Roughly 800 breweries from across the country landed in the Mile High City last week to pour more than 4,000 beers for a record-breaking 62,000 attendees at the 37th-annual Great American Beer Festival. While this year’s sudsy offerings were nothing short of exceptional, the food inside the Paired Pavilion and at educational pairing seminars was also incredible. Here, a recap of our favorite Colorado-made brews and bites.
Cervecería Colorado’s Horchata blonde ale
Cervecería Colorado is on to something special. The five-month-old sister brewery of Denver Beer Co. focuses on the flavors of Mexico at its Denver taproom, as clearly evidenced by its colorful booth in the festival’s Meet the Brewers section. The Horchata blonde ale, brewed in collaboration with Cervecería San Pascual Baylon (located in central Mexico), was one of the best sips we had all weekend. The use of lactose sugar gave it a nice creaminess, while notes of vanilla and cinnamon echoed the classic Mexican treat.
Crooked Stave Artisans’ Colorado Reserva Palisade Peach golden sour ale
Crooked Stave is one of Colorado’s most celebrated producers of wild and sour beers. This year, founder Chad Yakobson and his team poured two seasonally appropriate offerings alongside dishes prepared by Denver’s Beast & Bottle. Crooked Stave’s Colorado Reserva Palisade Peach, a golden sour ale aged in oak barrels with heaps of Palisade peaches, stopped us in our tracks. The sweetness of the peaches cut through the tartness of the specialty beer, instantly transporting us to Colorado’s Western Slope. Consumed alongside chef Paul Reilly’s decadent robiola agnolotti in almond brown butter, it was a magical combo.
Odd13 Brewing’s Intergalactic Juice Hunter hazy IPA
Lafayette has become a hub for hazy IPA fans thanks to Odd13 Brewing. The small brewery broke out its Intergalactic Juice Hunter for the festival: a hazy IPA brewed with fruity Galaxy, Amarillo, and Mosaic hops and the addition of lactose for an extra-cloudy complexion. While some have touted hazy IPAs as nothing more than a fad, the massive presence of the burgeoning beer style at this year’s GABF proved that hazy IPAs are here to stay. In fact, in the competition portion of GABF, the newly added Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale category received 391 entries, making it the most-entered category of this year’s competition.
Baere Brewing Company’s Bring the Green Back Berliner-Weisse
Beers that come with a side of do-goodery just always seems to taste a little bit better, which may be why Baere Brewing’s Bring the Green Back was one of our favorite sips at this year’s festival. The complex but harmonious Berliner-Weisse was deliciously tart and had a unique woodsy flavor thanks to Simcoe hops and locally harvested blue spruce tips. Best of all, it was created as part of the “Rare Fish / Rare Beer Project” to raise awareness for native fish species and help restore fish habitat in Colorado.
WeldWerks Brewing Company’s single-barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche
Greeley-based WeldWerks Brewing has emerged as one of the most sought-after breweries in the state, as evidenced by the seemingly never-ending line snaking out from its booth during the festival. WeldWorks released 100 different beers in 2018, creating exceptional buzz around its limited releases—like the Medianoche Imperial stout series. The single-barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche appeared to be the most popular beer at the booth this year, and rightfully so. At roughly 14 percent ABV, the Breckenridge-Distillery-bourbon-barrel-aged brew packed bold, boozy flavors thanks to the Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut flour, milk chocolate, and cacao nibs added during the aging process. The result? A dangerously good, smooth-drinking dessert brew.
Great Divide Brewing Company’s barrel-aged Knockout Ginger
The Jameson Caskmates Barrel Aged Beer Garden was a new addition to the festival this year, highlighting brews aged in Jameson barrels from 17 breweries from around the country. Denver’s own Great Divide, a member of the Caskmates program, poured two barrel-aged beers in the pavilion. The Knockout Ginger, an earthy farmhouse ale, proved to be a wonderful palate cleanser between the many big, barrel-aged stouts in the garden.
Arcana’s guajillo meringue with squash purée, fried dulse, and toasted benne seeds
One of our favorite seasonally inspired bites in the Paired Pavilion was created by chef Kyle Mendenhall of Boulder’s Arcana (one of 5280’s 25 Best Restaurants in 2018). Mendenhall topped an airy guajillo chile meringue with smooth squash pureé, savory fried seaweed, and toasted benne seeds (similar to sesame seeds). The bite paired beautifully with the Drunk Santa, a thick, spiced English Ale aged in bourbon barrels brewed by Rahr & Sons Brewery of Fort Worth, Texas.
Bin 707 Foodbar’s puffed beef tendon with smoked tallow honey butter and lacto-fermented white peach
Chef Josh Niernberg of Bin 707 Foodbar in Grand Junction has served variations of this dish at other events this past summer—and we’ve swooned over it every single time. The combination of salty-crunchy puffed beef tendon, creamy honey butter, smoked dried beef, and lacto-fermented peach was a knockout alongside Spice Trade Brewing’s tamarind-infused Belgian Dubbel.
Comida’s escamoles (ant larvae)
Who knew ant larvae could be so tasty? On Thursday night, Cervecería Colorado head brewer, Jason Buehler, teamed up with Rayme Rossello of Comida and Wendy Lu McGill of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch edible insect farm for a presentation exploring the pairing potential of bugs and beer. Attendees snacked on crickets and mealworms throughout the presentation, but it was the escamoles that had everyone talking. The wild-harvested ant larvae were brought in from Mexico and prepared by Comida’s chefs, who chose to pair it with a traditional mole sauce, pickled red onions, and a crispy plantain.
Oskar Blues Fooderies’ short ribs and grits
Jason Rogers, head of all things culinary for Oskar Blues Fooderies, took the stage in the Beer and Food Pavillon on Friday night to share his approach to perfect pairings. Rogers threw down a drool-worthy plate of grits made with blue cheese and shallots, topped with tender smoked short ribs and chimichurri. The rich dish, which is on the menu at the recently opened Oskar Blues Grill & Brew on Market Street, paired brilliantly with a light and crisp rosé-inspired pale ale brewed with hibiscus and prickly pear by Oskar Blues Brewery. That brew, dubbed, Guns ’N’ Rosé, is expected to be added to the brewery’s distribution in February 2019.