When I first read about the Rare Beer Tasting, I wondered if it would be worth it. I know its for a good cause and all, but there's already so many great beers at the GABF, do I really need to spend more money to drink even more beer? Then I saw the lineup of the beers scheduled to be at the tasting and I immediately bought tickets. I knew it would sell out and fast. There was only one or two beers on that list that I had ever tasted and those probably weren't even the same beers. Many were barrel-aged or imperial versions of their more common namesake and some were even the last of it that existed.
We had been at the industry party at the Sandlot earlier and arrived at the Wynkoop at around 12:45pm. The line was already a block long, but we were inside within 40 mins. The event was on the second floor and was basically setup the same way as the brewers gathering on Wednesday with the stations pouring beer spread around the edges of the room.
It was our goal to try them all, so we started at table one and moved on from there. I won't lie, there were a few beers that were hard to drink and maybe one or two we almost couldn't. However, if we had more time to sip and enjoy them, we probably would have been able to appreciate those ones a little more. Don't get me wrong, we weren't slamming them down (a little difficult with beers that have double-digit ABV), but there was a certain degree of urgency as it was obvious some beers would not last the entire event. At about a third of the way through, the affects could already be felt. It didn't help that some brewers were pretty generous with their pours and there was no way I was pouring out a beer I liked just so that I could sample the next one.
One of the beers that I was excited about getting a chance to try was the Utopias 2009 from Sam Adams. Since 2002, its held the record of "World's Strongest Beer" with an ABV of 27%. This is not a beer. I'm not sure what I'd call it, but its definitely not something you drink standing around at a beer tasting. Its something to be sipped slowly on a cold winter night. Glad I got the chance to try it, but wasn't able to really appreciate it. A beer that I really did enjoy was was the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel-aged Total Eclipse Stout from Foothills Brewing Co. It had wonderful smooth flavours of vanilla and bourbon without any residual harshness that can often be present with bourbon barrel-aged beers.
But there wasn't only great beer there, it was also the largest gathering of brewers in the same place at the same time that I've ever seen. As one attendee told me as he was asking Dan Carey from New Glarus Brewing to sign his Rare Beer Tasting Program, its like Comic-Con for the beer world. Hilarious, but he was right. Long lines formed at the Dogfish Head pouring station as everyone wanted to talk with Sam Calagione as he poured their beer and Garret Oliver from Brooklyn Brewing couldn't take more then two steps before before asked to have his picture taken (he's always friendly and a snappy dresser). Every which way you turned, legendary brewmasters were pouring beer and talking with people.
I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon at the first Rare Beer Tasting and I hope it continues as an annual event. Its a great addition to the events during the GABF and benefits a worthy cause.