This article originally appeared on AmericanCraftBeer.com.
In the overwhelming world of the Great American Beer Festival, it can be difficult for a brewery to stand out from the others. With 732 breweries in attendance, it’s easy for a brewery to get lost in the shuffle. Some breweries went to great lengths to stand out from the crowd though, such as buying space on the ends of the aisles where they could build their own booth, or decorating their tiny space among the long stretches of brewers so they could be seen from far and wide. And some breweries took an even simpler approach to getting noticed: making delicious beer that everyone talked about during the sessions.
Here’s some breweries that stood out to me during the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (apologies to many Colorado breweries who were left off this list primarily due to familiarity):
To me, The Bruery out of Orange County, CA straight CRUSHED the GABF. They may not have won any medals, but they had the best lineup of beer on offer from top to bottom. Depending on your market, The Bruery’s beers are readily available in 750mL bottles, ranging anywhere from $10-$32 a bottle. That’s a large chunk of change, and sometimes it’s hard to know if it is going to be worth it for those extra expensive bottles.
I can tell you right now that they are more than worth it. If you like unique beer styles with a sour/tart twist, then The Bruery is for you. They had Tart of Darkness, Chocolate Rain, Oude Tart with Cherries, and much more on display for festival attendees. No one else at the festival brought the big guns out this year quite like The Bruery.
Short’s stood out from the crowd at this year’s GABF by having the best booth at the festival. They upgraded to an end-cap space, which showcased a larger-than-life 3D version of their logo atop a cylindrical cooler, which kept their beer cold at all times. Good thing they have great beer to go along with their display, as people crowded around to snap a few pics of the large design.
Sun King Brewery
Sun King gets a mention because they poured copious amounts of Stupid Sexy Flanders, which I already told you in my beer roadtrip piece is one of the best beers in the country. So thanks again for that.
New Glarus Brewing
New Glarus had a perpetually long line during the festival, and for good reason. This only-in-Wisconsin brewery has some epic wild ales that pack as much fruit flavor as your morning cup of juice. Serendipity is quickly becoming a personal favorite, so much so that my perpetual habit of trading for beer from faraway states may have to be solely concentrated on the Cheesehead state for the foreseeable future.
Yes, yes, I know that Goose Island is now persona non grata now that they are owned by the big guy. But to me, they’re keeping inroads open with craft beer lovers by continuing to make some really great and desirable beers, such as their Boubon Country Brand Stouts and their Belgian-style wild ales, Juliet and Lolita. Make great, flavorful beer and people won’t care who owns you in the long run.
The best part of their GABF set-up? They poured it all. From the sours to the barreled and coffee stouts, they had it all on tap. Great to see they knew their audience and even better for those in attendance.
Funky Buddha Brewery
Funky Buddha had a few problems with their beer allotment throughout the festival – running out early, not having it on tap in time for the start of some sessions – but they made up for it with really interesting beer flavors. Their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was quite possibly the most interesting flavor combination at GABF.
Real Ale Brewing
One of the coolest set-ups during the event went to Real Ale Brewing out of Texas. It looked like a metal egg that you could see through (OK, horrible description, just look at the picture). By far the best display at GABF. Another display that went along with great beer, as they won a silver medal for their Altbier.
La Cumbre Brewing Co
I had just been down to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta last week, where I took a trip to La Cumbre’s taproom. There I tasted their Project Dank IPA, which is so freaking hoppy, they can’t even calculate the IBU level! So I knew that I had to follow-up with them at the event and lo and behold, they won a bronze medal in the American-Style IPA category for that very beer. It tastes like eating a hop plant, which I think is the only frontier left for IPA lovers.
Almanac Beer Company
Similar to The Bruery, Almanac impressed me with their beer lineup on offering. They sell expensive farmhouse and barrel-aged beers in the San Francisco area, and it’s again sometimes hard to tell if these beers are worth it. Almanac blew me away with the complexity of flavors in each offering (many of them sours), and knocked the door of my palate down with their Barrel Noir, which puts a lot of other bourbon barrel beers to shame.