Coloradans have it pretty good. We live in one of the best craft-beer states in the nation, both because our 300-plus in-state breweries are constantly turning out amazing creations and because out-of-state breweries like to try their hand here. Even so, we always thirst for more, and more is what you’ll get during the Great American Beer Festival, when a number of breweries that don’t typically sell beer in Colorado flood the state with sudsy salvos, offering kegs and sometimes bottles of beer in bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the festival, which takes place September 24-26 at the Colorado Convention Center, you can try the following breweries there — along with hundreds and hundreds of others that you would never be able to try otherwise. But even if you don’t have tickets, you’ll be able to find these guys at a few spots around town. Check our GABF 2015: Calendar of Amazing Events for details and plenty of other things to keep you happy during the greatest week of the year.
Held in almost mystically high esteem by denizens of the Midwest, Bell’s consistently lands its beers on lists of the highest-rated brews in the country. Until now, however, their beer hasn’t been available in Colorado — and it will only be here this time around for the week of GABF — distributed by CSA, the distribution arm of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, which is also responsible for bringing in several of the other breweries on this list. You can find Bell’s at booth C-12 at GABF, or at several Denver bars on specific days, including Star Bar and Hops & Pie. Find the full list in our 2015 GABF-week calendar at westword.com.
One of a slew of top-notch, hop-forward Oregon breweries, Boneyard is well known in the Pacific Northwest and has built a good reputation outside the region as well, for beers like Notorious Triple IPA. They will be on tap at a couple of places around town, including First Draft and Hops & Pie — and other CSA tap takeovers — serving some of their hoppy beers, including a collab, Armored Fist Cascadian Dark Ale. Find them at GABF at booth I-8.
Brasserie St. James
This brewpub, which specializes in Belgian-style beers, won a gold medal at GABF last year for Daily Wages, and also took home the prestigious Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year award. They’ll be back to defend their hardware at the festival, in booth K-17, but you can also try three Brasserie St. James beers at the Cheeky Monk at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23. They’ll have Daily Wages, a 4.7 percent ABV traditional saison, fermented with a northern French yeast strain; Red Headed Stranger, a 7.4 percent ABV Belgian farmhouse ale; and 1904, a 7.5 percent ABV sour/wild ale.
J. Wakefield Brewing
Part of the rising load of Florida craft breweries, J. Wakefield built a buzz early with a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and then added to that buzz with its specialty style, Berliner weisses, which are typically tart, low-alcohol beers that are usually imbibed in the hot months (which would probably be year-round in Florida). The brewery, which also does other styles, has already done a collaboration with New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, called Grilled Pineapple Berliner Weiss. It plans to serve up some of its brews in an event and concert with New Belgium at the hi-dive on Friday, September 26, starting at 8:30 p.m. (pending regulatory approval). The show is called Miami Weisse. If you are going to GABF, you can find J. Wakefield at booth A-29.
Known for their Wu Tang Clan-loving owner and incredible hoppy beers, Melvin Brewing has won a variety of hardware, including a GABF gold and Alpha King Challenge crown. Melvin has occasionally been on tap in Colorado during GABF, but is very rare and definitely worth seeking out. You can find their beer at booth Q-31 at GABF or in a variety of Crooked Stave Artisans (the brewery's distribution arm) tap takeovers around town, including those at Hops & Pie, Backcountry Pizza, Falling Rock and others.
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San Diego, California
What do you get when you take the former lead brewers at Russian River, the Bruery and Pizza Port? A really good pedigree — and one that shows in Societe's beers, which have quickly taken their place among the best in San Diego, something that isn't an easy task in a city that many people consider to be among the top brewery towns in America. Societe will be in booth X-12 at GABF and can also be found at several bars around town during GABF week.
Founded in 1996, Three Floyds has built up its cult-like status steadily over the years, first with Alpha King, a beer that has since lent its name to a hoppy-beer contest called the Alpha King Challenge, and later with Dark Lord, a Russian imperial stout that has inspired its own day, where thousands of people line up every year for a taste. But Three Floyds is also known for many of its other offerings, like Zombie Dust, Gumballhead and Arctic Panzer Wolf. Find them at 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 24, at Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen, where they will pour Zombie Dust, Alpha King, Gumballhead, and a sour selection. Find them at GABF in booth E-31.
Asheville, North Carolina
Wicked Weed exploded onto the craft brewing world in 2013 when they won a gold medal at GABF just a few months after opening their doors. The beer they won for, Serenity Farmhouse Ale, is a 100 percent Brettanomyces-fermented brew and became the first beer that Wicked Weed bottled as well. Since then, the brewery has continued its success and built its name, doing a collaboration with New Belgium, which will open its second large production brewery in North Carolina later this year. New Belgium will hang out with Wicked Weed while they are in town (including a cornhole event with the Rare Barrel at the Rino Yacht Club at noon on Thursday, September 24), as well as a few other spots. If you're at the Colorado Convention Center for GABF, track down Wicked Weed at booth B-26.