It’s that time of year again: beer lovers’ right index finger tendinitis is slowly subsiding after anxiously refreshing the Ticketmaster website over and over and over again in hopes of scoring tickets to the most anticipated bacchanalia of the year – the Great American Beer Festival. As important as the dog days of summer are for potential festival goers, late July and early August are crunch time for us brewers as we agonize over which beers to enter into which categories, most likely brew those beers so they are as fresh as they can be for judging, and bottle, deliver, and pray for our precious creations as they await their fate for six weeks in a warehouse before reaching a trained palate. GABF is a tremendous production, which the Brewers Association executes very well year after year, and Twisted Pine Brewing Company is quite pleased to once again participate in the competition and, above all, pour tasters for all you thirsty patrons.
By the time the festival rolls around, all the hard work for us is done. To me, GABF is sweat-drenched, stifling, late afternoons cleaning the kettle after brewing a beer I believe in. GABF is not pretzel necklaces and ooohing and aaahing about every single plastic tasting vessel clattering to the floor. The only thing I want around my neck is a medal. Let’s face it, as fun as it is to catch up with brewers from around the country and share a sip and a story or two with attendees from all over the world, GABF is really about hearing the sonorous voice of Chris Swersey, the Brewers Association’s MC, beckoning your brewery to take the stage. Every ounce of sweat in August could be worth its weight in gold come October.
As a lucky brewer, this year will be my fourth GABF, and despite having won three medals since 2012, I still have no idea what makes for an award-winning beer in the judges’ eyes, noses, and palates. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Or, as one very successful veteran brewer once told me, “Beers don’t change, but judges do.” Winning a medal at GABF of any shade is very difficult. Last year, 275 total medals were split among 242 breweries. Judging certainly is not easy, and from what I have heard from those who have participated is that it’s almost like sprinting a marathon with one’s palate. Tasting one style after another for several hours a day over several days – no matter how properly ordered and spaced out they are – sounds pretty brutal and not all that enjoyable.
Nonetheless, the festival always lives up to its name. The number of beers to sample is, quite frankly, overwhelming. Every year, I’ve made a list of specific breweries to check out, and every year I have failed to get to most of them because I was sidetracked by so many other tasty options. With so many breweries in attendance, waiting in line for any one of them is ludicrous to me. Spending ten minutes or more of a single session on one ounce of one beer is both dedicated and shortsighted. Trying a beer from an unknown brewery and finding a few hidden gems in the ocean of beer is often more rewarding than catching whales and figuring out if a brewery is worth the hype.
Twisted Pine Brewing Company is excited to spend time and share tasters with all of you, and just like last year, we will be pouring in the Meet the Brewer Section, meaning instead of volunteers doing all the hard work, it will be one of us. After all, we’ll be there to do what we love most- meet consumers and enjoy beer together. Hope to see ya’ll in October. Cheers!