The Great American Beer Festival is our version of a family reunion. Friends fly in from all over the country to enjoy a blissful weekend of cherishing old memories, creating new memories, and then drinking enough to erase any and all memory whatsoever. The festival itself brings out the best in breweries across the country, and as seasoned veterans of the experience, we can confidently say that it gets better every year. After four years of attendance, we’ve developed a highly scientific approach: we research every rare beer ahead of time, compile a master spreadsheet of timelines and booth maps, and then arrive to the actual festival and just lose our shit and drink whatever we can get our grubby little paws on.
Despite our best efforts, we’ve never been able to sample all 3,700 beers. This year, though, we came damn close. Below are the most memorable brews from the festival and the notes we jotted down in between sips.
Allagash Farm to Face: Moderate sour with pleasant pear and green apple. Great start!
Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose: Tastes like watermelon sour patch kids! I love beer!
Avery Lillioko’i Kepolo: Passion fruit explosion. It’s going to be tough to beat this one.
Black Bottle Brewery Cerealiously Count Chocula: Hey, I reviewed this bitch last month. Should I ask for my paycheck?
Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata: Ok, they just turned Cinnamon Toast Crunch into beer.
Blue Moon Vanilla Wheat: They NAILED the vanilla flavor here. Basically like drinking a vanilla milkshake. I’m getting hungry.
Boulevard Hibiscus Gose: This is so good. I regret never eating flowers before now.
The Bruery Grey Monday: This asshole is 19% ABV and tastes of all things hazelnut, butterscotch, and chocolate. I should slow down.
Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Russian Imperial Stout: Ugh, so heavy and intense. Tastes too much like Russia, probably.
Coachella Valley Brewing Saison L’Automne: Pumpkin spice saison! Wow wow wow!
Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast: Syrupy and heavy and yummy. There’s scrapple in here. I’m basically just drinking anything brewed with food at this point. Need to get some actual dinner before I go full cross-eyed.
Dogfish Head Choc Lobster: Ugh, somebody spilled the ocean into my beer. This wasn’t the dinner I wanted.
Dogfish Head Higher Math: Another 19%…if I’m doing my Higher Math correctly, I’m now 38% beer.
Dogfish Head The Seeds: Boring and dumb. Why did I think I wanted to drink a beer with seeds? SEEDS ARE FOR BIRDS NOT BEERS.
Firestone Walker Feral One: THANK YOU JESUS, I JUST FOUND A MAC AND CHEESE STATION.
Funky Buddha Morning Wood: Maple, Bacon & Coffee Stout! I’ll just drink this before I find a place to settle down and eat.
Funky Buddha No Crusts: Peanut Butter & Jelly Brown Ale. Can’t find anywhere to sit. Oh no.
Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine: Holy bourbon!
Goose Island Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Stout: Holy vanilla bourbon!
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout: Holy coffee bourbon!
Horse and Dragon Sad Panda: My favorite coffee stout ever made. Kind of freaking out because I have nowhere to sit and eat my mac and cheese, and I somehow keep getting more beers.
Kane Solitude: Belgian Strong Dark Ale that tastes like banana and raisins. No Mac and Cheese flavor at all.
Kona Lemongrass Luau: Pretty bland. Feeling irrationally angry at this particular beer. Hanger is officially taking over.
Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine: Yes, this is what sunshine would taste like. I believe it. I tried to crawl under their booth so I could eat my mac and cheese in peace.
Lost Abbey Track 8: Really complex and tastes kind of like a dark fruit.
Minneapolis Town Hall Foolish: I’m sitting in a bathroom stall eating mac and cheese. Not my proudest moment. This mac and cheese is the shit, though. 10 out of 10.
New Glarus 2015 Golden Ale: I emerge from the restroom stronger, faster, cheesier. This ale is the perfect beer to wash away my shame. Light, bubbly, champagne-y.
Ommegang Grains of Truth: Belgian-y and drinkable. The only rye beer I’ve ever liked.
Russian River Pliny the Elder: Reviewed it. Moving on, all aboard the drunk train!
Saucony Creek Maple Mistress: Pumpkin-spiced maple syrup. Pairs well with IHOP pancakes later. I also tried to crawl under their booth. They were not impressed with me.
Short’s Brewing Melt My Brain: Tastes exactly like gin & tonic. Who am I, my Grandpa?
Short’s Brewing Strawberry Short’s Cake: Sweet, fruity, and super heavy on taste. Somehow I lost all my friends in the crowd.
Short’s Brewing Pinball Whisper: Hungry again. Require nachos to survive. Starting to regret the bathroom mac and cheese, and my life choices in general. This beer is a decent sour.
Short’s Brewing Pistachio Cream Ale: ¯_(ツ)_/¯ out of 10.
Short’s Brewing Power of Love: Holy shit. Best beer ever. Rosemary lemons and raspberry. This is absolutely what the Queen drinks.
Stone Witty Moron: Still alone. Cannot locate a friend nor a nacho. Seriously considering jumping into the Uinta volcano.
Stone Mocha IPA: It’s light but tastes like chocolately coffee. Not in the mood for this bullshit witchcraft.
Southern Tier Live: Booooring. So boring I cried a Southern Tear, amirite??
Southern Tier Tangier: …because “tier” and “tear” are homonyms.
Tall Grass Buffalo Sweat: Delicious, creamy milk stout. Is there actual buffalo sweat in here? How do you make beer?
Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust: Really solid IPA with tons of fruitiness and freshness. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. No, seriously. I’m very drunk. I shouldn’t be alive still. It’s entirely possible that I’m invisible now, like Patrick Swayze from Ghost. Need to find Demi Moore and/or Whoopi Goldberg immediately. Started singing “I’m Henery the 8th, I Am” as loud as I can. I think it’s working.
Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau: I FOUND MY FRIENDS AND THEY HAVE NACHOS. The Beer Gods have smiled down upon me one last time.
There you have it, folks. It was a beautiful and terrifying night filled with many unbeatable highs and some real lobster lows. The true beauty of this list, though, is that 80% of these beers are either discontinued or not for distribution so there was no point in you reading any of it. Until next year, GABF!
Crazy Beer Selection Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Bathroom Mac and Cheese Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Overall Rating: 10 out of 10