Well, the GABF has started off well for me, had a whole series of top-quality beers last night that I thought I'd share with you!
I kicked off with beers from the Blue Corn brewery (Santa Fe), served up to me by the brewmaster and original cowboy Brad Kraus, and the first beer of Atomic Blonde pils at 5% was an absolute treat! Sometimes in this job you can forget that a really good clean pilsner at the right time can be an absolute treat - and this was, clean, zesty and with a little punch of bitterness at the end.
The brewery's award-winning oatmeal stout was also an absolute cracker, an enticing chocolate and coffee nose with a balanced coffee and hop bitterness combined with a really creamy mouthfeel makes it intensely drinkable and it's understandable that it took a gold medal in its class last year. As an aside it also helps no end that Mr Kraus is an absolute blast and has definitely gained the title of my favourite person in the world to share a Rochefort 10 with.
Then it was on to Buckbean and their 5.8% Orange Blossom Ale, Pallisade, Ahtanum and German select hops marry beautifully with orange blossom, Munich & caramel malts.
The result is not so much an orange blossom ale but a fabulously jasmine tea-like end to the beer that begs to be drunk over and over - interestingly a lot of the craft beers out here are canned, what they do is use the technology that soft drinks companies have been using for years and have a lining on the inside of the can that prevents all metallic taint.
My next great beer was the Saint Arnold Elissa IPA - rather sad that I chose it because it's so close to my name but I'm glad I was feeling childish because it was a really pleasant honey pine nose, with a rich spicy flavour with a not unpleasant prickly hop bitterness, very fresh in the finish and well-balanced.
Rogue Morimoto Soba, which I believe is only around 5%, is a truly incredible beer - a buckwheat nose leads to a similar profile in taste augmented by a light lime, then after you've swallowed you get this most amazing rush back of bready/buckwheat right at the front of the palate - totally unique in my opinion and well worth seeking out.
I also had the great pleasure and privelege of drinking Sierra Nevada's Estate beer at 6.7%, all the ingredients are grown at the brewery and it's a got a lovely clean mineral nose with a bit of peach/passion fruit and then a jammy middle throught to a balanced bitter end - fabulous.
So, that was yesterday, today my standout beers were the 21st Amendment Watermelon wheat, which I'd heard about from Richard Dinwoodie who raves about it, however I was a bit sceptical - ohhhh how foolish I was to be so pre-judgemental, it's utterly, utterly awesome! It smells like watermelon and then on the palate anyone who ever ate the watermelon Nerds as a kid will recognise that sour watermelon flavours are some of the nicest things in the world and that's what this was. Unbelievably refreshing and fabulous this also came from a can and was just a revelation.
Next standout was Bison Brewery's Honey & Basil
Deschutes Red Chair IPA was another cracker, I judge these in the World Beer Awards a lot but rarely see them and wish they'd export more to the UK, I really do, a wonderfully restrained example of an American-style IPA, it balances that usual huge grapefruit note out with some nice lime and caramel-bready body (without being too toffee) and a rich jammy bitter finish.
And finally Alaskan's beers were something special, the Smoked Porter is a living legend but I thought the White (the spiced wheat) was very elegantly done. For those of you who have tried the Coney Island Albino Python think this done much more delicately, not to say that's not a great beer, but the White has many similarities without the huge pot pourri nose.
And talking of Coney Island I'm also pleased to say that I've been introduce to the most fabulous American diner called Sam's No. 3, at which I've been eating with Glenn, and today I decided, when in Rome, to have their Coney Island hotdog, which was sublime; if you're ever in Denver then Sam's No.3 is a must-see.
Will update you on the winners etc. tomorrow, back off to the festival now and then onto dinner in the Samba Room!