Great Moments at #GABF 2011

by Renee on October 3, 2011

Sitting here at home in rainy, grey NE Ohio on a Monday morning, thinking about my amazing weekend in sunny, blue skied Denver. My 10-year old lab, Harley, is good company and the coffee is hot and plentiful though, so I’m not complaining.

The 30th annual Great American Beer Festival was full of great moments for me, from the minute I arrived on Thursday evening in the hall at the Colorado Convention Center. There I caught up with a couple of friends of Jack’s from his San Antonio home brewing group–Lynnell and Cindy–and we made our way from booth to booth sampling beers from all over, and mingling in the crowd. The vibe was pretty mellow, especially compared to the rest of the sessions. I had a chance to chat briefly with Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada; caught up with Greg Koch, who signed his book, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance, for me; but Jack had headed back to his hotel fairly early, so I missed him that night. Still, it was a good time, and my thanks go to Lynnell’s son for the extra ticket to #GABF that night.

Friday morning began with the Beer for Boobs fundraising brunch at Freshcraft, sponsored by the Ladies of Craft Beer and Women Enjoying Beer. The chicken and waffles were hearty fare paired with some great beers from the bar–I especially enjoyed the Bristol Compass IPA on nitro. The crowd was rowdy early, and a good time was had by all. There I caught up with WEB founder Ginger Johnson, and got the scoop on the rest of the weekend; and met LOCB’s Stevie Caldarola for the first time in person. 

But beer isn’t just for breakfast any more, so Lynnell, Cindy, Jack and I caught a bus and headed up to Boulder Beer for a pig roast in the beer garden thanks to an invitation from their marketing tool, “Chicken Dan” Weitz. On the ride to the brewery, Jack told me how “a big tall guy” from Boulder had come up to see him many years ago at New Albion Brewing, asking for advice. It turns out that guy was Boulder Beer founder Randolph “Stick” Ware–and thanks to a call from Jeff Brown, now president of Boulder Beer–Stick showed up in the beer garden that afternoon for a chat with Jack some 30+ years after they had first met. It was great seeing them together again after so much time had passed.

After Boulder it was back to Denver, and Friday night at #GABF. I spent the evening working in the Women Enjoying Beer booth, selling Ginger’s great collection of colorful WEB t-shirts and talking to folks about her mission of education and research around beer and women–and what great people watching there was! (Still, it paled next to the people watching on Saturday night–when the really crazy costumed folks come out.)

Friday night I had the good fortune of meeting another of Jack’s friends in Texas–Meagen Jawshan–a Boston Beer rep in Austin who I had corresponded with for some time. She showed up at the WEB booth and introduced herself, and invited Jack and me to the Sam Adams Longshot breakfast the next morning at Marlowe’s. What a great morning that turned out to be, as Boston Beer founder Jim Koch was there, and introduced himself to Jack. Jim warmly thanked Jack for starting the whole craft beer movement–I admit I was in tears as a witness to that. During the Longshot brewing competition awards, Jim had Jack stand up as everyone in the room applauded. It was a really wonderful moment.

The Saturday afternoon session of GABF was for Brewers Association members only, and included the annual awards ceremony. To kick it off, BA founder Charlie Papazian called Jack up to the hall stage, where he introduced him as the father of craft brewing, to much applause. I was pleased to see Jack even say a few words to the appreciative audience. Yet another great moment–with thanks to Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, who got Jack to the stage just in time! (The original New Albion sign today hangs proudly above the Russian River Brewing bar!)

It all wrapped up with the craziness of working the WEB booth on Saturday night, a lot of delightful people watching and yes, a little more beer tasting as well. What a whirlwind–and an emotional weekend as well. The beautiful Rocky Mountain weather was only a backdrop to the beautiful beer people I met at #GABF 2011. The craft beer community is a community like no other, and I hope you get to experience the friendship that comes with the craft beer you raise in your hand, as I have. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: beer people are the best people. Cheers!

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