GABF 2018: Thursday Night Quick Hits
We (barely) made it through Thursday one night of the 2018 Great American Beer Festival, and in the case you’re attending Friday or Saturday, here are some quick recommendations on things not to miss. (And to be honest, our “How didn’t we go there?!?” list is longer than the list of breweries we actually did visit, so there’s a ton more that we’re leaving off. Check our handy Unofficial GABF 2018 Strategy Guide for a list of 50 breweries to visit at the fest.)
Just as a warning, it’ll take you a while to navigate the new layout. Though alphabetical seems very logical, we made countless trips into one aisle looking for a brewery to only realize they were in the Meet the Brewers section, which wasn’t exactly close. Maps or the MyGABF app are your friend. It’s actually easier to look at the number for the brewery and find them that way over using the alphabetical sorting.
The Referend Bier Blendery (Pennington, NJ)
This is our early pick for the brewery of the fest. James and Melissa Priest brought four variations on their spontaneously-fermented Berliner Messe, and each is distinctly different from the other, but all are similarly complex and artfully made. Also, you have to respect their use of lambic stoneware pitchers and lambic baskets rather than the standard issue plastic pitchers.
Pure Project Brewing (San Diego, CA)
This sustainability-focused brewery is getting a lot of attention for their take on the trendy trinity of hazy beer, adjunct stouts, and sours. And they’re doing it very well. Jade Dust is one of the more well-balanced yet flavor-forward “Murky” IPAs you’ll find on the floor. The Maplesaurus Rex is indulgent and a great small pour. But the real favorite here is the Roes Red: a cherry-forward Flanders that spent time in Pinot barrels.
WeldWerks Brewing Co. (Greeley, CO)
Surprising nobody, WeldWerks is a popular stop in their corner booth, and they came prepared this year. They brought at least 10 different beers and seemed to be pouring until the end of the session. There will be a line, but you will get beer. The Single Barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche is as shamelessly indulgent as it sounds and just stupidly awesome. The Spaghetti Gose is also worth experiencing.
J. Wakefield Brewing (Miami, FL)
Jonathan Wakefield really wants attendees to taste the rainbow this year, as his over-the-top fruited Berliners are pouring in vibrant green, red, and purple. But there’s also this little 17% barrel-aged Bout It Bout It stout with cocoa nibs, vanilla, and maple syrup that taste like a chocolate marshmallow dream.
Other Beers of Note
Modern Times Beer (San Diego, CA): Fellowship of Xul – Maybe even better than the Peanut Butter Medianoche, this one is more rich with dark chocolate along with creamy peanut butter riding throughout it.
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (Columbus, OH): Terre Du Sauvage Green – A dry-hopped and oak-aged saison that won a Gold at FoBAB last year, this is one of my beers of the fest so far.
New Helvetia Brewing (Sacramento, CA): Homeland Espresso Stout – Incredibly rich chocolate and roasted coffee beans just jump from the glass on this one.
pFriem Family Brewers (Hood River, OR): Druif – You were going to pFriem anyways, but try and get there early before this beautiful lambic-inspired beer is gone. It’s as close to wine as you’ll get, and it’s fantastic.
Wild Barrel Brewing (San Marcos, CA): Hipsters Demise – Built as a liquid death trap for hipsters, this stout has coffee, vanilla beans, and maple syrup that all play together very nicely.
Speciation Artisan Ales (Comstock, MI): Saltation – A tequila BA sour with blood orange, guava, limes, and salt, this beer is amazing on its own, but really won the snack pairing game along with the free bags of Red Rock Deli lime and cracked pepper chips. I’m doing this again tonight.
We will have much more coverage to come after GABF, including our annual episode and some more write-ups. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and FaceBook to see when those post! Otherwise, if you want more GABF hits, check some of our previous coverage below:
Episode 241: Road to GABF 2018 podcast