Bite Me

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 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 Giles and 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 or visit the Kolakowskis at 813 Spruce Street in Leadville.