The best part about the Great American Beer Festival is the rare finds — the fantastic breweries and beers you never knew existed. Yes, it’s easy to go to the breweries that we all know and love, the ones with long lines, but the best beers are those new discoveries via the small breweries from other parts of the country.
RELATED: Photos from opening night of GABF 2019
Here are some of those finds from Thursday night, the first night of GABF:
- HopFly Brewing Co., Rock Mount, N.C. — Tablebanger. This New England-style IPA with Citra and Waimea hops is smooth, citrusy and, at 5.4% ABV, was the best haze I had all night. Also, Hopfly’s triple IPA, Trail Magic (9% ABV), is dangerously good.
- J. Wakefield Brewing, Miami, Fla. — Haterade. Could there be a more colorful beer? This bright pink Berliner Weisse tastes exactly like fruit punch, but with 6% ABV. Is this beer? Yes? May I have another?
- Six Rivers Brewery, McKinleyville, Calif. — Raspberry Lambic. This is a Belgian dubbel fermented with 480 pounds of whole raspberries. It pours deep red and smacks you upside the head with raspberries. This understated brewery also has an interesting chile pepper beer that won a medal in 2004.
- Pure Project Brewery, San Diego, Calif. – Rain. This unfiltered Pilsner is crispy, understated and clean. Pure Project taps beers in stages throughout the festival, so it’s always a good thing to check back with this excellent brewery.
- Pizza Port Brewing Co., San Diego, Calif. — Hazy AF. Another good New England-style IPA. And, yes, it is rather hazy, with notes of grapefruit. Really, you can’t go wrong with almost every beer at this brewery chain.
- Orpheus Brewing, Atlanta, Ga. — Under the Shadows. This wild ale was aged in wine barrels for three years and features 5 pounds of blueberries per gallon. Did you know that blueberries are one of Georgia’s biggest agricultural exports? I didn’t, either, but brewer Jason Pellett handed out that tidbit as he poured. The whole lineup is amazing at this brewery — try the Dark Everlasting, an imperial stout with black coconut and vanilla beans aged 14-39 months in whiskey barrels. At 13.6% ABV, it’s kind of a beast, but that’s a running theme at Orpheus.
- Nothing’s Left Brewing, Tulsa, Okla — Deez Nuts, a chocolate peanut butter stout. You can find this beer at the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma booth. Definitely don’t skip the Brewers Guild section, which features guild representatives from several states, and they bring beers that aren’t being poured elsewhere in the festival.
- Cosmic Eye Brewing, Lincoln, Neb. — 1,000 Truths. This rye IPA is stuffed with Mosaic hops and hits all the right notes. I loved all of the beers from this small, family-owned brewery in the heartland.
- Ology Brewing Co., Tallahasse, Fla. — DDH Sensory Overload. Another good hazy, New England-style IPA. Can you see a trend? This one sticks the finish with a big, juicy landing. Also, check out the beers from their Juice Lab series.
- Modern Times Beer, San Diego, Calif. — Mega Devil’s Teeth. Stop by Modern Times’ booth early to get a taste of this special-release beer that, according to brewers, always runs out early. The 13.5% ABV barrel-aged imperial stout is brewed with macadamia nuts, coconut and cocoa to create a rich, velvety dessert beer that manages to be indulgent but not overly sweet. It’s a treat.
Entertainment Editor Beth Rankin contributed to this report.
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