Great American Beer Fest: Tips to Enjoying It, Instead of Puking

Beer in your futureA long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, beer was just beer to me. It’s heartbreaking…I know.

My first GABF was 11 years ago. I did what many people do: get trashed and not make it to even half the breweries. More than likely, I visited only a quarter of them. I lacked the wisdom and taste buds to be discerning. Don’t get me wrong, I had a shit ton of fun until I found myself releasing the demons of that fast and furious 4 hour session onto 14th Street and at a porcelain throne in a bar.

Things change.

Long past are those days. Now, I have a game plan when I go in. So for all you newbies, I’m sharing this in case your only plan is to try some beers.

1. Choose ahead. Whether it’s a style of beer, a region, specific breweries, or medal winners, be specific in what you’re going to drink. It’s a HUGE amount of beers and even to someone like me, it’s still overwhelming and extremely tempting to jump off course.

2. Use your will power. Stick to your choice because once you jump off the wagon, it’s hard to get back on.

3. Don’t feel obligated to drink everything you try. For many years, even with sticking to my chosen beer path, I’d get tanked because I drank every bit that was poured, whether it was bleah or awesome. If it doesn’t impress me, I dump it because I have long list to get to and I’d rather save my wits and taste buds for awesomeness. Sometimes, I even spit.

4. Go with friends that understand or alone. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for a friend in a long line at a brewery that you’re not tasting at. This can contribute to getting off your beer course. Going with peeps that are okay with not seeing you for the next 4 hours because your beer interests vary is important. Or find beer buddies that have the same plan as you. Personally, I’m a fan of going alone. Let’s be serious, beer people are friendly and if you go alone, you’re not really alone. You’re with the best extended family in the world.

5. Bring beer snacks. Nuts, pretzels, potato chips…whatever your preferred drinking snack is, bring it. This will help with not getting tanked. It also helps in not wasting time standing in line to get a snack. As dorky as they are, I appreciate the wisdom of pretzel necklaces. It also doubles as a good way to make friends or to hit on beer girls. You’ve had a lot of beers and you’re peckish? Would you like a pretzel?

6. Get tickets for more than one session. If you have the funds and time, it’s totally worth it. There’s a lot to do besides tasting beer.

7. Map your game plan in advance. The floor map, events, and breweries are on GABF’s website already. The beer list comes out on Wednesday, Oct 1st. Which means you can have your tasting experience mapped out and ready to go before you step into the gates of heaven. Of course being flexible in the plan is important: beers get tapped out, there’s longer lines than expected, you get distracted by the really cute guy/girl you offered a pretzel to, people keep asking to take photos with you because your outfit is cool… distractions happen. If you know where you want to go and where that booth is, you don’t have to waste time trying to find it.

This year, I won’t be attending GABF. Yes, I am super sad but sometimes there are more important things in life (hard to believe, I know). BUT I will be attending some of the fun extracurricular activities, like the Great Avery Boulder Fest at the Fox Theatre in Boulder.

Have a great 2014 GABF and I’ll be back for 2015!!

P.S. Cut a rug for me at the Silent Disco!!

The Salt Lake City Adventure: In the Thick of It

“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!?!?!?!??!”

Never in my life would I have thought I’d see a small plague roll across a beach in biblical style.

But what would one expect from a beach on the Great Salt Lake? Mormons, flies, and shrimp…oh my!

Shrimp? Yes…shrimp. That was pretty weird too.

For the short amount of time I actually spent in Salt Lake City, Utah, I feel I got a good salty taste for what to expect in this town: surrealism. Just like the front range of Colorado, SLC and its suburbs stretch out along the Wasatch Range like the long arms of Jesus. Oddly, the Mormons are no longer the majority of the populous and it actually is quite LGBT friendly. Not only is the city beautiful due to the amazing architecture that graces its streets but also the stunning geography of mountains and lake. Twin Peaks being the highest point you can see from the city at 11,330 feet above sea level and standing at about 4, 210 feet above sea level on the shore of Great Salt Lake, one can see why the Mormons made this place home. Or maybe it was the quaint smell of rotten eggs that did it…

Either way, two establishments made my taste buds jump in delight. The Red Iguana at 736 West North Temple changed my mind about Mexican food. I’ve never been a big lover of it but a mole that knocks my socks off is rare to find. When I scanned the menu, it was delightful to see that the descriptions actually made the food jump out at you. Especially the Classics and Signature Mole sections of the menu. Don’t let the building fool you. Though it looks a bit dingy, the 30-40 minute wait for a table is a sign that the food is amazing. There’s no bar to sit at which means there’s no boozing while you wait. Sad panda…

Find salvation here!

Find salvation here!

Poplar Street Pub was a serendipitous savior from a chain brewery. I wasn’t quite sure what I was walking into but at the time I was happy it wasn’t yuppieville like the brewery next door. My best description: a non-dive dive bar. Located at 242 South 200 West, it’s set back from the street a little bit. Upon walking into the door, they ask for your ID and scan it. The familiar interior darkness of a dive bar is only offset by tvs and the oddly clean look of everything. I couldn’t help but giggle internally when I saw Coors Light on tap but was promptly giddy to see a cooler full of good beer. Especially spying the brewery that I had missed going to that day: Epic Brewing Company. Upon finding the patio which is situated towards the back, my travel companion and I decide on sharing a half plate of nachos(quite large) and I settle on the Wit Beer. Maybe it was the adventure and excitement earlier in the day that made this beer so damn good but I think it’s actually just a really good wit beer. That being said, I think the nachos are the best I’ve ever had in my life. Every plate that came out on the patio smelled amazing AND looked amazing too. This is not typical bar food. This isn’t even typical restaurant food. I’d say that Poplar Street Pub is the perfect oasis for food and drinks in SLC.

And on that note, I am excited that Epic Brewing Company is coming to Denver with a tasting room at 3001 Walnut Street sometime in September. Wooo hooo!!!

A happy tummy is a Wit filled tummy.

A happy tummy is a Wit filled tummy.

I am holding something special #16 of 1,800.

I am holding something special #16 of 1,800.

I mentioned something about a plague of flies and shrimp…that’s up next. Stay tuned for our dashing heroine’s adventure to Antelope Island!

Cannonball is Golden

“Did I just flip over my handle bars?!?”

That was the thought I had as I stood in the road after a successful yet failed attempt at screeching my tires on Saturday.

Let’s digress to about 10:00am that day:
It was a spectacular morning. The type where you know the day is going to be awesome. My cohorts and I were headed to the opening of the new W line of the light rail here in Denver. There were all sorts of events happening at the stops like food, bands, vendors, and activities for kids. The best part was it was free all day to ride. The idea: ride bikes to the start at Union Station, get off at selected stops to check stuff out, and once in Golden we would ride to 2 breweries then hop the W back home. It seemed like such a simple plan.

We started the day stopping at one of Denver’s dive of all dive bars for a quick beer, Bar Bar. Located near Coors field, this place is for the dirty alcoholic in some of us. Being a bar, coffee shop, AND bookstore you can be there early to have an Irish coffee with a side of beer while reading the used copy of Fight Club you just purchased. Sitting there with all the other early morning patrons while watching this one woman dance to the jukebox, the line Cheryl Crow sings kept playing in my head. “I like a good beer buzz early in the morning. And Billy likes to peel the labels from his bottles of Bud.” This places reeks of that song along with many other smells.

The W line: mob mentality. Now, when I lived in NYC, people at least noticed if you were hauling a bike with you and gave you some room to get on the train. Not in Denver. We missed one train at Union Station because it was packed and people kinda pushed us out of the way. When the second train arrived we decided to not be polite and just get on and let the masses work their way around us. The Caddy(my cruiser with side baskets) is a big heavy bike so to lift it up 4 stairs as people are trying to get around me is an event bound for disaster. Fortunately, disaster was averted but I definitely got close-encounter-molested by a young lady’s butt against mine. She kept bouncing up and down. Good thing I’m not a guy.

Against what should have been good judgement, we get off the W line not too far from downtown to catch up with another friend. Again, we just miss a train because people push ahead of us filling the space where bikes can board. Another train comes and we get thwarted by a bum. Yes, a bum blocked us from getting on because he was sitting on the steps inside the train and when he saw us he said, “Are you kidding me?” He decided to move as slowly as he possibly could and the doors closed as his butt was vacating where our bikes should have been. Train #3: so packed even people at the station couldn’t fit on. What do we do? Well, we bike to the other stations on the line hoping we can catch a train that isn’t so full. Train after train I get more and more discouraged and finally decide that it’s not worth it so lets just ride our own route into Golden.

Tired, hot, and beerless, we finally make it to Golden, 3.5 hours after we had set foot on the train at Union Station. Passing by the insane line of people waiting to go on the tour of Coors, I get a bug up my butt to screech the tires on the Caddy. I get a great long one from downhill inertia. Hee hee!!

Golden City Brewery: I remember when it was Golden’s best kept secret. You could always find a seat. On this hot spring Saturday, the beer garden was packed to the gills. For beer-unch I decided to go with the red that was on tap. I’ll admit I don’t remember which red because I was just so happy to be drinking a beer I didn’t actually notice. I like GCB because its staples are easy drinking beer. It tastes good and doesn’t usually smack you in the face with too much complexity which makes it perfect for after biking your ass all over the Front Range. Located near Clear Creek, which splits Golden in half, it makes this brewery a great stop for jumping in the creek and getting a beer. Repeat as necessary on hot days, while kayaking or tubing. After wetting our whistles, we make the arduous climb up Washington Street to the new kid on the block.

Now that is pretty sexy

Now that is pretty sexy

Cannonball Creek Brewing Company: I would never have guessed this place opened in January. Usually when I visit a new brewery I’ll find one, maybe two beers, that catch my attention. Out of the 6 beers we tried, I liked 4. The line up:

  • Solid Gold Belgian Golden
  • High Water Wit
  • Liger (Belgian-American hybrid ale)
  • Victorville Red
  • Ferêt-Noire (Black Sasion)
  • E.B.C. American Stout

Oddly the Ferêt-Noire was my favorite(it has a light hint of cherries, my favorite fruit), the Liger came in second(nice fruit and spice with a quaint twang of hop), 3rd place was the wit(it was like smooth citrus Barry White style) , and the Golden came in an honorable 4th(it might have done better if I hadn’t drank that red at GCB first). What can I say except I was impressed by their beers and look forward to what they’ll have as the years pass.

As far as what the location looks like: it’s new. Sound seems to bounce in that place very well, so if you can’t hang in alot of noise, you may want to hit them when they first open at 3pm. But I did hear that a patio might be in the works…along with some other things. Also, if you want the most up to date information you’ll want to check out their Facebook page not the website. Their list of beers is way bigger than what’s on the website.

After getting our fill of beery goodness, hangry(so hungry you get angry) was starting to kick in which led us to the next adventure: Ali Baba and the lack of a stunt double.

Vegas, Baby….VEGAS!!!! Part I

Definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Vince Vaughn is one of my male underdog heroes. At the beginning of the movie Swingers, him and a friend are driving

to Vegas from LA and he keeps saying that phrase, “Vegas, baby. VEGAS!!” It’s strange how things stick on the inside of my brain.

There I was. In Vegas. Was I excited? Not really. I’ve never been one to buy into hype and Vegas is seriously hyped. Gambling is not an activity I would consider fun (I could have bought a lot of really good beer with that money), so what does a person do in Vegas when they don’t gamble? Well…go to a 1950’s Rockabilly convention called Viva Las Vegas.

But it was Wednesday and the convention didn’t start until Thursday. So what do I do? Well, see what it might feel like to be a local, of course. I went to the grocery store . I figured out how to use their bus system. Realized there’s no shared bicycle program. Got a good grip on the insanity of how big the blocks are and how much bigger the casinos are. That the only place you really want to walk is on the strip but there’s a ton of drunk people there. Cabs are ridiculously expensive.

Yeah…don’t go to the grocery store. It’s super sad. I thought the veggie section of the Un-Safeway in Denver was horrible. This Vons made me seriously question what the hell people eat in Vegas. It made me re-appreciate Colorado grocery stores so much more.

The bus system, RTC, is only $2 to ride or you can buy a pass at one of their ticket vending machines(TVM), online, or from a list of stores. If you’re on the strip though, NONE of the listed stores carry passes(like the 15 day or month) and you have to buy it from one of the transit centers. If you want just the pass for the strip, then you can purchase it at a TVM on the strip. There’s a 2 hour pass for $6 or a 24 hour pass for $8. If you’re planning a trip to Vegas on a budget, I’d say buy the 15 day pass(depending on how long you’re staying) because it gets you access to everywhere including the strip and buy it in advance online if you can. If you can’t, plan in advance a trip to one of the transit centers. And the bus goes to/from the airport. Bonus!

The cabs are expensive. To ride from where my friends and I were staying to the convention was under 3 miles and it was between $12-$16. I’m a frugal person when it comes to certain things and transportation is one that I skimp on. It’s a means to a destination and arriving in style is not a concern for me.

After a bit of adventure during the day, a nap and downtime was necessary for the evening ahead.

Trust me, I'm doing the best I can.

Trust me, I’m doing the best I can.

Enter: Double Down Saloon. Best. Punk. Dive. Bar. EVER. Okay…maybe best one out of all I’ve been to. I’m not sure how to describe this little piece of heaven in Vegas. It’s Punk. It’s gross. It’s a serious dive bar. It has a photo booth. It has gambling. The best part besides the trashed out bathrooms was the wall by the stage that says “SHUT UP and DRINK”. The jukebox is filled with all the favs of punk, ska, garage, surf, and rockabilly. If you’re not sure if you can make it there while in Vegas, then you’re a wimp because this place is open 24-7. Really. It’s an oasis from the glitz and glamour.

Liters of Love

Liters of Love

After 2 shots of tequila and a PBR there, the next stop was just around the corner. The Hofbräuhaus is the only German beer hall (they claim) in Vegas. Lucky me! Half way into my liter of beer, my cohorts and I decide that the polka is the way to go. The oompah band playing was a little less than enthusiastic when we arrived but once we got our jig on, boy did their spirits rise! Note: When traveling, if a band is playing that you can dance to, do it. There is nothing more fun than potentially making a good fool of yourself trying to dance. Seriously. The back of the haus was pretty neat since it was made to look like you were outside at dusk.

The rest of the night was dancing and bad behavior in general back at the Orleans. My first lesson about casinos happened that night: there are no short cuts when you’re drunk through a casino to your room. It is undoubtedly the longest walk to ever occur in my memory, even after having done 15 mile hikes, so be sure you have a drink with you to keep you company.

P.S. Thank you for the photos, Miss Amanda. 😉

Part two is on it’s way….

Vegas….and My Liver

Fruit roll-ups chase away the hangover monster. Totally.

Fruit roll-ups chase away the hangover monster. Totally.

Last night was an epicly short night of drinking and dancing.

And drunk texting. That’s how it all happens.

After a very stiff vodka cranberry, a few shots, a PBR, and a liter of beer in a span of only a couple of hours, I found myself asking “where did my purse go”? That was a good sign that it was going to just roll down hill fast because I purposely  left my purse in my friend’s room for safety’s sake. It kinda felt like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas sans the oranges.

The last thing I remember is sending a somewhat lewd text to a very cute man while eating a fruit roll-up before the bed drained all desire for consciousness out of me.

You’ll get to hear all about this trip…just not right now. The coffee is kicking in finally and this gypsy needs to get ready for some rockabilly fun.

Viva Las Vegas!!!

Get it!!

Get it!!

My Yeti and Great Divide’s Yeti

There's definitely more than one Yeti.

There’s definitely more than one Yeti.

Great Divide makes an alright stout if you don’t mind a bit more hops and little less malty. I’ve been drinking the 3 they had on tap in their taproom, the classic Yeti, Oak-Aged Yeti, and Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti (all of them at 9.5%ABV). Being an imperial stout, I liked the original version the best. The oak aging gives it a punch that I think could use about an extra year settling in a bottle to get more complexity in the taste and a smoother feel. Maybe that’ll be my next experiment. With drinking the Yeti, memories of my own Yeti put a bitter sweet smile on my face.

In our human existence, I feel we all have our moments of being alone. That’s normal from what I understand. You’re in the middle of the woods or on top of a mountain, by yourself, and you are definitely alone.

The alone feeling I’m about to expound on is different. It’s not an awareness that you are the only human being within a certain amount of distance. It reaches deep into the soul. It hits when you’re being hugged by your best friend for a photo. Or when you’re at a party where everyone knows you and is having a good time. Or when you’re riding your bicycle home and you see through a window a dance lesson. For some strange reason, you know there is no one that thinks or feels like you do. Friends and family might have similar or the same views but for some reason you know it’s not the same. They just don’t get it even though they get it. It’s a really weird feeling. If you’ve felt it, you know what I’m talking about. You are the only one on this planet, just like a Yeti. The only one of your kind. That feeling of alone feels like a machete sticking through you. It totally sucks.

When I met the male version of me, the other Yeti, it floored me. It was like someone did the Vulcan mind meld to us. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had blonde, curly hair, blue eyes, and 6’5″ of fantastic. I’m such a sucker for blue eyes. We would talk for hours about the things that moved us. Anatomy, music, travel, the universe in macro and mini, ridiculous stories from our lives, the pain of being divorced…we shared everything. We would just gaze at each other and understand. We understood each other in a way that I have never experienced since. That’s okay. I’m finally okay with that.

He was the one who asked me, “If you knew you had only 10 years to live, what would you do?” He’s the reason you get to read this blog and why I’ll keep writing.

The last time I saw him, I knew it was the last time. As I walked into the airport, through the sliding doors, I looked behind me. He was sitting in the car watching me walk in and that’s when it hit me.

I will never see him again.

I wanted to cry, but all I could do was stand there and look back. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to get back in the car and go with him where ever he went. I wanted to kiss his beautiful face and tell him I would never leave him, that I would always be his. I have never had a feeling so strong of leaving everything behind just to follow him. My rational mind went out the window. All I wanted was him. I could figure everything else out so long as he was with me. He was my Yeti. How could I leave him?

But I did. I put on my big girl panties, fought back all the tears, waved, smiled and turned away. Of course I wept all the way through the terminal and security, but I walked away. I had to because a plane was leaving and I had a job to get back to. Responsibilities, friends, parties, and the everyday hum drum was waiting for me back in Denver.

He was gone. The snow storm of everyday life blew in and my Yeti disappeared in the whiteout.

I never have that soul feeling of being so-utterly-alone-in-this-world anymore because of him. He has changed me forever. I know he’s out there. The male version of me is out there somewhere doing his thing. I am so incredibly lucky to have known him because I could be the last person on this planet and I wouldn’t be alone. All because I knew him. For one amazing moment, my Yeti loved me and I loved him back.

This one is for you…

 

Houston, We Have a Problem.

This is all sorts of awesome.

This is all sorts of awesome.

Houston, from what little I experienced, is a strange town. Seriously, it’s in Texas and the only cool place in that whole state is Austin.

I was able to keep myself entertained while I was there on a short sabbatical. Besides working on getting a good base tan in April 2011, I found some interesting places to visit.

The Swaminarayan Mandir Temple is pretty freaking cool. It’s a Hindu temple in the middle of suburbia that is hands down stunning. It’s beautiful. It’s all white and sculpted. By sculpted, I mean it looks like someone hand carved in intricate detail every Hindu story ever into every single millimeter of the temple, inside and out. Stunning might not encompass the awe I felt when I walked through it. The gardens and fountains around it are perfect places to contemplate the universe in macro or micro. There’s also a gift shop that sells all sorts of interesting Indian fare on the other side of the complex. The more awesome part: it’s FREE to visit!!! Score!

These guys are the craftiest.

These guys are the craftiest.

Since I was in a city I’ve never been to, of course I look for what breweries are there. I find Saint Arnold Brewing Company the oldest craft brewery in Texas. They won a gold medal at GABF for their Lawnmower kölsch in 2010. Which was good, for a kölsch, I guess. Sorry, I’d much rather drink a good Czech style pilsner or a stout. The tap room looks like something from fables of amazing beer gardens…looooong tables with benches, dark wood, and at the head of it all was the beer. If you decide to do the tour ($8 and you get a souvenier glass), remember to wear close toed shoes. I found it entertaining that the tanks were all named as saints such as Saint Elvis and Saint Dude. Note: this place was not too easy to find so be sure to get directions in advance. As I drank my Lawnmower alone, a few guys decided to strike up a conversation with me which lead me to my next destination.

As any beer gypsy would, I went to an interesting establishment because of those guys in the heart of downtown Houston named the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. They have a number of locations in the States, but that doesn’t make it any less strange or entertaining for me. There’s these huge oddly decorated plates all over the walls and ceiling of regulars that made it though their beer club. Now, I calculated that if I joined the beer club and was able to drink only 3 beers a day that qualified, I’d have to take about 3 months of my life off to get my own saucer. Was that worth 3 months of my life in Houston? Nope. But if you’re looking for food and a huge ass selection of beer, this is the place to go.

Galveston should be on the list of day trips from Houston. It’s a quaint large beach town on the Gulf of Mexico that has lots of history any some very cool places to hang. One such place to visit is Bishop’s Palace. This Victorian era house is hands down, freaking stunning. I’ve been to the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Those are cool. Bishop Palace totally rocks and not just because it’s made of them. The inside is all dark, carved woods, wrought iron, high ceilings, and this old world charm that makes me want to put a big poofy dress on and call out to the butler when I’m receiving guests. There is a special area and screen for where the musicians would perform for parties. How cool is that? AND the Bishop Palace survived storms that knocked out most of Galveston. They just don’t build houses like that anymore.

Since this city is on the Gulf coast, of course you have to visit the beach and the Pirate Museum!!! Come on…it’s pirates. It’s totally cool even if you might think it’s cheesy. Go. You know you want to. Arrr….

I never thought I’d find Houston to be a cool place to hang, but I’d say it’s not so bad. Just don’t get trashed and go skipping through someone’s lawn while the sprinklers are on.