With 3800 beers poured at the Great American Beer Festival, deciding what to drink can be a bit overwhelming. Here are ten we tried Thursday night that we think you should seek out.
Speciation Artisan Ales
This small Michigan producer of wild and mixed culture ales has nailed the balance between acidity, funk, and fruit. The beers have a distinct character all their own—start with Genetic Drift, and work your way through the Incipient variations.
Live Oak Brewing
In the ballsiest move we’ve seen at GABF in a long time, Live Oak brought not one, but FOUR smoked beers to the festival. We know what you’re thinking—“Smoked beers?” Yes, smoked beers. The Lichtenhainer will challenge any preconception you’ve ever had about beers made with smoked malt, but start with the Heller Rauch.
The Lost Abbey
Fans of sour beer should beeline to Lost Abbey, where Tomme Arthur and crew are pouring three gems—Duck Duck Gooze, Veritas 018, and Veritas 019. We could spend the entire night lapping this line and not get tired of drinking DDG.
Great Notion Brewing
If you haven’t heard by now, Great Notion is crushing the hazy IPA game and turning heads with their flavor-forward imperial stouts and kettle sours. They’ve brought a bit of everything to GABF this year—Blueberry Muffin sour, Double stack stout (which does taste exactly like it sounds), and (of course) their signature IPAs. Try them all.
We visited the brewery back in March and were floored by the quality of the beers—they even convinced us to enjoy their “white stout,” Naughty Sauce. Hit their booth for some fantastic beers, the shoot over to the Heavy Medal pavilion and try their award-winning IPA “I Love It.”
Any chance to try Societe’s wild ales is one you shouldn’t pass up. The Thief is a golden sour made with Grenache Blanc grapes, and we love the delicate fruit character wrapped up with a touch of funk. But if IPAs are more your thing, The Coachman is one of the best examples of a West Coast session IPA we’ve had the pleasure of trying.
We were a bit sad when Firestone Walker retired Wookie Jack, but were thrilled to find W-1, the first black IPA from their new Venice Propagator brewpub, on tap at their GABF booth. Sadly, we missed the timed pour of Anniversary XX (we took part in the blending session for that beer in Paso Robles a few months ago), but we’ll be stalking the booth for the rest of the weekend in hopes that they repeat it.
We love it when breweries bring the heat to GABF, and the Modern Times beer list is one of the best at the fest. Start with one of their hazy IPAs or sours, then prepare yourself for three fantastic variants of their barrel-aged Monsters Park stout.
We love the creative and boundary-pushing beers from these foraging brewers from Illinois, and the beers are worth the wait no matter how long the line.
The line will be long, but it’s worth the wait for Double Dry-hopped Juicy Bits, and their barrel-aged Medianoche imperial stout.
We only had the chance to visit a fraction of the booths we wanted to—GABF is just too big to try everything in one session—so this list is far from complete. If there’s a brewery that impressed you that we’ve missed, leave a comment, and we’ll be sure to check them out!