beer festival

I am sorry that I will have to miss out again on this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver that is taking place this weekend. GABF began Thursday and runs through Saturday in four sessions. Tickets for this event are sold out.

When this article runs, GABF morning-awards session will be going on, so I will be glued to the live atream (which is available on its website) to see who wins. The awards ceremony gives out three medals to 107 different beer categories along with several other awards like Best Large, Medium, Small Brewery in the Country etc.

I traveled with Nik White, of Chicago Beer Pass, in 2017 to this extraordinary gathering of the best beer in the country and would love to return again at some point. Unfortunately, I will be traveling to New England with two Scottish friends of mine because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Nevertheless, the GABF will crown the best beers, brewers from around Chicagoland will be traveling there to pour their beers and talk shop with some of the biggest names in craft beer from around the country. If you have not been to this immense festival, it is something to behold.

The biggest news from last year was that Chicago almost swept the newest category in the country, Juicy/Hazy IPA. Chicago took the gold medal with Alarmist’s Le Jus and took the bronze with Eris Brewery and Cidery’s Foiken Haze. Not to be outdone, Corridor Brewery and Provisions won Silver in the Juicy/Hazy Double IPA with their Color of Life.

Chicago is known around the country as a destination for craft beer, but last year’s win really put things in perspective for what Chicago is capable. I can’t wait to see what happens this year. By the time this article runs, will be the first word about who won which medals.

You can follow along on Twitter @brewdudek3, as I will be tweeting the live tweets of the festival’s award ceremony. I was in the room when our neighbors to the north Hailstorm Brewing won the gold medal in IPA with their Prairie Madness, and On Tour Brewing won best small brewery in the nation. It was exciting to see people I have gotten to know over the years doing this column receive such a huge accolade for their achievements.

Alongside the crazy results from the Juicy/Hazy categories, Chicago did surprisingly well last year in a number of other categories like Irish Red category where Tighthead Brewing from Mundelein won gold for its Scarlet>Fire. Corridor Brewery and Provisions won gold in the Other Belgian-Style Ale category for its Pour le Mineur.

Argus Brewing, of Pullman, won gold in Other Strong Beer category for its Golden Prairie Doppel Alt. I was actually at Argus Brewing on the Southside at their Argtoberfest party when we heard who won, and people were thrilled to try the brand new crowned winner.

Predictions seem almost impossible for a festival and competition for a thing like GABF which so many submissions and 107 categories. With more than 7,000 breweries in the U.S. now, it almost seems random who wins these awards.

The year Hailstorm won for Prairie Madness, there were more than 400 entries in that category. It requires an entire office suite of people to judge just one category. I don’t say this to diminish the idea of winning an award at this festival, the fact that anyone one of these breweries that we love’s beer made it through these gauntlets is impressive.

I just mean that every year one would think the lack of surprise is that these things are always surprising. A couple of things can be predicted — Smylie Brothers Purple Line has a good shot at medaling again as last year was their third medal for this beer.

Maplewood Brewing could medal again for their Charlatan APA because they have won two bronzes for this beer which seems ultra hard to do. So what do I predict: I predict a medal to come out of the blue and award some very deserving Chicago brewery of their rightful prestige in a big way.

I hope that it is Brickstone, and if it is, I will beat you there to toast the first glass of it they pour in the new reality that one of their beers takes some category, hopefully a big one.

Le Jus from Alarmist Brewing

ABV: 6%


Style: IPA – New England

Notes: “2018 GABF Gold Medal Winner – Juicy/Hazy IPA. New England style juice bomb. Mosaic and Citra hops and a bit of lactose.” According to the brewery.

Where to Buy: You can find this one locally at Liquor World in Kankakee in 16-ounce 4-pack cans for $15.99, and Burgers and Beers in Kankakee and Paul’s Place in Kankakee in 16-ounce cans cold.

Charlatan from Maplewood Brewing

ABV: 6.1%

IBUs: 35

Style: Pale Ale — American

Notes: “An American pale ale generously hopped with Citra, Centennial, and Simcoe hops from fresh citrus flavors with mild earthy pine notes. Charlatan’s malt backbone combines with the smooth bitterness of the hops resulting in a balanced Pale Ale with a grapefruit aroma – 2016, 2018 GABF Medalist – American Pale Ale” According to the brewery.

Where to Buy: You can find this one at Crafted Taproom and Bottle Shop in Mokena or The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in 16-ounce 4-pack cans for around $10.

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