There are generally two types of people who gobble up the tens of thousands of tickets to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) held in Denver, Colo. each year:
- 1) Certified beer geeks: The type of guys (or gals) who talk flavor nuances as if visiting Bordeaux and deciding on a vintage perfectly paired for dinner.
- 2) Frat boy beer guzzlers: The guys (this is a gender-specific beast) that turn GABF into a raucous party, shooting down ounces of beer faster than volunteers can pour them.
Die-hard skier types generally have a sophistication level closer to the former than the latter, which is why the Great American Beer Festival continues to whet the palate for all the ski trips planned later this winter.
In no particular order, here are five of the best flavors that came from ski-town area breweries during the country’s biggest three-day beer-soaked party at the Colorado Convention Center from Oct. 11-13.
Bring on the snow and the brews.
#9 by Magic Hat, 5.1% ABV (Burlington, Vt.)
Beer geeks/ski bums often reach for hearty, thick brews becoming of a harshly cold New England winter afternoon. It warms the soul. Sometimes, however, said soul is completely worked. Like, for instance, after a day of battling the steeps of Mad River Glen. In cases such as these, nerve-calming session beers are in order, and few do this style better than Magic Hat. The #9 hits the mark here—and reminds the bevy of New England transplants living near the GABF complex in Denver of their favorite “back East” cult brewery. It’s a complex pale ale that goes down easy but not without thought. Discuss intricate topics such as the day’s politics or whether riders should ever be allowed to enjoy Mad River Glen over a pint of it.
Whiteface Black Diamond Stout by Great Adirondack Brewing Company, 6.8% ABV (Lake Placid, N.Y.)
The name already suggests the good folks at Great Adirondack Brewing Co. had skiers on the mind when they produced the Whiteface Black Diamond Stout. Now those with Olympic memories of the Lake Placid Games have another reason to order one up: It took home silver at the GABF (and also has a gold and bronze from previous years). This foreign-style stout reminds of a boozy Guinness. It’s smooth and frothy with hints of exotic fruits peppered in.
Dam Straight Lager Dillon DAM Brewery, 5.6% ABV (Dillon, Colo.)
Lagers are often hard to find in the boutique craft industry, as the brewing process can be cost-prohibitive. So it’s always nice to see one on a taproom menu (or being poured from the keg at the GABF). Dillon DAM is a popular stomping ground for those heading back to Denver from Keystone, A-Basin and Breckenridge. Its well-balanced lager is that perfect amber color and smooth to the finish.
Apocalypse IPA by 10 Barrel Brewing Co., 6.5% ABV (Bend Ore.)
Bend is a brewing mecca and 10 Barrel is one of the town’s best.
Its Apocalypse IPA is the flagship here, the beer that visitors clamor for when they are in town skiing or otherwise. It’s fruity and full of citrus, making for a really refreshing option after a day at Mt. Bachelor. Or, if you’re lucky, the German Sparkle Party (a geeky sour) or Power to the People American stout might be on tap during your visit. Both beers took home silver at the GABF but sadly weren’t in the public pouring lineup.
Donner Party Stout by FiftyFifty Brewing Co., 6.7% ABV (Truckee, Calif.)
The Donner Party story is a legendary tale of migration across the great frontier. Wagons, attacks from the natives, harsh weather, eating each other… yeah, it’s that last tidbit of the 1846 expedition that ended so bitterly near what is now Squaw Valley that has made the lure of the lore so interesting. FiftyFifty Brewing Co. pays tribute to the historical footnote with a rich, colonial-style porter that’s brewed with molasses and oats. Pair its complex chocolate and espresso flavors with après ski stories or while pondering whether you’d ever consider eating your friend in a pinch. Your call.