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Great American Beer Festival gets record turnout.

Known worldwide as the country's largest gathering of brewers and beer aficionados, the 24th annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver held on Sept. 29-Oct. 1 set a Guinness World Record for the most beers tapped (1,672) in one location. Brewers from 47 states and the District of Columbia participated, with only Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia absent.

The largest GABF to date, it featured 377 breweries pouring brews for more than 29,500 attendees. Competition entries came from 466 breweries, with beers judged in 69 different categories. Many consider the GABF to be the premier competition in the world with at least 109 certified beer experts performing the considerable task of judging so many entries.

The average number of beers entered in each category was 34, with the largest number in the American Style India Pale Ale category with 103 entries; the fewest entries were in the American Style Low Carbohydrate Light Lager, with only 4. More than 200 medals were awarded.

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In a year that showed minimal growth overall in the beer segment, a quick walk of the festival floor made it easy to see why craft beers enjoy a growth rate of more than 7 percent. The GABF has helped establish that, worldwide, there's no more diverse brewing culture than exists in the U.S. Interesting interpretations of classic styles were easy to find. If you go to a craft brewery during autumn, don't be surprised to find a spiced pumpkin ale on their list. While not a medal winner in the spiced ale category, one of the most flavorful pumpkin ales poured at the GABF was the Smuttynose Brewing Co., Portsmouth, NH. Pumpkin and traditional spices create a flavorful treat that pairs well with typical seasonal dishes. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is available through November. (www.smuttynose.com)

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Last April, Duvel USA introduced Rodenbach, a classic Belgian sour brown ale, in a keg (think Sweet Tarts). The GABF offered a remarkable take on this style, with Pizza Port Brewing Co., San Diego, CA, showcasing Le Woody Brune. The beer is a blend of two of their brews, Dawn Patrol Dark and Cardiff Cream Ale. The blend sat in oak barrels for about a year and was then blended from four barrels and mixed with sour cherry puree. This wonderful 5 percent ABV rarity has limited availability in the San Diego area. (www.pizzaport.com)

With American Style IPA's being the largest category of the competition, it's not surprising there were aggressive interpretations of that style. Russian River Brewing Co. of Santa Rosa, CA, took gold with their 8 percent ABV double IPA, Pliny the Elder, but they also brought a Triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, as well. At 11 percent ABV, it has three times the hops of Russian River's regular IPA and is dry hopped four different times. All these hop additions give the beer surprising sweetness. Elder is available year round on draft in CA, PA and DC, while Younger is one of their rotational releases. (www.russianriverbrewing.com)

Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE, poured their 9 percent ABV imperial IPA, called 90 Minute IPA, thru a device they invented called a Randall, an in-line filter packed with hops through which the beer is forced as it is poured. This last filtering through fresh hop cones adds an even more pronounced hop flavor and greatly enhanced floral aromatics. (www.dogfish.com)

Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME, was awarded a gold medal for their beer Allagash White, their interpretation of a Belgian wheat ale. Also called wit, or witbier, it is brewed with generous portions of wheat and flavored with orange peel and coriander. The result is a wonderfully light and fresh tasting beer perfect for summer that sells well year-round, 5.5 ABV, available in keg year round. (www.allagash.com)

New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus, WI, brought a delicious 4 percent ABV beer that tastes like a French pastry in a glass. Called Raspberry Tart Ale, it introduces Oregon raspberries to the brew which is then fermented spontaneously in large oak vats, giving this liquid dessert incredible color and bouquet. Best served in a champagne flute. Available in 750ml bottles and keg only in Wisconsin. (www.newglarusbrewing.com)

Anheuser-Busch was arguably the surprise of the festival, introducing many new brews. First in a series of four seasonal draughts the company is planning to introduce, Jack's Spiced Pumpkin Ale, is available in keg nationwide thru mid-December. This 5.5 percent ABV autumn offering is flavored with Golden Delicious pumpkins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. A-B also introduced their Michelob Specialty Sampler Collection featuring new offerings Michelob Spiced Pumpkin Ale, Michelob Marzen and a dry-hopped Michelob Pale Ale. Perhaps most interesting at their booth were two blueberry beers. Now being test marketed in Boston in a blue bottle is A-B's Blue Horizon, a 5 percent ABV, slightly sweet lager blended with all natural blueberry juice which imparts a pleasant blueberry aroma and flavor. And Wild Blue, a similar but bigger beer at 8 percent ABV, is being test marketed in Grand Rapids, MI. (www.anheuser-busch.com)

RELATED ARTICLE: GABF Winners

Here are the winners at this year's Great American Beer Festival:

Large Brewing Company of the Year: Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO, brewmaster Doug Muhleman

Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year: New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI, brewmaster Dan Carey

Small Brewing Company of the Year: Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field, Denver, CO, brewmaster Tom Hail

Large Brewpub of the Year: Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery #3, Wilmington, DE, brewmaster Mark Edelson

Small Brewpub of the Year: Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR, brewmaster Darron S. Welch
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Title Annotation:CURRENTS
Author:Alexander, David
Publication:Cheers
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:950
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