I got to watch Beer Geeks host Michael Ferguson pick up a couple of Great American Beer Festival gold medals this past Saturday, which was great fun! (It’s a true honor to walk across that stage, and he did twice!)
After the awards ceremony, I spent most of my Saturday tasting session chasing down exceptional beers from around the country.I was guided by a post on a Facebook group: “Texas, let’s talk about craft brewing,” where one of the members described what he would try, if he could be there.I took his recommendations to heart and made my Saturday about walking the path he’d choose and found more than a few exceptional beers along the way.
The GABF folks are kind enough to give you an app that lets you track where you want to go and I made good use of it!It was interesting to see the places with a long line and those where you could just stroll up and drink amazing beer.(You can have exceptional beer in many places you don’t expect it, so don’t be fooled by the booths with lines!)
I was bowled over by Upland Brewing’s PawPaw. This fruit sour was the total package - bright, hard lambic sourness, but with the fruit adding a layer of complexity that blew me away. Apparently the Pawpaw is one of North America’s underappreciated fruits, with hints of mango, banana and citrus, along with a yeasty undercurrent. It’s also rather hard to find, making this unique treat a very limited time offering. It didn’t win a medal, but it was oh so drinkable! Fat Head’s Brewery, with locations in Ohio and Portland (where I’ve been) had their Hop Juju on tap and it was an over the top Double IPA. Vivid notes of resin, fruit and a touch of dank, oniony notes as well. They also cleaned up on the medal stand, winning five medals between their 3 locations.
Sadly, I felt that Austin’s North by Northwest’s Barton Kriek didn’t get the GABF love it deserved.It’s a luscious cherry sour, aged in barrels, that has a magnificent presence on the palate.Being an Imperial Stout fan, I also had to try a few bourbon barrel Imperials, with Endless Nameless from Cigar City in Tampa, Florida topping my list.I was discussing the beer with a brewer while waiting in line and he noted it had a ridiculously high gravity (1.100+) that finishes somewhere in the 1.050’s.You can taste the residual sweetness, but it’s balanced out by the alcohol from the barrel and the oak tannins, so it isn’t as cloying as you’d think. Similarly, Cigar City’s White Oak Jai Alai IPA uses the oak to cut through the hops to mellow a very potent Imperial Pale Ale. One of the great things about the Great American Beer festival is that you can’t run out of beer to try until they close the taps.You may get your samples one ounce at a time, but you have a whole nation of beer to explore and every style you can imagine, from Lichtenhainer to lite beer… And let’s pray those two never meet!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.