I am still trying to re-acclimate myself to my normal old boring life after the Great American Beer Festival. I have so many ideas and observations from my two days of volunteering and the one session my brother and I attended that it is hard to straighten them all out. I can say, however, that I had a great time, and look forward to next year. I think that rather than give a blow by blow of three days of mostly standing, talking, and drinking (and peeing), I instead will focus on the major topics.
First, everyone is always interested in the beers. I didn't keep track of how many samples I had, and until this year, I have no idea how you would go about keeping count. I served beer to one guy who stopped and wrote down every beer he tried in a notebook (along with what I presume were notes), and another guy who had a counter on his belt that he clicked each time. Although both of these would be interesting bits of information after the fact (how much you drank, what you drank, and what you liked) it certainly (for me at least) would take away from the fun and social aspect of the event.
As for beers and breweries it is hard to remember everything I liked in specifics. I did have a method to my madness on what I sampled and what breweries to visit. First, I don't like standing in line and waiting, so to avoid the feeling of standing in line to get in, we got there really early (almost first) and sat on the steps for the first few hours. We met some really great beer people (not the yahoos that show up later). At the event, we tended to avoid the popular breweries that had lines (with some exceptions) and those that we really wanted, we chose to hit early.
What I can remember, is that I really enjoyed a premium light lager from a new Michigan Brewery called Wolverine State. I served alongside their Director of Sales (I so enjoyed her company and her shameless promotion) at the Michigan Brewers Guild, and she sold out of her case of Premium Light Lager in probably two hours or less. People kept coming and asking for it. I am really surprised it didn't win a medal (American Premium or Light Lager gold went to Red Dog....), but as I know, I am not a stylistic encyclopedia. Maybe it would have done better in a different category. They have a tap room on the west side of Ann Arbor and their lager is a most excellent boat beer. I can't get it here in Denver.....and I have never been sad about not being able to get something here....maybe someday. Maybe someone can pick me up some swag (mens medium...hat...hint, hint) when they visit this brewery?
I served on Thursday night in row O in the Rocky Mountain Region. I served Pike's Peak Brewing (Chris and Dan were lots of fun to hang out with and talk to). I had taken my brother and Kent to visit this establishment in Monument (off of I-25 north of Colorado Springs) and especially enjoyed their Mild Ale which was being served. I also served for Pagosa Brewing, and was very impressed with all of their offerings.
I focused on trying a lot of Oktoberfest beers (since I am an award winner and all), and even got to try the eventual Bronze Medal winner from Sam Adam's for German Style Marzen. Of most I tasted, mine was better. We also enjoyed Great Lake's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.
Of the people. I nearly (literally) ran into Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Brewery while in the bookstore prior to the Friday session. I wanted to tell him that I am currently enjoying his book, "Brewing Up a Business" that I purchased for my ipad, but in three seconds, someone was running up to him screaming (almost) "Sam!!!!" and similarly swooning. He does seem to be as nice as his persona, however....so I left him alone. I shook Ray Daniels' hand and thanked him for his book "Designing Great Beers" which give statistics and background on a number of styles of beer and provides some insight on how to craft your own recipes. It is one of my favorite reference guides.
On Serving. After finishing serving for the first two nights, I was convinced that I would rather do that than attend, but I had such a great time on Saturday afternoon attending, that I am no longer convinced of that. In retrospect, I did enjoy serving more than attending, but am not sure if I am ready to give up my Saturday Afternoon Session. The best part was meeting people and talking about the beer i was serving. I might dedicate myself to the Guild next year, but not sure. I will have to search my soul on all of this.
On the Festival. If you go, take your time, drink what you like, and don't try to sample everything. There are over 700 breweries serving thousands of beer. I can't wait to pour you a beer in 2012.
Of the three days....I forgot my camera every day....so, I had a great time, and posed for more than a few photos, but don't have anything for you here....sorry. Next year, come with me.