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This was our last full day in Denver, so we headed to Fort Collins, CO to check out New Belgium Brewing.  I was lucky and was able to visit New Belgium last year during GABF.   While my tour last year was a lot of fun, this year we got a tour from New Belgium’s Sensory Specialist, Lauren Salazar.

Notes from Day 3, New Belgium Brewing:

  • It shouldn’t surprise you that this place is huge.  Just enormous.
  • Which is why they’re on schedule to do 500,000bbls this year.
  • This first photo below is the original brewing system that New Belgium started with.
  • Check out Sponge Bob eating a pizza!
  • Yes, this is the second day in a row I got to visit the top of a brewery’s fermentation tanks.
  • As you may know, this company is very green.  You can see the new solar panels they’re installing.
  • Drinking beer right off of the large wooden barrels is really cool.
  • I asked Lauren about the change in La Folie, she told me that she realized that she was making the beer more for her palette and not for the consumers.  Which is why the sourness has been scaled back a bit to make for a more balanced beer.
  • While we saw the bottling line, we didn’t actually get to see it in action.
  • But I did get to see it last year and I’ve included a video below.
  • Yes, that really is a slide and yes you really can slide down it.

Sunday morning in Denver. Irene had to attend conferences and talks all day, which means I was free to roam.  I decided to hit up Avery Brewing and Oskar Blues.

Since starting this blog, one of the most frequent questions is, “How much free beer do you get?”  The answer surprises a lot of people, because I don’t get that much.  I didn’t start this blog to get free beer, though it’s always appreciated when I get it.

What I do get is the opportunity to do a lot of stuff that many people don’t get to do.  Like for instance, stand on top of one of the fermentation tanks at Avery.  Make sure to check out the panoramic photo below.

Notes from Day 2, Avery Brewing and Oskar Blues:

  • GPS is a godsend.
  • Avery is tucked back in a little industrial park, if you didn’t know where to look you wouldn’t find it.
  • If I’m not mistaken, Avery is on schedule to do 15,000bbls this year.
  • Alex from Avery is a cool chick.  Thanks to Adam Avery for hooking me up with an awesome tour.
  • Oskar Blues is huge.  Way, way bigger than I was expecting.
  • OB is on schedule to do 30,000bbls this year.  Just to put that into perspective, Schlafly is on schedule to do the same amount.
  • Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time.  Just as I was leaving Avery I met one of the brewers from OB and he hooked me up.  They basically let me roam the Oskar Blues production facility all by myself.
  • Oskar, come to St. Louis soon!

avery-panorama-small

While I expressed a bit of dissatisfaction with the Great American Beer Festival, one of the things that would keep me going back to Denver during the GABF is all of the extra activities going on during the festival.  Since Colorado houses over 80 brewpubs and 18 breweries, there is always something to keep you interested during GABF week.

As Irene and I had a very early flight on Sunday morning, we took it relatively easy on Saturday night.  We decided that after eating crappy hotel food for both dinner the night before and breakfast, it was time to get the hell out.  Picking out a restaurant was pretty easy.  Earlier in the day, the 2008 GABF Awards were handed out and Wynkoop Brewing Company had won two gold medals for the B3K Schwarzbier and Wixa Weiss.  And in case you didn’t know, one of the new brewers over at Wynkoop is Charlie Berger, who previously worked for O’Fallon.  Congrats to Charlie!

After dinner, I wanted to show Irene the Falling Rock Tap Room, home to over 60+ taps and a crap-ton of bottled beer.  This was the first place that we went to when Mike Leahy and I arrived in Denver, so it seemed fitting to make it the last place as well.  Nothing quite like having Pliny the Elder on draught the moment you walk into a bar.  I don’t care if it’s not during GABF, any time you’re in Denver, please be certain to check out Falling Rock.

gabf.gifI ask this question with great trepidation, because I really don’t want this to seem like a “brag, brag, brag, I’m going to the Great American Beer Festival!” It’s just that with 400 breweries and 1800 beers to choose from, it can get a bit overwhelming. Sure I have a few places I’m hitting come hell or high-water (Russian River, Lost Abbey, Alaskan, Firestone Walker, etc.) but I know there are a lot of places I won’t remember.

So, if you were visiting one of the biggest beer festivals in the world, what would be your must visit breweries? (I promise lots of photos and information what I get back.)

beer-818_1280x960.jpgCharlie Berger, a long time brewer at O’Fallon Brewery, is leaving St. Louis and is moving to Denver. Charlie’s wife is an aspiring doctor and her residency is taking them both to the land of craft beer in Colorado. Charlie is a great brewer and a great guy, I’m sorry to see him going but I have no doubt that he’ll be brewing in Denver in no time. Good luck Charlie!