Great American Beer Fest – And Some Colorado Ramblings

The original plan for the week following our Anniversary on the second of October was to get a place in the Shaver Lake area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Well, a call from the Canadian company that I consult for created  a small problem for that week. A client needed two people during our planned get-away week for some work in Grand Junction, Colorado. They had one guy free that week and, being the good guy that I am, I volunteered to be the second. I volunteered to give them a portion of the week my bride and I had set aside for our mountain get-away during  the week following our anniversary …….. Number 32 and counting!

That could have been a bad move on my part but it didn’t take long to convince my brilliant, beautiful and better half that we could have a good time in the Rockies instead of the Sierras. My work had me in Grand Junction on a Wednesday/Thursday. We decided to spend a few nights in Denver prior to driving across to Grand Junction. We arrived on Saturday, October 4th and the Beer Gods were smiling upon us. I knew that the Great American Beer Fest was held in Denver but I failed to buy discounted tickets when they were  first offered. I honestly did not plan that far in advance and flat forgot about it until we arrived at the hotel. I travel far too much and the concierge seeing that I was “Premier Platinum” for Marriot started a ticket hunt for us. He warned us to expect to pay a premium, as it had been sold out for months.

As he was working his magic to snag some tickets, we took a walk over to the 16th Street Mall. Lots of food, lots of beer and lots of people watching. We saw many of the Beer Fest attendees wandering the street as the noon session closed and the evening session, open to the general public, was being restocked with an estimated 3500 different beers from over 700 brewers. Oh my, a beer drinker’s heaven.

We decided, or should I say my bride decided to test the scalper market down near the convention center. My CFO and Chief negotiator went to work on the streets of Denver. For whatever reason, men are putty in her hands…me included. Guess what, she scored two tickets to the evening at less than face value! I think she could have taken a little more out of the guy but……I kept my mouth shut! Wise move.

It was a big, big crowd for the evening session on the 4th. I am not much of a fan of standing in lines but in this case the reward was worth the effort. After being herded through the doors and up the stairs to the top floor of the convention center we were faced with some very serious decisions. Our decisions were made 1 ounce at a time……that was the standard pour! So many choices!!!!! Even though I prefer IPA’s and Stouts, the craft beer industry is stretching boundaries into some very interesting offerings.

We had a Cucumber Ale and it tasted just like a cucumber…..not a beer nor and Ale – scratch that one. This year’s offerings were well represented by sour beers. Sour beers are brewed with Brettanomyces, the most common of the wild yeast strains. Those sour beers  were in abundance at this year’s event. My taste buds do not care much for the sour /tart tastes, or at least in the extremes found at the Fest. New Belgium has a beer that is a bit tart but in a pleasant way, Snapshot is the name of this tasty brew. My wife loved it. There were some amazing IPA’s and Double IPA’s and a few Imperial IPA’s that I gave up trying to segregate and remember! One very interesting observation concerning the Stouts I sampled….none quite measured up to my current Russian Imperial Stout that continues to age very well, much better than I have aged! Can you hear me patting my back?

The people really made the evening for us…..many in costume, many beer geeks, a whole gob of what some would call beer snobs…..I prefer to label myself as a beer geek, educating myself on all things beer – Try this definition out: “Beer Geek:  One who devotes himself to life long learning and loving of all thing beer related; one who attempts to try every beer regardless of the significance or insignificance of the price tag.” Thanks goes to Nate for the definition  @ http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2009/04/09/beer-dictionary-beer-snob-vs-beer-geeks/

A relatively orderly group even though we were all competing to get to the BEER!

A relatively orderly group even though we were all competing to get to the BEER! Just loved the pretzel necklaces worn by many attendees.

The masses gathering to get through the few doors at the far end...

The masses gathering to get through the few doors at the far end…

I corralled three of the six kinfolk wandering the event! I think there is only single branch on the family tree!

I corralled three of the six kinfolk wandering the event! I think there is only single branch on the family tree!

Beer poster art everywhere...I create and entire post just on the awesome art - both posters and labels.

Beer poster art everywhere…I create and entire post just on the awesome art – both posters and labels. I think next summer we will wander off to Providence, Rhode Island with our good friends Bev and John….URI Grads!

Should have shot this in video, Everyone dancing has headphones on and everyone is listening to different music...quite interesting!

Should have shot this in video, Everyone dancing has headphones on and everyone is listening to different music…quite interesting!

A couple of German Beer Maidens...not quite the likes of which are seen in the Hofbrau house in Munich!

A couple of German Beer Maidens…not quite the likes of which are seen in the Hofbrau house in Munich!

Where's Waldo....I think I found four of them!

Where’s Waldo….I think I found four of them!

 

Denver has beer! Some of you may have already figured it out but in case you haven’t, be yee snob, geek or as Nates says – “heading toward beer-savant”, Denver is close to beer heaven. Look left or right up and down the 16th street Mall and your choices of beers run into the several 100’s. A family friend originally from Midland Texas, Aurora now living in the Denver area, walked us down to the Denver Beer Company brewery for a great evening, wonderful soft pretzel, and great beers…Thanks Aurora!

Even the local Rock Bottom Brewery cranks out awesome brews and has an equally awesome wait  staff! How do I know….a couple of years ago I and one of my work mates, a formerly rowdy Canadian from Carnduff Saskatchewan, made connections with the wonderful wait staff at Rock Bottom…..We were invited to the tapping of a Vienna Black Lager on our last night in town. In fact we were served the first beers from the tapping, well before the other customers, and just before the wait staff had their briefing and tasting prior to making it available in the restaurant. I have a vague recollection of being treated to many special beer treats that night. I am sure thankful for level sidewalks and a short distance to the Marriott hotel!

The drive to Grand Junction included stops at Frisco and Back Country Brewery and Pub…. The sampler was awesome. Then a diversion to Breckinridge Brewery – in my opinion not nearly as good as Back Country. Also nearby was the Dillon Dam Brewery just a few minutes from Frisco was visited on our return trip. Before arriving in Grand Junction we found Palisade Brewery nestled into the area with peach orchards, vineyards and wineries. I have been here before but it was a first for my wife….GREAT BEERS. We caught a nice sunset as we left.

Beautiful and fiery sunset. Palisade, Colorado

Beautiful and fiery sunset. Palisade, Colorado

Grand Junction holds its own in the Colorado beer scene! Six right in the immediate area and others nearby including a distillery. Damn……they make a small batch Bourbon that seems to have a great reputation! Rockslide in Grand Junction is PDG! I still like Kannah Creek – great variety of beers and a fun staff.

I wonder if I can find several months’ worth of work in Colorado and follow that up with a month in Portland Oregon??????

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

#kannahcreek, #denverbeercompany, #backcountrybrewery, #rockbottom, #rockslidebrewing, #palisadebrewingcompany, #dillondambrewing,

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Grand Junction, CO – Two for One Post

What a nice change of environment, three plus days out of the Houston heat and humidity. The only drawback – I wasn’t able to share this trip with my wife. I know sooner or later  the benefits of a mostly empty nest will be evident. What does mostly empty mean? Our oldest son has finished all of his on campus requirements for graduation from LSU’s Construction Management Program – one remaining class that can be completed via distance learning. It is cheaper to have him in Houston with us until all of the boxes for graduation are checked off and the job search begins.

The second night of the stay my workmate and I visited the Rockslide Brewery & Restaurant. Side note; the state of Texas has taken a giant step forward with recent legislation easing some of the restrictive regulations for small brewers and brew pubs but still lags far behind Colorado, California and others. The next night we drove about 15 minutes out of town to the little village of Palisade. The drive took us through some of the vineyards and orchards that cover the Colorado River Valley in this more temperate part of Colorado. There is a mall brewery in Palisade, Palisade Brewing Company.

Let’s talk about Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant. Located on Main St. in the old downtown section of town that has been nicely remade. The road has been shrunk to two lanes that meander around small plaza like areas sprinkled with benches and pleasant landscaping. It definitely slows traffic but adds a nice quaint old town feel. The restaurant is bright, clean and was hosting a party celebration of some sort in the back half of the upstairs seating area. The waiter had decent knowledge of the beer offerings and I have to admit, the food menu was broad enough to satisfy most visitors. My travel mate tried the Widow Maker Wheat – “pleasant and easy to drink” were his comments. Me, I went with the four beer flight, Rabbit Ears Amber, Cold Shivers Pale Ale. Kokopelli Cream Ale and the Horse Thief IPA. They were all very good beers, the IPA was my favorite but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  The food fare – my work mate had the fish and chips with a twist. The twist was  – the fish was battered salmon rather than cod. He said it was surprisingly good. I had the steak salad, medium rare and it was perfect with their house Balsamic dressing.

http://www.rockslidebrewpub.com/

Rockslide flight of beers

Rockslide flight of beers

Rockslide Beer list.

Rockslide Beer list.

Palisade, small village as I mentioned before, and the journey to the brewery is only for those that know where they are going, have been there before or you are paying close attention the GPS. We had a driver, one of the client reps that attended the training session, who also happens to like good beers. He was a bit tentative but eventually we turned down the right street and pulled up at the brewery adjacent to the railroad tracks. We had the good fortune of live music out on the patio on a perfect evening for  dining and sipping al fresco. The seating was ample but all three of us noticed an odd split in the seating designations. At least 75% of the seating is designated for SMOKING! That is right, only 25% labeled for the non-smokers. If it hadn’t been for the three of us occupying 3 of the 20 plus seats on the no-smoking side it would have been empty. The smoking side was packed! Another observation, I felt like I had been transported back to the 60”s. The crowd was very reminiscent of SFO’s Haight Ashbury in the heyday of the 60’s hippy movement. I wonder if the 2012 ballot initiative that passed in Colorado had any influence on the seating arrangement and attendees.  More about being transported back in time later in this post.

Food was typical pub food with lots of Jalapenos available for every dish if you so desired. James, my workmate, had a huge appetizer portion of Nachos with the Blonde Ale offering. Our client driver, Rob, hmmmm, I forget what he ate but we both ordered a flight of beers, 6 beers served in 4 ounce Mason jelly jars. High marks to the brewery. Not a bad or even average beer in the bunch. I gave high marks to all 6 beers sampled.  Rob enjoyed the High Desert Red, James the Laid Back Blonde Ale  and me, the IPA, so well in fact, that I followed up with a pint of that nice IPA……Rob was driving! The “Off Belay IPA” was really, really good in my estimation……that is why I sampled it twice in order to confirm my first impression.

http://www.palisadebrewingcompany.com/

Palisade Brewery flight of beers in jelly jars

Palisade Brewery flight of beers in jelly jars

Uber healthy brisket, cheddar and Jalapeno sandwich. I paired it with a cucumber salad to solidify the healthy aspect!

Uber healthy brisket, cheddar and Jalapeno sandwich. I paired it with a cucumber salad to solidify the healthy aspect!

Dirty Hippy T-shirt from Palisade Brewery

Dirty Hippy T-shirt from Palisade Brewery

Upon return to the hotel I realized why it felt like I had been transported back to the 60’s. Parked out front was Emmett “Doc” Brown’s “Back to the Future” 1981 DeLorean, flux capacitor and all! I peaked inside and sure enough the dials were set to 1969! Not really, I am stretching the truth a little. Look at the photos and I think that you will agree that it is a remarkable replica of the movie vehicle. Why was the car there? I’ll tell you.  http://www.fireballrun.com/teams/182

Doc’s car and a companion car, a fairly stock DeLorean, are participating in the Longmont, Colorado to Riverside, California Fireball Run. The Fireball Run is a 2000 mile long scavenger hunt designed to create awareness for missing children and obviously raise funds. Check out the info online and the Facebook page to read about the successes they have had finding missing children. I made my donation to Doc and Team # 15. It is “small world after all”. Team #15 is driven by Paul “Doc” Nigh, a 4th year participant and from my home town of Bakersfield, California. He is a bit younger having graduated from North High in 1974 but sure enough, we had a few mutual acquaintances!

https://www.facebook.com/fireballrun

Look close - set to 1969 - Not

Look close – set to 1969 – Not really but could have been!

BTF car

BTF car and sister DeLorean in the background

Oh by the way, if your beverage of choice is wine, the area is dotted with small wineries with growing reputations. If you are on Interstate 70, make the decision to slow down and visit Grand Junction, Palisade and Fruita!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop