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!