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I recently went to the happiest place on Earth -- and no, I don't mean Disneyland, which calls itself "The Happiest Place on Earth" because it has bathrooms cleaner than yours will ever be and employees who are happier than you'll ever be. True, I have extremely fond memories of Disney World, which was the first place I shared beers with my dad (at the Canadian and German exhibits at Epcot), and where I later was overserved Around the World. (Unfortunately, the mix of beer, wine, sake and margaritas resulted in a hangover that made me feel like I was a cartoon character whose head was expanding to the point of explosion.)
1919 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80202
Region: Downtown Denver
No, to reach the happiest place on Earth I didn't even have to leave Denver, because the Great American Beer Festival comes to the Colorado Convention Center every fall. This year, organizers promised that over 1,600 beers would be on site -- which, in our pre-drunk calculations, meant we needed to drink the equivalent of more than 200 cans of beer to take full advantage of the opportunity. While we fell far short of this mark, some others seemed to come damn close. Perhaps it was just my own unsteady gait, but I've never seen so many weaving humans in one place. Amazingly, as the night went on, people appeared to get a firmer grip on gravity -- possibly because of the increased gravitational force induced by the consumption of several beers the consistency of 10W-40 that had gone 5,000 miles in a turbo-diesel.
Alas, even the best amusement parks in the world eventually close, and to avoid massive personal-injury lawsuits, the GABF wound down around ten o'clock Saturday night. Since we wanted to continue drinking beers with character, rather than radioactive martinis or cheap American "beer," we headed straight for Falling Rock Tap House (1919 Blake Street). But even here, we first had to deal with an inferiority complex typical of the American brewer. In a tent by the door -- when they weren't playing in the Stanley Cup Finals of Tonsil Hockey -- a man and woman were serving what appeared to be a promising, deep amber beer. Like many American microbrews, this beer was under the illusion that color and heavy taste make a better beer. Problem is, because mass-produced American "beers" expend no effort to taste like anything other than carbonated water strained through a Bronco's jockstrap, mass-produced beers with more "character" just taste like more-concentrated jockstrap water.
Once safely inside, though, and seated before 75 tap beers and countless (at least in our besotted state) bottled and canned beers, we were able to salvage our stunned tastebuds by slamming a few old favorites. The presence of Maker's Mark bourbon and a good band also helped.
Still, there were a few unfortunate incidents. First, we were disappointed to again document that Air Force Academy graduates, despite all their faults, can outdrink younger members of the Institute of Drinking Studies. The Head of Drinking Regrets and the Head of Pathologic Drinking both left prematurely; as a result, we here at the Institute are considering taking administrative action against them, and only their inspired performances at the GABF may gain them any leniency. The setup of the Tap House itself, despite the heavenly presence of beer and beer paraphernalia wherever you turn, posed another threat: The very nice lounge area downstairs, a refuge for cigar smokers and your usual bar games, lies in full view of the upper tier, unprotected. After a day and night of drinking, it took all of our mental powers as well as the apparitions of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda to prevent us from pouring beers over the railing or spitting for distance at the partygoers below. In a major humanitarian act, the Professor Emeritus even made a diving catch for a falling (empty) glass, which threatened our fellow beer drinkers below. No thanks needed; we here at the Institute consider it our job to protect the drinking public.
Just as the Tap House recognizes that its job is to serve the drinking public -- and serve that public well. Remember, if you can't get to Disneyland, this bar will do just fine.
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