GABF 2014: Craig’s Friday and Saturday
So after drinking from noon to 10 PM Thursday, I naturally did the responsible thing on Friday.
I kept drinking.
With GABF starting at 6PM, I had the whole day to check out the city and the other beer events. A friend of mine saw that Falling Rock had a Cigar City tap takeover the previous night and we figured there would be some leftovers from that, so we trekked over. I had never been to Falling Rock before, but was very familiar with its reputation as one of the best bars in the country. I was not disappointed.
Falling Rock, as a bar, is kind of backwards. Their outside seating area/beer garden is in front of the actual bar, making the entrance recessed from the main road. For comparison sake, it feels very much like Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis, with the patio area in front of the brewery entrance. Making our way to the bar, we were faced with a row of taps on the wall matching the length of the bar. It was almost certainly due to the insane tap takeovers and events they were hosting that the printed tap list was woefully out of date, necessitating looking at the tap handle to see what was on.
Upon getting to the front, we found out we had guess right – there were two Cigar City beers left on tap, the Chicory Dickory Choc Brown Ale and Good Gourd Almighty (which, luckily for us, was listed as just Good Gourd). I went full Cigar City ordering both, while my buddies ordered the Good Gourd Almighty and Pliny the Elder. Since upstairs bar had all the chairs removed and both the outside and inside seating were packed, we went downstairs, where there was absolutely no one.
After about a half hour, we found out why the chairs were removed – they attempting to set the record for the quickest keg kicking in the world. (They set the record last year; they got second this year with a time near 10 minutes). We met a few people and they suggested we go to Mr. B’s to get some Prairie bottles, which we did (great place by the way). Most of us were hungry, so we moseyed over a few blocks to Biker Jim’s, a gourmet hot dog restaurant. Since I wasn’t in town for Hot Doug’s final day, I figured this was a respectable way to send him off, as I ordered the rattlesnake and pheasant sausage.
Those few people we met then recommended Star Bar across the street, mainly because they had Tweak, Avery’s Mephistopheles imperial stout with coffee, on tap. That was the only safe bet as if you ordering anything else might result in getting something you didn’t order (see Ryan’s take on GABF for more details). Tweak was very good, with a heavy coffee nose and big coffee taste, akin to BCBCS 2013 right out of the gate. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for GABF.
This day I would focus on beers from new breweries that I had not heard of or only had a few things from. There were, however, a few things I was constantly doing:
- Going to Kane Brewing to see if A Night to End All Dawns was back on tap, finding out it wasn’t and then getting a pour of Morning Bell.
- Finishing that pour of Morning Bell and heading over a few spots to get a pour of Churchill’s Finest Hour.
- Checking to see if No Crusts was finally/ever on tap.
- Hitting up the Transient Artisan Ales booth to get anything (but usually Presque).
With that being said, I started hitting the breweries that had long lines that I hadn’t tried yet. I started by stopping at Wicked Weed, which had a killer booth set up, to try Serenity and Oblivion, both of which were top notch (but I preferred the Oblivion). Moving along from Wicked Weed, I had found a brewery I had heard things about, and then got shut out from trying them at What the Funk!? the previous day because they ran out of beer – Yazoo Brewing Company. I was in a sour mood, so I ran through the two barrel aged sours they had (and one barrel aged saison) quickly – the Saison Sauvignon Blanc, Caribbean Daydream, and Lange Somer. The clear winner of this trio was Caribbean Daydream, a red ale with Brett aged in 30 year old Estate rum barrels with Pink Guava and Mangoes. One of my top beers at the festival, Caribbean Daydream tasted like a summer cocktail you would have while in, you guessed it, the Caribbean. I had 3 pours.
I then decided to take a recommendation from people we had met earlier in the day; I headed over to Comrade Brewing. They were pouring a coffee milk stout, two IPAs, a red ale, and a Hefeweizen. My personal new find of the fest, the two IPAs (Superdamp IPA and the silver medal winning Fresh Hop Superpower IPA) were hop bombs, while the Koffee Kreme Stout had a bit of coffee with a smooth backbone.
I next ventured over to Almanac Brewing to try their wares. While many of the breweries at the fest had one or two beers knock you out and the other two being so-so, Almanac brought it – all five beers they brought were multiple pourers, with the Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine the standout. I next “hopped” over to two breweries known for their hoppy beers – Modern Times and Societe. Both met expectations, as their hoppy offerings (Blazing World and Fortunate Islands from Modern Time; The Pupil and The Apprentice from Societe) were medal worthy (The Pupil won bronze). While over in the Pacific area I decided, against my better judgement, to stand in the Russian River line, which moved surprisingly fast. After getting my pour of Temptation, I headed over to The Rare Barrel and got one of everything they had, a smart move on my part. I preferred Map of the Sun, a golden sour aged in oak barrels with apricot, and Egregious, their dry hopped, oak aged golden sour.
For the remainder of the fest that day (and Sunday for that matter), I just tried beer that looked interesting or I had heard about. Listener Lesli Biesman recommended Buffalo Bayou, so I sauntered over to try their Gingerbread Stout, which was superior to the much more touted Hardywood Gingerbread Stout (which I also had at the fest). Based on the name alone, I tried the Big Lebarrelski from Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub in Austin, Texas, was impressed, and then tried Jaguar Shark, their bourbon barrel aged dry Irish stout, and left impressed (it would later win bronze in the barrel aged strong ale category).
And then Saturday rolled around. I decided to go to the GABF awards ceremony, so I got to the convention center a bit early and grabbed a seat in the auditorium (the entire Haymarket crew, which seemed to be about 10 people, was sitting behind me). It was nice to see some Illinois breweries win awards (9 in total – congrats to Haymarket, Two Brothers, and Carbondale Craft Beer on the golds; Temperance, Flossmoor Station, Half Acre, RAM Restaurant Schaumburg, and 5 Rabbit on the silver; and Horse Thief Hollow on the bronze!). After all that, I headed back to the fest for one final day of drinking.
On this day there was a bagpipe and drum procession marching around the whole of the convention, adding a nice musical element to the proceedings. I attended the member’s only session, and it felt more packed than the Friday, open to anyone session.
Saturday was dedicated to hitting up breweries we realized we had missed (Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, The Commons), as well as breweries that won medals (10 Barrel, Breakside, Beachwood BBQ). After trying as many different beers and breweries as I could, palate fatigue finally set in, meaning it was time to hit the bricks. This long, glorious, majestic weekend of drinking finally had to be put to bed, only to hopefully awaken again next year.
Craig’s Top Beers of the Fest (in no particular order)
A Night to End All Dawns (best overall), Morning Bell by Kane Brewing
2X4, ChChChCh Cherry Bomb by Melvin Brewing
Oblivion by Wicked Weed
Caribbean Daydream by Yazoo Brewing
Superpower IPA by Comrade Brewing
Churchill’s Finest Hour by Port Brewing
Bourbon BA Pumpkinator by St. Arnold’s
Presque by Transient Artisan Ales
Big Lebarrelski, Jaguar Shark by Pinthouse Pizza
Last Snow by Funky Buddha
3 Hour Tour by Minneapolis Town Hall
Gingerbread Stout by Buffalo Bayou
Original Dankster by Cellarmaker
Assassin by Toppling Goliath
The Pupil, The Apprentice by Societe
Heirloom Pumpkin, Dogpatch Strawberry by Almanac
Cable Car 2013 by Lost Abbey
Map of the Sun, Egregious by The Rare Barrel