GABF Day 3: Awards, more beer and really cool times

September 19th, 2010

Saturday is one of my favorite days at GABF because of the awards ceremony. I love watching who won what and which surprising brewery beat out someone else and then when judging is over, everyone runs to the breweries that won and gets to try the medal winning brews.

But before the session began, there was the Sam Adams Longshot brunch to attend. The Longshot is an annual homebrewing contest that Boston Beer holds each year. They have two divisions, one for employees and one for non-employees. It was really cool to meet the winners and hear their stories about how they got into brewing and how they came up with their recipes. Plus, I got to meet Jim Koch, a first for me.

Before the judging began I had an opportunity to interview Brewer’s Association founder and President Charlie Papazian and also Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. I met both of these men more than a few times and it’s a true pleasure each time I talk to them. Both of them are so passionate about beer and brewing and food and the growth of craft beer and it’s simply infectious. I would give anything to work with these men, even for just a short time. I will hopefully have both of those interviews up soon.

The awards ceremony was super cool for several reasons. First, one of my favorite breweries and LA/OC favorite, The Bruery, won it’s first GABF medal, a Gold for their Oude Tart. When I saw their name go up, I was so charged! I was super excited for everyone that works there because they are all truly genuine and nice people and they really do make amazing beer. I was disappointed that Black Tuesday, my favorite beer, didn’t place but overall, it was just a super cool moment.

Second, another local brewery, Eagle Rock, won a gold in the Pro-Am division with the Red Velvet, an imperial red ale. Eagle Rock is all of 8 months old so seeing them on the board much less with a gold was a shocker. But I cannot be happier for Jeremy, his father and his wife Ting. And this is a beer I’ve yet to try so it quickly went on my list!

Lastly, I just happened to be sitting next to Jim Koch during the ceremony. We got to talk a lot and I got to share with him about some of the SoCal and Texas breweries he didn’t know. He didn’t know Saint Arnold (from my hometown of Houston and winners of Gold again for their Fancy Lawnmower) or of Real Ale in Blanco or Independence in Austin. But it was especially cool for me to tell him that my first craft beer was a Sam Adams in a Christmas pack my sister gave me in 1994 and those were the beers that converted me. He was surprised but also humble and thankful that I shared that with him. I really enjoyed talking to him and could see the drive and passion in him that made him and Boston Beer Company what it is today.

I was also thrilled to see Firestone, TAPS, Pizza Ports, Stone (for Sublimely Self Righteous–YUM!) and Deschutes do really well too. I loved seeing them come off the stage and taking their pictures. Veronica Vega from Deschutes was so excited she practically lit up the whole convention center. I can only imagine what this must have been like for her. It was really cool.

After the awards, Veronica, Eric and a couple other Deschutes guys and I all went around to some of the different breweries who had won or who had a beer we wanted to try. It was pretty cool. I dragged them to Founders to try their Canadian Breakfast Stout which is simply amazing. I want that beer with some pancakes!

Finally that night, JJ, Brian and myself were all invited to have dinner with the Deschutes family and celebrate their winnings. It was such an amazing time to spend with these men and women and truly get to know them. I don’t think I can find enough good words to say about them and certainly about the beers they brew.

After that was a late visit to Falling Rock to catch the last sips of Dr Bill’s tasting and then to someplace called the Whiskey Bar. I can only say that after a day full of beer, anyplace named the Whiskey Bar is an inadvisable way to finish the night. I’ll leave it at that.

Another amazing GABF come and gone and so many good friends and good beers enjoyed. This is truly one of life’s great experiences and I thank everyone who was involved however they were for making it everything that it is. Cheers!

GABF: Friday fight against cancer beer events

September 18th, 2010

Friday is always an awesome day at GABF. The session isn’t until 5:30pm which leaves a day full of freedom to check out the many breweries in the Denver area, participate in other events, sight-see in the Denver area or just relax.

Last year was the first year for the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting, which was back in full force with some amazing rare beers. It’s also a great chance for people to meet some of the brew masters who are typically present to pour their beers. This year was no different as brewing big wigs Garrett Oliver, Adam Avery, Larry Sidor, Greg Koch, Greg Hall, Sam Calagione, Ron Jeffries, Patrick Rue and more were in attendance! There was excellent food, awesome beers and every penny raised went towards the fight against prostate cancer.

I attended the night session only briefly before adjourning to let the craziness go forth, grab a bite to eat and head to Falling Rock for the Pints for Prostates Celebration of Collaborations, which included only beers that were collaborations between breweries. It too was attended by some stars including Tomme Arthur and once again, some amazing beers were thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the highlights of the day was a new event which took place in the morning called the “Beer for Boobs Brunch”, a fundraiser for breast cancer. The event was organized by Stevie Caldarola, a New York native who also recently created the “Ladies of Craft Beer“. The group is designed to encourage women to teach women about craft beer, from brewing to cooking to food pairing and to share the gospel of craft beer with other ladies who aren’t yet converts.

The event was a huge success and Stevie was gracious enough to give us insight into her inspiration for the group and how excited she is to be at her first GABF.

GABF Day 1: Thirsty Thursday

September 17th, 2010

Day two of the GABF was actually the first official day of the event and there was plenty of things going on!

We started our day at the Great Divide Brewing open house for industry folks. It was great to see so many people from other awesome breweries visiting Great Divide and enjoying some great beers and great food. I started with the Titan IPA and followed that closely by the Hoss, made with Rye. Both are truly delicious beers! They also served BBQ and various cheeses. The Great Divide brewery is bigger than I expected and very spread out. It’s always fascinating to visit different breweries and I enjoyed Great Divide.

The first GABF session kicked off at 530pm, although we went in early with other media and industry folks, and very quickly a line formed for New Glarus and Dogfish Head. I chose New Glarus and tried the Raspberry Tart which tasted like a carbonated fruit drink. It was tasty! I wish I could tell you each of the great beers that I had a chance to try but that would make this a very long post. Trust me when I say, you should attend GABF and find out for yourself!

The Farm to Table event is one of my favorites and I was not disappointed. There were 12 breweries serving two beers that were expertly paired with a dish. I ran into Stone CEO Greg Koch, Ska Brewing’s Arlo Guthrie and I got to meet Sebbie from Rogue, aka “the Chocolate Stout lady on the bottle.” I thought that was very cool because I really love that beer. So far as chocolate stouts go, at least in my opinion from the ones I’ve tried, that one most closely tastes like rich chocolate without the alcohol heat that some have.

I also ran into Victory Brewing CEO Bill Covaleski who was talking to people about beers and food and took some time to share with us a little about the pairings at the event and what is happening at Victory during a “Beers With” segment we did.

GABF Wednesday pre-parties

September 16th, 2010

This year is a special treat for me. Last year I flew into Denver on Thursday, the first official day of the GABF, but this year I obviously came into Colorado early to take the Cicerone exam. That meant I was here for the GABF pre-parties and wow, what a night!

I was joined by JJ Bagley and Brian Kropf from Mutineer Magazine and going in, we had to know it was going to be a night to remember.

The partying began with the Dechutes Brewing Special Reserve tasting on the 27th floor of the Grand Hyatt, right across from the Convention Center. Let me begin by saying that Deschutes has long been one of my favorite breweries with just their flagship beers Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter. But I also love the Inversion IPA, the Abyss and absolutely most of all… Mirror Mirror. Barleywine is my favorite beer style and Mirror Mirror simply touches my soul with every sip. It is so amazingly delicious.

So tonight the Special Reserve tasting included something that made my giddy with excitement: the lost barrels of Mirror Mirror. These were barrels of the barleywine that were actually lost in the Deschutes warehouse and then found years later. They are unblended and simply slap-your-mama-good! I could not get enough. They also had some reserve Dissident and the Mirror Pond on tap but I was content with my favorite barleywine.

I also got to meet Brewmaster Larry Sidor, Chef Jeff and brewer Veronica Vega, all of whom are totally cool people. Check out the “Beers With” segments we shot at the party!

After the Reserve tasting we headed to Falling Rock Taphouse, a Denver landmark for craft beer and owned by a fellow Texas Longhorn, for a birthday party for Taylor Shaw. We arrived downstairs to see the whole gang already there and having a great time. The New Brew Thursday and BeerTapTV guys were there as was Laurie Delk (100Beers30Days), Rochelle Mills, Dr Bill from Stone, Alex P Davis, Melanie Strachan and many people’s whose names I’m forgetting now (sorry).

Plus, the Shmaltz Brewing company guys were there to promote a new book and they were breaking out some serious beers! They had their 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th anniversary beers and that 11th is just incredible! Plus, Falling Rock has a ton of great beers on tap.

Suffice it to say, it was simply an awesome night of great beer and there was epicness. And there were stories created to be told in later days (“stairs”). What a way to kickoff the 2010 GABF!!

I Am A Craft Beer Drinker video released!

September 10th, 2010

Some of you may recall that back in May I joined the New Brew Thursday gang at Stone & Churchills Pub in San Marcos to shoot part of the “I Am A Craft Beer Drinker Video”. The shoot was so much fun and finally, the wait is over. The video is out!!!

You can check out the background of the video, how it came together and of course see the video on my Southern California Examiner page. It’s awesome!

Stone 14th Anniversary video recap, Part I: Greg Koch takes over…

August 25th, 2010

So Friday night I was at the Brewer’s Reception and sat down to do a quick “Beers With…” segment with Greg so he could tell us all about the Anniversary events and the charities involved when he decided he wanted to play host.

Greg Koch interviews Chris from Chris Spradley on Vimeo.

Stone 14th Anniversary Celebration recap

August 24th, 2010

The Stone Brewing 14th Anniversary Celebration culminated last Saturday with their annual brewfest which was bigger than ever, taking place on the campus of California State University in San Marcos. As usual, Stone had a great selection of beers from breweries all over the world. There was plenty of food including Mike’s Famous Beer Cheese and Arrogant Bastard Onion Rings, both of which are excellent. And this year Stone added a Rare Beer section which included some very hard to find beers from all over the world including the Brewdog Tokyo, the Struisse

From the combined efforts of the Stone Brewing Company, the many breweries who donated beer to the events, the volunteers who worked the events, the Dye-Hards who had their hair dyed green and the attendees of the Brewer’s Reception and the Anniversary Brewfest who simply bought a ticket and drank some great beers, a total donation of over $180,000 will be distributed to some great charities in the Escondido and San Marcos areas.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of helping to change people’s lives for the better.

I’ll be posting some Beers With segments with Greg Koch, Dr Bill and others from the 14th Anniversary soon.

Dyeing my hair GREEN for charity!

August 13th, 2010

Ever do something just crazy, off the wall for fun? Sure, we all have. But what about doing that something to your appearance and doing it for charity?

That’s what I’m doing and I’m so excited!!

Every two years, during their anniversary celebration, Stone encourages people to join the Dye-hards by dyeing their hair a wacky color and helping to raise money for charity. This year, the chosen color is green and I am in!

I’d love to have your support. Check out the Dye-Hards website and look for me at #0068. Click on my button to donate and do it! 100% of the money goes to the Boys & Girls club and a few other charities.

I’m trying to raise at least $500. I know we can do it too!

I will be getting my hair dyed soon and will post pics as soon as it’s done!!

Beers with Patrick Donagher from Rattle N Hum Bar, NYC

June 23rd, 2010

On my first night in New York City, I had a great time hanging with some beer friends at Rattle N Hum on 33rd St. It’s a totally kickass craft beer bar with an awesome selection of beer on tap and in bottles and some tasty eats too! We had a great time and I had beers with owner Patrick Donagher. He’s a great guy who is super passionate about craft beer and a wonderful generosity that just flows from his passion and excitement for good beer.

Enjoy the video below. It’s a bit long (13 minutes) and please forgive some of the audio issues but it’s fun all the way through and will give you all the reasons you need to make a trip to Rattle N Hum yourself!

Beers With Patrick Donagher at Rattle N Hum, NYC from Chris Spradley on Vimeo.

Pints for Prostates LA Beer Fest

June 21st, 2010

There’s a certain feeling of satisfaction when something you’ve been working very hard on is finally completed and goes well. I am now enjoying that feeling because for the past 5 months, I have been busting my butt organizing a Pints for Prostates beer fest/fundraiser for Los Angeles. And when I say busting my butt, I mean it. Putting on a charity beer event is not easy. I won’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done and the stress level, especially in the final week, is crazy!

Overall, I’m very happy with how the event went on Saturday and everyone that attended had a great time. We had some awesome beers there, great music from The Firkins and I cannot say enough about Mr Pockets Sports Bar and the staff and how much they helped to make sure it was a great event. We raised money for prostate cancer research and hopefully made a few more men aware of the dangers of prostate cancer and that was the whole point.

Here’s the roll call and a few pictures for those who participated. I am immensely thankful for all of these breweries/brewpubs and the people that work for them!

Allagash Brewing
Ballast Point
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery
Craftsman Brewing
Firestone Walker
Franziskaner Weissbier Brewery
Green Flash Brewing
Lagunitus Brewing
Lost Coast Brewing
Maui Brewing Co.
New Belgium
Sierra Nevada
Spaten Brewery
Stone Brewing
Telegraph Brewing
The Bruery
Wolf Creek Brewery & Restaurant
Blue Palms Brewhouse
Library Alehouse