Earlier this month I had the pleasure in going on my first airplane trip to Denver, Colorado with the Philly Beer Scene posse for the annual Great American Beer Festival. My previous travel expeditions have taken me as far as Canada. I had never been on a proper plane ride, so I was thrilled to have such an amazing opportunity with a group of friends from the magazine. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m still pining for all sorts of useless junk from the SkyMall catalog, including a life-size sculpture of a Yeti (take that as a Christmas gift hint, Pete). Flying over the Midwest and seeing nothing but countryside for hours was breathtaking.
After we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we headed to the Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe, where there was no shortage of beer celebrities from the East Coast in attendance–including Sam Calagione (founder of Dogfish Head) and Bill Covaleski (founder of Victory). After indulging in some chocolate fondue for dinner (don’t judge me), I headed down to the Convention Center with the crew. Four of us had media passes and were able to roam around the convention center a half hour before the public came pouring in. We also lucked out with access to the Farm to Table Pavilion, which was my favorite part of the GABF experience (I am a sucker for cheese).
The Culinary School of the Rockies teamed up with local Colorado farmers, guest chefs and small and independent brewers in an intimate setting for the Farm to Table event. Media attendees were invited to sample craft beer paired with local food, in addition to a few special release beers that were only available at the pavilion. Chefs and brewers were incredibly informative and discussed with us why the specific ingredients were chosen to enhance the beers.
I am pretty sure I can safely say I was the only person at the beer festival who has never been drunk before. To explain, I never drank a sip of alcohol until this past year and even now, I only ever drink to sample beers and learn more about them. Working with Philly Beer Scene has made me appreciate the history and growth of the craft beer culture and realize that there is so much more to beer than I once thought. I’ll admit, I’ve become a bit of a beer snob and find it frustrating when I see someone drinking a Corona or Miller Lite when there are so many other options out there, especially with so many fine breweries right in our own backyard.
The food at the Farm to Table pavilion, and at Denver in general, was ridiculously delicious as well as innovative with endless eco-friendly dishes offered. Some of the festival’s sustainability initiatives included a slot in the garbage bin for compostable materials, which I can’t say is something I’ve seen at any Philadelphia beer festivals, but I may be wrong.
It was great having the chance to meet some of the faces behind the beer I’ve enjoyed over the past year, including local beer starlet Sebbie Buhler, who has been the face of the award-winning Rogue Chocolate Stout since 2000.
Some of the interesting characters roaming the festival (apart from our crazy posse) were clad in pope and viking costumes with pretzel necklaces, and of course, the always classy gals who were just barely covered in lederhosen.
I was especially grateful to be able to watch the sun set from the back patio with Pete and escape the “OHHHHH!” screams reverberating throughout the convention center whenever a sampler glass was dropped. More to come soon about our second day in Colorado spent taking in the sights and touring local breweries.