There are over 3,000 individual beers at Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and that many choices can easy overwhelm an aimless beer geek. Do I drink this saison from San Diego or this Porter from Portland? Do I opt for this big, gnarly, barleywine or this simple, palatable, Pilsner? Don’t blow a fuse, when you’re feeling indecisive among the world’s largest beer selection, limit yourself, set parameters. Restrict yourself to certain styles of beer. Make your big decisions before setting foot on the convention room floor and you’ll spend more time drinking beer and less time thinking beer.
But what type of beer shall you drink? Consider the following beer styles, decide which best suits your taste, and familiarize yourself with the benefits and consequences of each. Do your homework now and optimize your GABF experience.
How it will affect your time at GABF: You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to find an IPA at GABF; almost every brewery in attendance will have one in their repertoire. Essentially, the only breweries that won’t have an IPA will be those which brew the classics of Belgium and Germany (countries that don’t traditionally dabble in IPAs) and hipster breweries that are too cool to serve what everybody else is brewing. Since almost every brewery’s got an IPA, you won’t be standing in any long lines to get a sip.
How you’ll feel at the end of the night: IPAs are known to be “palate wreckers.” They’ll cause you to lose most (if not all) sensation in your taste buds.
Where you’ll likely end up after GABF: With your mouth deadened, you’ll want to visit a restaurant with the richest, most decadent food you can imagine; it’s the only type of food you’ll be able to taste after an all-IPA night.
How it will affect your time at GABF: Thanks to sour beer programs at AC Golden Brewing Company, Avery Brewing, and Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, the popularity of sour beers is rising at exponential rates. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of people that haven’t yet heard the siren call so it’ll be a style that’s a tad difficult to come by at GABF. It’s tough to say if you’ll have to wait for a sour because, on one hand, there are a lot of people that shy away from the style due to its unconventional flavor but, on the other hand, those who enjoy sours seek them out with ruthless ambition. If you’re looking for a famous sour—like TRiNiTY BREWiNG COMPANY’s TPS Report—you might be twiddling your thumbs in a line for a significant chunk of time. However, in GABFs past, I’ve been able to find great sours in the most unlikely (and un-crowded) of places such as Longmont’s Pumphouse Brewery. It’s a toss-up; some sours will put a pause on your progress and some will be without crowds, allowing you to grab a taste and keep on walking.
How you’ll feel at the end of the night: Stock up on the Prilosec OTC, most sour beers feature a certain acidity that’ll give you heartburn something fierce.
Where you’ll likely end up after GABF: I don’t know where you’ll end up immediately after GABF but, by next morning, you’re going to want to stop by your dentist’s office to see about all that enamel the lactobacillus has chewed off your teeth.
Next up: Session beers vs. big beers