Unfiltered: Another Year, Another GABF


It takes the brain a bit to recover from GABF.  From October 6-8, brewers and beer drinkers from around the country descended on Denver like a swarm of beer-crazed zombies to celebrate another Great American Beer Festival. For the brewers, it’s a time to catch up with our peers, check out what each other is doing—maybe steal some good ideas—and mostly, drink good beer. And some folks might even get into a little of the Rocky Mountain high. Nothing like seeing flyover state brewers get all wide-eyed at the Colorado dispensaries.

As much as there’s a lot of fun to be had, there’s work, too. Our marketing crew sets up an awesome booth, and we try to be helpful with setting it up, getting our public faces on so that when the gates open Thursday evening, we’re looking tight and ready to go. We believe in manning our own station and talking about our beers to crowds, many of whom have never heard of us and don’t know our beers at all.  One of us lost her voice, and personally I get a little crushed inside by all the people. But still, it’s a great opportunity to present our best beers to people that don’t know us and are stoked to try something new.

We get asked a lot, “What’s your favorite?” or “brewer’s choice.”  Usually that’s a tough one for me since I pretty much like all of our beers, but this year I settled on Rye Robustito as my “brewer’s choice.”  Rye Robustito is a session strength version of our Black Robusto Porter.  We brew it to an abv in the low 3’s, and then toss it in High West Rye Whiskey barrels for four months.  It comes out with an ABV in the mid-4s, awesome notes of vanilla, coconut and oak from the barrel, and intense chocolate notes from the beer on the interplay.  Oh, and such lovely booze notes. I get so many comments on what a mind-fuck this beer is. The nose is total bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, but the finish is pretty crisp and clean.

So that’s fun…we’re in Denver pouring beer in the evening, trying out local breweries during the day—it’s possible everyone isn’t totally sober—socializing and all that. Good times. Denver is popping at the seams with all the beer people in town. Everywhere you turn there’s someone we know: Rodger (Davis) from Faction is holding court at Falling Rock, Charlie Papazian is drinking at Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Mike “Tasty” McDole is at FreshCraft.  For beer people—drinkers and brewers alike—this is the Super Bowl (or whatever big event you want to analogize).a0d2186a-f0ee-4c0e-9b18-75a0e06c616a

On top of hanging out, pouring and drinking, there is a final element to the weekend: the competition. Brewers from around the country enter their beer to be judged by panels of their peers and trained judges, with medals awarded in frankly a ridiculous number of categories. As an aside, I find the whole thing to be vaguely shenanigans—my version of “beer judging” is simple: is this good or is this shite? Anyway, we’re all sitting there—maybe a little surly from night before—in an auditorium as the winners for each category are announced.  We cheer our friends, hiss a little when the sell-out breweries win, and maybe cross our fingers a little when categories we’ve entered are announced (even if we act disdainful of the whole process).

This year, our finger-crossing was rewarded with a medal—the second this year—for Rye Robustito.  As much as I might want to talk shit on the whole process, I won’t deny for a second that I was super happy to grab that medal for everyone here at Drake’s. It’s a fantastic beer that’s a pleasure to both make and drink, and we are all happy to see it get some recognition.



  1. The honesty is refreshing. Congrats on winning, and calling shenanigans on beer judging in general.

  2. I’m visiting Drake’s tonight for the first time, and I sure hope that Rye Robustito is on the menu! What a tantalizing description.