Thursday at the Great American Beer Fest: five sneaky-cool things to check out

The Great American Beer Festival, which starts tonight and runs through Saturday, is a river of beer -- and a river of people -- but there are some things that don't always meet the eye: secret fishing holes, swirling eddies, rapids. Here are a couple of things to do that may not be on your radar, but should be delicious or fun tonight. Cheers.

See also: - Best Beer Swag of Great American Beer Festival 2012 - Great American Beer Festival 2012: The People - Great American Beer Festival 2012: The Beer

The Beer & Food Pavilion The Brewers Association has upped the good-food quotient this year (and not just in the sold-out Farm-to-Table Pavilion. The Beer & Food Pavilion, located in the middle of the festival hall between sections J and K, is offering a rotating selection of expert chefs and brewers who have teamed up to offer some delicious stuff. But get there early because it's first-come-first-served and limited to 100 people. One of tonight's highlights: the Denver powerhouses Euclid Hall and Great Divide Brewing will work with California's Stone Brewing to present The Mountain and the Sea from 7:30 to 8 p.m. Great Divide's Brian Dunn, Stone's Bill Sysak, and Euclid's Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall will be on hand demonstrate "the creative nature of craft beer and thoughtful food."

Oskar Blues Booth Yes, you will want to grab some OB can-bling to hand around your neck and to try the beers, because Longmont's Oskar Blues will be serving a couple of treats in addition to its core beers (like barrel-aged Ten FIDY and Leroy Brown, which the brewery canned briefly several years back). But the booth will also be handing out passes to an after-party at the Blake Street Tavern where it will introduce a Sun King collaboration called The Deuce, and introduce its latest top-secret aluminum package.

Brewers Guilds The brewers guilds for many states will be lined up together in one area of the hall tonight, where they'll be pouring beers that aren't available anywhere else at the festival. Since the guild booths aren't sexy, they usually don't have long lines, but they do have some sexy beers. The San Diego Brewers Guild, for instance, will have AleSmith's Grand Cru and Stone's 2009 Barrel-Aged Double Bastard, while the Oregon Brewers Guild will have fresh-hopped beers from Deschutes and Hopworks, and the Michigan guild will be pouring Short's Freedom of '78.

Firestone Walker Like a lot of the bigger breweries, Firestone Walker likes to bring out some surprises during the festival. They'll be tapping something mysterious at around 7 p.m. tonight and this California brewery never disappoints. But they won't be the only ones. Ask at the tables of your favorite beer makers to see if they are planning any surprises.

Brewers Studio Pavilion A relatively new addition to GABF, this Pavilion keeps getting better every year, and tonight's lineup is amazing. From 6:30 to 7 p.m., try a five-year vertical tasting from the renowned Deschutes Brewing Company of its outstanding imperial Black Butte Porter birthday beer (Vintages XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, and XXIV or 2008-2012). Owner and founder Gary Fish and brewmaster Brian Faivre will be on hand. Then, from 7:30 to 8:00 p.m., three of Denver's new wave of local breweries, Strange, Hogshead and Copper Kettle, will talk about how they each bring their own neighborhoods together as community pubs. And, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., try some of the gold medal winning beers from last year's GABF and hear stories from the brewers that won them.



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