Great American Beer Festival: As great, and American as it gets |

Great American Beer Festival: As great, and American as it gets

Battle Mountain High School graduates Cody Payne, Ryan Welch and Kelly Payne donned costumes that resemble the trio's invention — the Octopus Tap. The beer drinkers designed a tap that allows multiple beers to be filled from one tap, preventing long lines at key parties and creating happy drinkers.

Beer. It’s part of American culture. It’s goes hand-in-hand with hamburgers, SUV’s and football, and it’s great.

That’s why there’s an overwhelming sense of joy ” and patriotism ” when you walk into the very spectacular Great American Beer Festival, held this past weekend in Denver.

As far as the eye can see, there is beer ” light beer, red beer, hoppy beer, stout beer and brown beer ” glorious beer.

The Great American Beer Festival is an annual gathering that has become a rite of passage for brewers and beer enthusiasts alike. It opens the door to an entire culture of beer drinkers who are as passionate about beer as sommeliers are about wine.

At the beer fest, brewers sit in their booths and wait to talk to passing drinkers to give them samples of their stuff. Some booths feature fancy signs and descriptions, while others, staying true to fuss-free beer culture, simply write the names of the beers on a piece of paper with a magic marker.

But, as you’ll find at the beer festival, beer can be quite complex and brewers are there to remind folks of that.

Take the He’Brew beers, of the Shmaltz Brewing Company, for instance. These Kosher beers feature complex flavor combinations and funny marketing slogans. Darren Quinlan, a sales manager for the brewing company, was manning the booth to talk about what he says is “such a fun product line.”

“It’s Jewish-themed beer,” he said. “We’re just really going out there with products and styles.”

With ingredients like ginger and pomegranate, He’Brew offers up some fun flavors. And with marketing slogans like “Don’t pass out, pass over,” and “This anniversary, candles won’t be the only thing getting lit,” the booth definitely caught the eyes of tons of passersby, which is exactly what brewers try to do at the festival.

For the guy who started brewing in his garage and now wants to get his name out there, there’s no better place than this festival.

That’s what brought Tony Clarke, the brewer/owner of Airdale in San Diego, to the beer fest this year. Clarke just got out of the Navy and had made his own beer for years. It was cheaper, and he found he could make the stuff just as good as store-bought brew. He turned his home operation into a business over the summer, and entered the festival for the first time. He didn’t win any awards, but the small-time brewer got more than a taste of the industry he’s now a part of.

It’s all about getting your name out there and getting a little publicity, said Upstream Brewing Company brewer Joel Moore. You get a chance to put your beers up for competition, and taste what others in the industry are doing with their brews. It’s a great educational tool for brewers, many of whom love learning about beer almost as much as they love drinking it.

“I started drinking in college,” Moore said. “I ended up spending more time learning about beer than studying philosophy.”

Moore isn’t alone. Just like chefs who must taste their food, brewers must taste their recipes to get the right balances of flavors and aromas. Unlike chefs, tasting events for brewers ” being that alcohol is a crucial part of what you taste ” can make everything a lot more fun.

Just don’t drop your cup. If you do, thousands of beer drinkers will scream in unison to embarrass you for it.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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