In the past couple weeks, I've eaten pretzels off a necklace at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, torn apart a giant, German-style one at Woodland Park's BierWerks Brewery, and literally dreamt that I lived on a pretzel island in a foamy ocean. (I still carry that dream, for your children and mine.)
Such are the side effects when you endeavor to keep up with beer news around here. For the fourth consecutive year, the GABF sold out earlier than the year before — this year, a full five weeks prior to its Sept. 16 kickoff. Roughly 49,000 people crashed the halls of the Colorado Convention Center to sample some 36,000 gallons of beer, chilled on 40 tons of ice.
On the competition side, 3,523 brews from 516 breweries nationwide vied for coveted medals. (Locally, Bristol Brewing Co. was the most successful, taking home a silver for its Old No. 23 barley wine, and a bronze for its Laughing Lab Scottish Ale.) Three new categories of competition debuted, including wood- and barrel-aged strong stouts.
We'll investigate that barrel-aging trend in the following pages, and also will introduce you to the mythical, all-knowing animal that is the GABF judge. In addition, you can catch reviews of two new breweries in our region and run down the list of all area craft breweries — which includes two more new additions.
A 2008 study by the Brewers Association put Colorado at No. 5 for breweries per capita. Judging by what Matthew Schniper and I have seen lately, we're definitely making a push for No. 1. Next stop: Pretzel Island.