The Brewers Association’s annual Great American Beer Festival drew an estimated 60,000 attendees to the Colorado Convention Center last week, and Brewbound hit the show floor to savor some brews and take in all of the spectacles that the GABF had to offer. Here’s what stood out.
The Brewers Association Promoted its Independent Seal
The BA took advantage of a captive audience at the festival to heavily promote its new indie seal, which the non-profit organization launched in July to help distinguish small and independent U.S. brewers from those owned by multinational corporations such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors.
Giant yellow banners featuring the moniker along with the phrase “Independence Matters” were prominently displayed on the windows above the entrances to the Colorado Convention Center, and throughout the festival itself. The seal, featuring the image of an upside down bottle with the phrase “Brewers Association certified independent craft,” was also emblazoned on placards above the booths of BA-defined craft breweries who were exhibiting.
During a media breakfast hosted by Boston Beer Company, BA president and CEO Bob Pease announced that 2,348 small and independent U.S. craft breweries had signed a licensing agreement to use the seal on their packaging, marketing materials, merchandise, websites, and taproom windows. BA chief economist Bart Watson added the companies adopting the seal represent about 75 percent of total BA-defined craft volume.
Melvin Brewing Made a Scene
Melvin Brewing came to Denver to party, which was clear even before Friday night’s session kicked off. A sprinter van adorned with the Wyoming brewery’s logo circled the convention center, towing a brass band and a person dressed in an elephant costume who danced as Melvin staffers fired T-shirts from a cannon toward crowds waiting to enter the fest.
During each GABF session, a DJ spun rap, hip-hop and rock tunes at Melvin’s table, which drew some of the largest crowds throughout the weekend. Melvin even hired WWE Hall of Fame wrestler “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to hang out at its booth Friday night to shake hands, take photos and sign autographs. Melvin also brought along its old school bus, which co-founder Jeremy Tofte once lived in for a year, according to brewery lore.
Melvin wrapped up the weekend in style, winning the Brewery Group and Brewmaster of the Year award, along with a pair of gold medals for American-Style Strong Pale Ale (Hubert MPA) and Fresh or Wet Hop Ale (Wet Hop Melvin).
Many Well-Known Brewers Poured Their Own Beers
We spotted notable brewery owners and founders from Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver (pictured) to Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione to Avery Brewing’s Adam Avery to Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo pouring beer and taking photos with fans.
One brewery that kept a low profile, however, was noted attention-seeking Scottish beer company BrewDog. Brewbound stopped by the BrewDog booth, which was quiet at the time, in search of founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, as well as recently appointed BrewDog USA managing director Tanisha Robinson. They weren’t around, which was somewhat surprising given that the company recently spent $30 million to open a massive production brewery and tasting room in Columbus, Ohio, and is in the midst of re-launching its brand throughout the U.S.
We Spied Some Curious Brewery and Beer Names
With 800 breweries pouring more than 7,200 different beers at the festival, there were bound to be a few strange name choices. Here are a few that we spotted:
Actual Brewing Company, Columbus, Ohio
- Ass Clown Brewing Co. Cornelius, North Carolina
- Bad Lab Beer Co., Somersworth, New Hampshire
- Bathtub Row Brewing Co-Op, Los Alamos, New Mexico
- Braindead Brewing Brewing, Dallas, Texas
- Craft Brewing Company, Lake Elsinore, California
- Dead Hippie Brewing, Sheridan, Colorado
- Grillin & Chillin Alehouse, Hollister, California
- Haint Blue Brewing Company, Mobile, Alabama
- Parts & Labor Brewing Company, Sterling, Colorado
- Pig Minds Brewing Co., Machesney Park, Illinois
- Spider Bite Brewing Company, Holbrook, New York
- Frank’s Jorts — Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company, New Lenox, Illinois
- Nap in the Hammock — Metazoa Brewing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Rain Delay IPA — JAFB Wooster Brewery, Wooster, Ohio
- Mo’Tueka, Mo’Problems — Hysteria Brewing Company, Columbia, Maryland
- Git Yer Gun Golden Ale — The Bold Missy Brewery, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Pimp Mai’Bock — Ornery Beer Company, Woodbridge, Virginia
- Smells Like a Citra Safety Meeting — Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, Michigan
- Walk of Shame blonde ale — Resident Brewing, San Diego, California
- Brad Pitt-Less Watermelon Blonde — 3 Freaks Brewing Co., Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Effin Teamwork collaboration barrel-aged blend — Avery Brewing and Odell Brewing, Colorado
- Turnip the Beets tripel — Bull & Bush Brewery, Denver, Colorado
- Card Your Mom saison — Caution: Brewing Company, Lakewood, Colorado
Lost Shaker Assault tequila barrel-aged gose — Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
- Quad-Gon Jinn Belgian quad — Freetail Brewing Co., San Antonio, Texas
- The Most Interesting Lager in the World — Ex Novo Brewing, Portland, Oregon
- My Lil’ Brony brown ale — MIA Beer Co., Miami, Florida
- Guavatanamo Bay — Prison City Brewing, Auburn, New York
- Stepchild American Red — Riff Raff Brewing, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
- Bean Flicker Blonde Ale with Coffee — Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven, Michigan
- #Duckface Blonde — Rants and Raves Brewery, Moscow, Idaho
- Ermagherd Hrny — Evil Genius Beer Co., Philadelphia, PA
A man paying tribute to the Dave Chappelle skit spoofing the old Samuel Adams beer commercials in which the comedian plays Samuel L. Jackson replete with cigarette and colonial outfit.
And, of course, ALL of the pretzel — and pizza — necklaces.