The 33rd annual edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gets underway this weekend in Denver, CO. The event is produced by the Brewer's Association, an industry trade group whose purpose is "to promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers, and the community of brewing enthusiasts". From its humble beginnings in a hotel ballroom in 1982, GABF is now considered to be the biggest craft beer festival in the United States. During the public portion of GABF, nearly 700 participating breweries from almost all 50 states will be pouring samples from some 3,500 beer choices to festival attendees. Ticket demand remains at an all-time high as tickets sold out for all four festival sessions in about 32 minutes when they went on sale back in late July.
GABF also serves as a judged brewery competition. For 2014, an astounding 1,300 breweries armed with almost 5,700 beer entries are competing for medals in a record-high 90 different beer style categories. By comparison, a total of 732 breweries submitted entries for judging in 2013.
The Cornhusker State is home to seven of this year's GABF participating breweries. Below is a list of them along with the beers they are presenting in Denver (in alphabetical order):
Blue Blood Brewing Co., Lincoln
Happy As Ale - American Pale Ale - 4.6% ABV, 35 IBUs
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One sip of this satisfying American pale ale is all you need to know the dream is alive and doing fine. Happy As Ale owes its great citrus-flavored finish to the late addition of hops grown in Prague, NE. Because the best things are still made in the USA - and the proof is in your hands.Wicked Snout - Farmhouse Ale - 6.4% ABV
The inspiration for this farmhouse ale comes from, well, the farm. As a young livestock man, our friend often tussled with the pigs during his daily chores. That good ol' Nebraska farm boy is a lot like the yeast in this hardworking saison. And those wicked little piggies are a lot like the hops. Be careful, they'll sneak up on you.
All Hopped Up - American IPA - 6.5% ABV, 65 IBUs
Some dudes have more energy than they know what to do with. Our friend Brock is one of 'em. From helping our brewery get up and running to raising pythons, the man is always looking for a new challenge to sink his teeth into. All Hopped Up is our tribute. Submit to its simulating yet refreshing flavor.
Barrel Aged Wicked Snout
Our popular Wicked Snout is aged in red wine barrels for James Arthur Vineyards for six months. We let the oak, tannins, and wine flavors blends with our beer to create a masterpiece!
Borgata Brewery & Distillery, Omaha
Borgata Pils - 4.8% ABV
A proper pilsner is the envy of all other beers. Just look at it sitting there in the glass, all golden and frothy, its carbonation bubbles sparkling in the light. Yep, she's a beaut, and it's no accident. Borgata uses all malt with no adjuncts, cold fermented yeast, and a touch of American hops to add lively aromatics. Beautiful in its simplicity, Borgata Pilsner is a well-balanced session beer that sacrifices nothing in the way of flavor.
Borgata Hefeweizen - 5.2% ABV
Brewing wheat beer stateside is nothing new, but we thought that sticking with the tradition of a classic Bavarian-style recipe using Midwest grains was a novel idea. Borgata Hefeweizen is unfiltered to keep the appealing banana and clove flavors it gets from the yeast, natural carbonation, and a bright, rich color. Brewed with a 50/50 blend of pale malted barley and wheat, with low hopping rates, this is a real-deal refreshment suited best for a thirsty palate after a long day outdoors. This baby's good - real good.
Borgata IPA - 5.5% ABV, 60 IBUs
With every IPA, it all starts with the hops. Our hand-selected Centennial hops are juicy and bold, with big-time flavor and a respectable bite. But, unlike a lot of other IPAs, this bad boy don't get up in your grill with it. It's cool like that. Lush aromatics and a lasting finish make this copper-colored IPA one you'll want to chill out with for the duration.
Borgata Oatmeal Cream Stout - 5% ABV
This beer is here to bust the myth that dark beers are a one-and-done kind of deal. Please don't let the color fool you, medium-bodied and crowned with a frothy, beige head, this stout is insanely drinkable. It's a beast of a beer flavor-wise, with roasty, toasty barley and 10% oats rounded out with a touch of sweet cream lactose sugar. Whether you're having one beer or three, we think it might as well be a beer with flavor.
Borgata Imperial Stout - 9.2% ABV
This beer has a big malty base, balanced with American hops, rich flavor with dark fruit and warm alcohol. Not too overpowering, its very drinkable given its size.
Farnam House Brewing Co., Omaha
Farnam House Grätzer - 3.5% ABV, 20 IBUs
A traditional Polish smoked wheat beer. Light and slightly tart, this smoked beer is approachable and refreshing without the heaviness of many smoked beers.
Farnam House Grisette - 3.9% ABV, 26 IBUs
An old world, Belgian-style ale brewed with wheat and barley malt. It is a light, blonde saison that is low in alcohol and refreshing yet full of flavor.
Farnam House Keller - 5.5% ABV, 30 IBUs
An unfiltered German lager that is medium-bodied and amber in color. Kellerbier literally translates as "cellar beer", referring to its cool lagering temperatures. This lends to a very clean beer with a pleasant, soft bitterness which rounds out the caramel malt body.
Farnam House Biere de Garde - 6.3% ABV, 22 IBUs
Literally a "beer for keeping", an amber-colored farmhouse ale that is slightly rounder, richer, and more malt focused. It has a "cellar" character from "guarding" it for a lengthier period of time to allow it to mature.
Farnam House IPA - 7.5% ABV, 65 IBUs
A Belgian-style IPA fermented with our house yeast strain. The beer leaves an unexpected silky and rich mouth feel while accentuating the floral aromatics of the hops. This beer is packed with flavor and has plenty of hop bite yet remains balanced with the yeast character and a mild malt backbone.
Infusion Brewing Co., Omaha
Vanilla Bean Blonde - 4.8% ABV, 16 IBUs
Vanilla Bean Blonde - 4.8% ABV, 16 IBUs
Our crisp Blonde Ale with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans. Made with 2 row, Crystal 10, Crystal 20 with Saaz, and Tettnang hops.
Olson's Amber Ale - 5.5% ABV, 24 IBUs
This is a clean, red hued brew. This recipe is balanced with a malty backbone balanced with a clean hop character. An easy drinker, it is sure to please even the pickiest of craft beer drinkers.
Rule: 16 Rye Pale Ale - 6.2% ABV, 32 IBUs
We set out to brew a pale ale with aroma, flavor, and character, and this orange hued beer does exactly what we envisioned. The addition of rye malt brings out a spiciness that is balanced with a generous amount of Amarillo hops. This ale is sure to please your palate.
Radial IPA - 6.8% ABV, 98 IBUs
This is our way of thanking the West Coast for providing us with some wonderful hop varieties to produce an incredible IPA. This brash beer is light in color and packed full of hoppy goodness. With over 22 pounds of American hops, this should please even the craziest of hop heads.
Nebraska Brewing Co., La Vista
Main Festival Floor
EOS Hefeweizen - 5.2% ABV, 13 IBUs
This medium to full-bodied beer, pale to golden in color, is most accurately described as a Bavarian wheat beer. The aroma and flavor of this unfiltered beer is decidedly fruity and spicy, evoking tastes and aromas of cloves, nutmeg or sometimes vanilla with banana-like esters. It is somewhat sweeter in style with a barely noticeable tartness.
Cardinal Pale Ale - 6% ABV, 42 IBUs
Golden in color, mildly bitter, and characterized by floral/citrus-like aromatics which are the result of an additional dry hopping with a very large amount of Cascade hops. It is crisp, crystal clear, and completely enjoyable.
India Pale Ale - 6.9% ABV, 72 IBUs
Our West Coast inspired IPA is rich in flavor and abundant in citrus, pine, and floral aromatics created through a wonderful infusion of Citra hops. Refreshing with a medium mouth feel, crisp bitterness, and nearly balanced malt. It finishes dry with a head that creates excellent lacing.
Apricot au Poivre Saison
A saison (say-sahn) is a Belgian farmhouse summer beer, referring to the simple fact that very small "farmhouse" breweries typically made these beers. Lighter in alcohol, ours is 7.5% (not exactly light but that's just us!) and golden to orange in color and unfiltered. Ours is spiced with both apricot puree and black pepper. The taste is light, refreshing, and nicely fruited to start with a medium mouth-feel. After taking a drink, the black pepper dries the palate and creates a nice tingling sensation on the tongue.
Mélange á Trois - 10% ABV
Our first beer produced in the Reserve Series, Mélange á Trois begins with a wonderfully big strong Belgian-style Blonde Ale and moves into the extraordinary category through an additional six month French Oak Chardonnay wine barrel maturation. The essence of Chardonnay permeates while a subtle sweetness remains from the ale itself. Oak tannins combine and it creates a fascinating mesh of dry, sweet, and wine-like character. One of our favorites!
Wick for Brains - 6.1% ABV
Our classic and painstakingly produced Fall Pumpkin Ale. Instead of simply using spice, we use real pumpkin which lends a sweetness and pumpkin flavor not found in many pumpkin ales. Wonderful pumpkin pie spice is intertwined in an amber ale and creates a pumpkin sensation which is elegantly crafted. Notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and allspice blend perfectly in this seasonal Ale.
Barrel Aged HopAnomaly
This version of HopAnomaly (formerly known as Hop God) is a fascinating, big, bold Belgian-style Tripel hopped in very high amounts to concentrate citrus, grapefruit, and floral aromatics in the nose. The addition of Chardonnay barrel aging adds further dimension and oak tannins to a very complex Ale - bringing to mind tropical fruits and peach.
Attack of the 50 Ft. Brunette
Run, don't hide from Nebraska Brewing Company's imperial nut brown ale aged in Zeppelin Bend Whiskey barrels from New Holland Brewing Company.
Soaring Wings Brewing, Springfield
White Stripe Wit - 5% ABV, 11 IBUs
This is a Southern German wheat beer made in the spiced up Belgian style. The Mt. Hood hops are soft but the coriander and bitter orange peel come through. Really refreshing, add a slice of orange!
Blackbird Stout - 5.7% ABV, 31 IBUs
This dark stout has generous amounts of roasted malts including chocolate, crystal, and black (nine different grains in all) Northern Brewer and Willamette hops lend a supporting role. The result is an ale that is slightly sweet but complex and has a roasted dry finish.
Hop Zeppelin - 9.1% ABV, 81 IBUs
A double IPA with a nice malt backbone for balance, this is a an extreme beer with an amazing floral nose from massive dry hopping. We use Crystal malts for sweetness alongside citrusy American hops in the West Coast IPA tradition of craft beers; Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Warrior, and Simcoe.
Zipline Brewing Co., Lincoln
Copper Alt - 5.2% ABV
Copper-hued Northern German Altbier that is a hybrid ale/lager.
Oatmeal Porter - 6.0% ABV
Robust Porter with locally sourced, organic rolled oats.
NZ IPA - 6.8% ABV
New Zealand hopped India Pale Ale
American Tripel - 8.0% ABV
Tripel with a berry and stone fruit twist from Mosaic hops.
Barrel-Aged Barleywine - 14.7% ABV
One of the biggest beers at GABF, a velveteen monster that's been bourbon barrel aged and cellar conditioned for 10 months.