When I opened my eyes that Saturday morning in Denver, I could heard the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” resonate in my head. Not the original by Trent Resnor, but the mournful country cover as performed by Johnny Cash.
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
My head was ringing; I hadn’t felt a hangover like this in years. This pain and nausea I could only blame on myself. I would love to simply write off this hangover to over-drinking, but to do that would be an injustice to the phenomenal beers I consumed during the day prior. To blame my unsure steps and unclear judgment on alcohol itself would be like rewarding the brilliance of a sunrise to the color orange. There was a lot more going on here, much more depth than just the color orange.
Of course, when we look at a sunrise we see a wealth of yellowish and reddish orange tones. Each morning, different hues light each new day’s horizon. This hangover was a masterpiece of indulgence: exhaustion, nausea and dehydration. My lips were dry and cracked; hands and feet unsteady. If this hangover truly was a sunrise it would be comparable to the sunrise in 2010: The Year We Make Contact when Jupiter explodes, giving birth to a new sun and Roy Scheider ushers in a brave new world with two brilliant satellites in the sky.
I woke up Saturday semi-everything… hungry but with no appetite, exhausted but I could not get back to sleep. This was the kingpin of hangovers, the kind that is not bad enough to keep you in bed. That would have been a blessing actually. This was that fuzzy, unsure hangover that sends you out into the world with certainty that you’ll step on the cosmic garden rake.
Though the Denver Marriott had in-room coffee, they also had a Starbucks in the lobby. I am a black, no sugar kind of coffee guy, but every once-in-a-while I like a sugary, milky cappuccino… typically when I have a hangover like this. I went from the 9th floor to the lobby and back again. The first time was because I forgot my wallet. I know I had to go back up and grab something else; it escapes me now a second time before I got my shit together and had everything I needed to venture across the lobby and grab my coffee. Not only was I hung over, but my morning routine was shot to hell. Common sense told me if I returned somewhat to normalcy with my routine, my body would be quicker to return to normalcy with the hangover.
I returned to my room dialed into headline news, lit a Marlboro and checked out The ManRoom forum as I sipped my coffee and reflected on the previous night that most definitely left some permanent damage. As I look back, the day pretty much unfolded like this:
The morning was pretty uneventful. I hooked up with Joe (known to some of you as 3daddict) and headed downtown to spend some hard-earned money on useless crap for our loved-ones back home. We picked up the typical tourist gear tee shirts, pens and Denver stickers. After shopping for the families, we figured it was time to shop for ourselves. It was beer o’clock and we were getting thirsty.
For those of you unfamiliar with LoDo, or downtown Denver, it is a lot easier to find a hippie or punker than it is to find a cowboy or rancher. After the third space cadet told us “Dude, I think there is a liquor store two miles away” we finally had a stroke of genius… We asked a homeless guy! Our new guide informed us that the closest store to buy libations was just around the corner. He was unashamed in hitting us up for a tip for the jewel of information he had supplied us with. We tipped our new buddy a crisp dollar bill and within minutes we found ourselves in the filthiest package store I have ever seen in my life.
There were beer displays in this place with a half inch of dust on them. The beer chests were packed with row upon row of standard American pilsners and lagers. There was one chest in the middle that carried some curious brews.
The local micro-fave, Fat Tyre from New Belgium, was available in 22 oz. bottles and and 12’s. There was also a very curious local offering called Old Chub, which came in 12 ounce cans. Old Chub offered a Pale Ale and a Scottish style ale. I wanted to buy both but seeing they would not let us break up six packs I settled for the Scottish Style Ale. In retrospect, that was a huge mistake. The Old Chub was one of the best beers I had all weekend and now I am sitting here wondering what the Ale tasted like.
We headed back to the hotel to sample some of our new finds. Before the tasting of the new began, I had to share one of my favorite beers of all time with Joe. I had packed a few prize bottles of beer to consume on the road… one of them was a 1999 bottle of Fullers Vintage Ale. We sampled some Old Chubb and Old Belgium beers along with our Fullers and prepared to go to the Brewers’ Association press conference and symposium on Belgium style beers.
This event was at 12:30 PM and we already had a few in us as we walked in there. The event was to introduce members of the press to the different beer styles they might encounter at the GABF. I think the brown beer they gave us was a Porter and there was a beer made with wheat or something like that. You can imagine Joe and I didn’t pickup much information during this part of the press session but the good thing was they handed out beers so that we could sample each style. We happily sat in the back of the room with the rest of the bad kids in class and pounded down sample after sample. After our primer in styles the press session took a quantum leap into beer education. There was a question and answer period with the head brewers from Russian River, Goose Island and Allagash breweries. As these wizards of peppery yeast and bacteria strains told us about their beers, we sampled glass after glass of some of the funkiest wood-finished and spontaneously fermented Belgium style beers in the country. Spontaneous fermentation is when a brewer uses wild yeast/bacteria to infect the wort. The most common strain is Brettanomyces Lambicus it is the sour yeast you taste in your Lambics and sour ales. There are many other styles of this yeast like Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces claussenii respectfully dropping in sourness. Brettanomyces bruxellensis is typically used in British sour beers, not belgiums. I am getting way off base here. This column is not about yeast… we’re talking about hangovers here.
The only way to get back to the room from the press session was to walk through the Great Divide Brewing hotel bar once again. This was the first time that I noticed one of the Great Divide taps gone creating an instant urgency to try them all before they disappeared. I couldn’t tell which Great Divide offerings we had that session but the lobby bar acted as a pit stop between drinking sessions so we pretty much had them all by the time we left. I am not going to go into a play by play of the afternoon’s activities, but I will tell you that they led up to a private brewers’ dinner with Brooklyn Brewing’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver. I will go into the dinner in depth in the next column which will be devoted to the food of the GABF including the Beer Brunch we had with Sam Adams.
Today we are sticking to the beers and reflecting on one of the most beautiful hangovers in beer history…
Friday night we did get back to the GABF. The day turned into more of a “networking and hanging out” day rather than a “taking beer notes and geeking out” day. One thing I can pan the GABF about is the music. The artists that were there were talented… for the music they played.
The Brewers Association needs to take a hard look at their demographic. I think a big reason that beer is losing market share to malternitives is this reason alone. Brewers need to get in touch with their target audience. College kids don’t listen to much banjo music.
Networking at the GABF worked out great. We caught wind of a party being held at Falling Rock called “Lupin Wars.” Six of the country’s most renowned brewers were getting together to push the limits of hopping into the stratosphere. I know some of you are reading this with your lips moving saying to yourselves. “Wow, a werewolf battle in Denver that must of been so cool.” Well, you’re wrong. Put down your Harry Potter book and move out of your mother’s basement. Lupins are the things in hops that make hops… hoppy. OK?
We found ourselves at Falling Rock early. It was about 10:30 and we were waiting for Rougue, Avery, Dogfish Head, Full Sail Pizza Port and Bear Republic to show up beers designed not only to impress us, but each other. We were simply caught in this pseudo-hop-crossfire. Our wait brought us to the Falling Rock and what I shall now dub the greatest beer bar on the face of the Earth. Sure, I have seen beer bars with 500 – 600 beer selections before, but the cool thing about falling Rock was that they had aged big beers on draft… and cheap!
Our first beer at falling rock was an Avery ’03 “The Reverend” Belgium Ale for $4 per beer. The kegs for Lupin Wars were starting to show up and real estate on the outside deck was getting very tight. We dragged our Averys outside to get prime positioning for this general admission hopfest.
Joe and I were very lucky to meet a Dogfish Head fan and his girlfriend that was as enamored with Sam Calagione as she was with his beer. They had set up camp in front of the 2 year old keg of Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA that was being forced through fresh hops in Randall The Enamel Animal. Our new friends were fast to point out that DFH 120 retails for $10 per 12 ounce bottle we paid 20 dollars for 6 drink tickets each redeemable for a 16 oz beer. Not only were we drinking 3 dollar 120’s but they were being poured by the owner of Dogfish Head Brewing himself.
After 4 more 12 – 20% ABV beers, Joe and I decided to call it a night. We headed back to the hotel and of course hit the Great Divide Brewing hotel bar once again… the home base for TMR at the GABF. The first thing I noticed was a few more taps had been drunk dry. The second thing that caught my eye was one of our brewing buddies leaning against the bar pretty buzzed. We were informed that the brewers have a tradition of personally finishing off all of the beers that were not consumed during the judging. Our buddy let us know us that even though we were not brewers, we were more than welcome to attend and would be graciously received.
We made our way to this clandestine location to find mountains of beers. Every great beer that has been brewed this year was in our presence. From Ice House to Weyerbacher Insanity, every beer you could imagine was there for the taking. I am not talking about a 1 oz. sample cup, we were dealing with 12 oz. big boy bottles. One of the last things I remember was grabbing a double digit ABV Quad. I am not sure what Joe drank or how Joe got back to his hotel but what I do know is the quote from Freminer Brewery’s head brewer the next day sums it all up… “With these high altitudes you don’t feel the full effect of the alcohol until your last beer.” I have to admit, some of the finer nuances of many of the beers were wasted on me that day, but I enjoyed and appreciated every single one of them.
The last segment of Fear And Loathing In LoDo we will touch on the food of the GABF. Until then, please remember to drink responsibly.
This weeks picks contain four beers that will kick your ass if you don’t give them the respect they are due.
Oskar Blues Old Chub: Coming out of a can the first thing that strikes you is the color. I have seen stouts in cans but this is a nice deep cocoa brown with a fluffy white head. The aroma is earthy and malty with huge chocolate and toffee tones. It is not as smoky as a Skullspliter, but all in all this is a fine beer on it own merits.
Commercial description: Old Chub is a Scottish style ale brewed with copious amounts of crystal and chocolate malts, and a dash of beechwood-smoked malts. Old Chub is a celebration of malts. The cola-colored beer features a dense, tawny head, a creamy mouthful and flavors of caramel, chocolate and lightly roasted malt. Complex and rich, it finishes with a whisper of smokiness that calls to mind a fine single malt scotch. Old Chub weighs in at 8 % alcohol by volume.
Allagash Curieux: The pour is a medium amber with virtually no head and tiny particles floating in the body. The initial aroma is, of course, whiskey. Eventually grain and hay start to rise from the glass. There are faint touches of perfume that start to give off aromas of apple and pear as the ester chains break down. There is a touch of dust that rises from the glass as it warms also. The mouthfeel is medium with a very soft carbonation. The finish is very dry, almost chalky, with a light presence of alcohol and a moderately sweet finish.
Commercial description: In October of 2004, we released the first beer in our series of Barrel Aged beers, Allagash Curieux. To make the Curieux (French for “curious”), we age our Tripel Ale in Jim Beam barrels for 8 weeks in our warm room. During the aging process in bourbon barrels, the beer is totally transformed, and many new flavors and aromas develop. Most notably, the beer picks up soft coconut and vanilla characteristics…and also a hint of bourbon flavor! We have introduced the Curieux at a few tastings on draft, but it is primarily available in 750ml bottles.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA: Every time I try this beer it gets better. My first was fresh then, respectfully a 1 and 2 year old bottle. This beer represents a new dimension in beer and brewing. It is continuously hopped for 120 minutes before it gets its final over-the-top dry hopping. Do not pop the cap on this bottle and expect your usual IPA. This is, in some ways, a barleywine gone wild. The color is a light yellow/orange with a tight white head. The malt is ever present with huge floral and citrus tones coming out in the aroma. There is a hop bitterness that mixes perfectly with the sweetness of the malt. Sit back with this beer, sip and enjoy but keep in mind the differences between the 60 to the 90 are slight in comparison to the quantum leap in flavors and styles between the 90 and the 120.
Commercial description: Our family of Indian Pale Ales includes the 60 Minute I.P.A. and the 90 Minute Imperial I.P.A.. Both feature our unique continuous hopping program, where they receive a single hop addition that lasts over the course of the entire boil (60 and 90 minutes respectively). This breakthrough hopping method makes for a beer that is extremely hoppy without being overly bitter. “Feel the burn?… That’s the sickness and the cure” 120 Minute IPA Too extreme to be called beer? Brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full 2 hours while being continually hopped with high alpha American hops, dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for a month on whole leaf hops, 120 Minute IPA is by far the biggest IPA ever brewed! At 21% abv and 120 IBU’s, you can see why we call this the Holy Grail for Hopheads! Released quarterly, very limited availabilty 12 ounce bottles 21% ABV 120 IBU Next release date: October 15, 2005 Descriptors: Marmalade, orange peel, woodsy, minty Food pairing reccomendations: Duck a l’orange, crepes, fruit pies Suggested serving glass: snifter, Comparable wine style: Grappa, This beer AGES WELL
This week’s number one pick is
Russian River Temptation: The color of this beer was light amber with a cloudy body. The aroma initially is of grass and caskwood with a touch of grape and horse blanket. The mouthfeel is medium with a dry finish that is amplified by the beer’s carbonation.
Commericial description: Temptation: Is it beer, or is it wine? “Aged in French oak wine barrels for twelve months with distinct characteristics of fruit and subtle oak” sounds more like a description of wine than beer. But, of course, Temptation is indeed beer. Actually, Temptation is a Blonde Ale Fermented with a special strain of yeast, then aged in French oak chardonnay barrels. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout twelve months of aging. During this aging process, a secondary fermentation occurs using a yeast strain disliked by most brewers and winemakers called Brettanomyces. The “Bret” gives Temptation intriguing characteristics and a pleasant sourness. Temptation is re-fermented in the bottle to create its carbonation–a process commonly used to make fine champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment to remain in the bottle.
– Bruce G. Owens, Jr.