Great American Beer, the chicken Dance and Discotays

by Chris Aaland

While thousands crawled down Second Ave. last weekend, serious suds hounds trekked over hill and dale to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for a beerfest of record proportions: the 28th annual Great American Beer Festival. Of note: 49,000 people sampled 2,101 beers — 18,000 gallons total — from 457 breweries. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in 78 categories.

Our little burg was well represented. Durango Brewing took home gold in the American style amber lager category for Durango Colorfest. Ska Brewing won a silver in the English style brown ale category for Buster Nut Brown, plus bronzes for True Blonde and Steel Toe Stout in the English style summer ale and sweet stout categories, respectively.

My man on the street at GABF — or my eyes, ears, taste buds and headache, so to speak — was Lady Falconburgh’s own Andy Robinson. In true gonzo fashion, hangovers prevented the Muffin Man from catching a lot of the fun stuff, including the brewers’ breakfast featuring Goat Vodka bloodies. Some of the other things Muff missed were the silent disco (contestants wore earbuds and listened to music; the crowd heard silence and watched countless drunks gyrate to their own tune) and the farm-to-table pavilion (where top Colorado chefs and farmers paired locally grown food with award-winning ales).

But Muff waxed poetically about the beer, which was really the point of the whole thing. Some of his favorites appear at the end of this column.

Those of us here drank in support of the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Oktoberfest. I took in about four hours of the gala and came to realize a few truths along the way. First, show up early — particularly on Sunday morning — to avoid long lines at the beer and food tents. Second, the Chicken Dance will rear its ugly head every time a polka band takes the stage. Most notably, though, was the realization that some people just don’t get it. The good folks of the SJCA and like-minded businesses, musicians and artists promote sustainability and fun. Still, I saw numerous people rebuff the virtues of alternative energy and wilderness protection. One dude proudly sported his “I’ll keep my money, guns and freedom – you keep your ‘change’” T-shirt, trolling for confrontation. Another argued with a volunteer that information about alternative energy was totally driven by “Obama and the liberals” and had no place at the festival.

These guys have the same first amendment rights as me, and I’m glad they shelled out their hard-earned money for $4 pints to benefit the SJCA. But leave the help alone. A simple “no thank you” will suffice.

One of the things Oktoberfest also does is spotlight local and regional musical talent. This week’s musical fare is largely of the homegrown variety.

October’s First Friday event at the Summit blends live visual art and music and showcases Red Cloud & Def Rare, plus resident DJ Mowgli on Friday. Diabolical Sound Platoon brings its beats and rhymes upstairs on Saturday.

Head out to the Ska Brewing World Headquarters from 5-7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) for progressive surf and grindcore by the Discotays and indie rock by Parlait Outre.

The Starlight’s slate this week includes live jazz with Sound Advice at 6 p.m. Friday, Spark Madden at 9 p.m. Saturday, Musica del Mundo at 9 p.m. Sunday and Jonezy’s Club Medz on Wednesday.

The Kirk James Blues Band struts its stuff at the Billy Goat Saloon in Gem Village from 9 p.m. ‘til 1 a.m. Friday and at Virginia’s Steakhouse at Vallecito from 8:30 p.m. ‘til 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

This week’s free concert at the FLC amphitheatre features a dub rock band. Music starts at 7 p.m. tonight. In case of rain, the show moves indoors to the Student Union solarium.

There’s no live music at the Abbey this week, but rockers might want to check out “It Might Get Loud,” a film by Davis Guggenheim that features guitar gods Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.

Grindcore/surf outfit The Discotays plays Ska tonight, Thurs., Oct. 1

It’s not too early to start practicing for KDUR’s next cover night. Dec. 5 might seem a long time off, but it isn’t if your band needs to hone up on Creedence Clearwater Revival and Guns ‘n’ Roses covers. Contact Bryant Liggett at 247-7261 or to reserve a slot at CCR vs. GNR Cover Night and pick your songs.

This week’s Top Shelf list is a list of Great American Beer Fest highlights provided by Lady Falconburgh’s general manager Andy Robinson. Muff has turned me on to countless fine beers over the years. His trip to Denver was R&D-based: partying in the face of adversity:

1. My personal favorite beer of the whole festival was O’Dell’s Bourbon Barrel Stout. This one may be featured on tap at Falc’s in the future.

2. O’Dell also had another small-batch release called Woodcut No. 2 Oak Aged Golden Ale that was outstanding.

3. Stone had a great booth and long lines. They featured mostly their mainlines – Arrogant Bastard and the like.

4. Deschutes poured a fresh hop beer from the Oregon Hop Growers Association. It reminded me of Hop Trip, pale on the front with a floral finish as opposed to being bitter.

5. Shiner was a lot of fun, with a castle around their booth.

6. Russian River had a great showing with such brews as Blind Pig IPA, Pliney the Elder, Damnation and Supplication. They won a pair of bronze medals for Blind Pig in the American-style India pale ale category and for Supplication in the Belgian-style lambic or sour ale category.

7. Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA took home gold in the American-style strong pale ale category. Bear Republic also had a nice get together at a bar called the Icehouse.

8. The Ska booth attracted huge crowds. They poured all of their canned beers — True Blonde, Modus Hoperandi, ESB, Euphoria — plus Decadent Imperial IPA.

9. Non-stop parties, both before and after the event.

10. Although it wasn’t related to the festival, about 20 Durango folks went to Red Rocks to see the Irish rebel rock of Flogging Molly and ska by the Hepcats. Bill Graham wore his three GABF medals around his neck while he danced. Fortunately, no blood was shed. •

Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker? E-mail me at



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