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Blurry, at best: That's how I remember my one-night stagger through the Great American Beer Festival, the 21st incarnation of this beer-sodden extravaganza. But it was my first encounter with the GABF, and being the responsible young reporter that I am, I felt it my duty to taste and record for posterity my opinions on as many brews as I could get my hands on.
With 301 breweries on the floor, over 1,300 beers on tap, and me with tasting glass in hand, I was like a kid in a candy store. No, worse. I was like a food writer at a beer festival, getting drunk one ounce at a time. Looking back now over the notes scrawled in the margin of my program, I can see that I started out very earnestly. "Drakes IPA, good flavor, light and fresh-tasting," for example. Or "Wynkoop Artillery. They gave it that name for a reason." But things went downhill fast. "Irish Red, from Hub City Brewery, Lubbock. This is why the Irish don't move to Texas," and "Raspberry Tart, Wisconsin. Tastes a little like raspberry, a lot like vomit."
After that, it's mostly illegible chickenscratch and a complicated series of hieroglyphics that I invented some time after spending a half-hour with the guys at the Rainier Brewery booth, then promptly forgot how to translate. I do remember that I liked the Rainier beer, though. Probably a little too much...
Fifty-eight categories were judged during the October 3-5 GABF, by palates certainly more qualified than mine. All of the details are available at www.beertown.org. In the meantime, here's a sampling: Denver's Great Divide Brewing Company picked up yet another award -- this time a bronze in classic English-style pale ale -- for its already heavily decorated Denver Pale Ale. BJ's Restaurant and Brewery in Boulder snagged a gold in the fruit-and-vegetable-beer category with its Magnolia's Peach. Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs brought home a bronze with its Maplenut Brown Ale, and the Redfish New Orleans Brewhouse in Boulder and the Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field both collected multiple medals. And on a personal note, Genesee Cream Ale, from High Falls Brewing in Rochester, New York, which happens to be the first beer I ever got drunk on (I stole two cans from my dad when I was a kid, then threw up in the bushes out in front of the house for an hour), took home a bronze in the American lager category. Ah, memories.
Hey, didn't I see that in a movie once? Owners Gilesand Kami Kolakowski of the Ice Palace Inn Bed and Breakfast are sponsoring an essay contest where -- for a mere 150 words and 230 bucks -- you can win their Leadville B&B for your very own self. Yes, just like in that movie...
Eight years ago, the Kolakowskis bought the turn-of-the-century Victorian that had been built on the site of -- and with some of the original timbers from -- the legendary Leadville Ice Palace. After remodeling, they opened it up as a five-room bed-and-breakfast. But now, eight years and a pair of twin girls later, the Kolakowskis are looking to return to Seattle to open another B&B, so the Inn is up for grabs.
Curious as to why the Kolakowskis chose to pass on their historic property this way, I called the Ice Palace for some details. "I think this is an opportunity for us to do something wonderful for another family," Kami said. "It's a chance to give someone their dream." She's not exaggerating, either: a functioning Colorado bed-and-breakfast with reservation system in place, no mortgage and a national reputation -- all for $230? There are burnt-out yuppies sitting in their million-dollar lofts in Manhattan right now muttering darkly to themselves about how they'd give anything to chuck it all -- the high-powered executive position, the Beemer, the trophy wife and her yappy dog, the park view, everything -- for a shot at something like this.
Although other essay-contest giveaways have melted faster than an Ice Palace in a spring thaw, the Kolakowskis are sure that they're going to hit that magic 2,500-entry limit that will make it a win-win situation for both them and the lucky essayist. And if those numbers don't materialize? "Then we'll refund $200 of the $230 to everyone who entered," promised Kami. "But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we'll have more than we need."
Interested? Pen a 150-word essay telling the Kolakowskis why you want to own the Ice Palace Inn and scrape together that $230 entry fee. The contest, which will run through December 31 (with an option to extend through April), has been going for a month now, and they've already received more than a hundred entries. For information, entry forms, some history on the place and all the legal mumbo-jumbo, go to www.icepalaceinn.com or visit the Kolakowskis at 813 Spruce Street in Leadville.
Leftovers: If you're jonesing for the flavors of Spain, and Boulder's Triana(see review, page 67) is too far away, you can always try Sevilla, which just marked its eighth month in a new home on the third floor of the Denver Pavilions. In order to drum up lunch business, the self-described Spanish steakhouse and nightclub is rolling out a truckload of deals to get you through the door. Stop in for the new cafe menu, and not only are you guaranteed to get lunch within thirty minutes, but you'll walk out with a full stomach as well as VIP passes for Friday or Saturday night at the club; a lunch card (one of those buy-ten-lunches-get-one-free deals); and another card good for free tapas at your next dinner. And at happy hour, which runs from 5 to 6 p.m., you can wash down those tapas with bottomless refills of sangría.
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