and just about anything else sour or sour with some alcohol. 
But I think I’ve met my match here: the sour beer.  This is an
attempt by some intrepid brewers to create a Belgo-American creation,
modifying the flavor profile of beer considerably using existing
ingredients and simply allowing beer to spoil a little, resulting in
additional acid generation and the variable ‘sour’ character. 
Although I tried many beers of this nature, each with it’s own level of
sour (from barely detectable to near-lemon juice), I can’t say that I
could drink more than one nor do I think it could be commercially
viable in America.  The inevitable belching afterward (the
re-taste) was not a very pleasant experience as sour beer (quite
acidic) mixes with stomach acid (more acidic) creating a lasting
impression in my lower esophagus.  Certainly the sour beers
which exhibited a very mild sour nose were infinitely more palatable
and seemed to rely less on the sour note as a gimmick for their
existence.  I think the message I received here is a little
sour goes a LONG way.

We will post the rest of his observations next week in
Part 2


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