Close your eyes and imagine your perfect beer heaven. What do you see? A room filled to the brim with every different kind beer imaginable? A hearty stock of delicious food? A complete and utter lack of drunk dumb asses? This is exactly what the Great American Beer Festival Judges Party offered to its select few partygoers.
Open strictly to brewers and contest judges, the party provided everyone a way to kick back and celebrate the end of the beer competition. Every beer left over from the judging sat in huge tubs full of ice that lined the entire room. But this party wasn’t about getting sloshed; it was about exploring beer and getting the chance to sample some brews you may never see again.
Small tasting glasses and bottle openers were set out to make sampling simple. Partygoers rummaged through the tubs, looking for whatever sparked their interest, then poured a small bit, drank and moved onto the next tub. It was a great way to find that certain beer you’ve always wanted to try or discover a new favorite.
The party also offered an interesting array of food to keep everyone at a balanced buzz. There was of course pizza with a perfect balance of greasiness and substance – the epitome of drunk food. For the classier drinker, the Judges Party also served up sophisticated salmon spread on whole wheat crackers.
At first the party was a bit overwhelming. I mean, how do you pick a beer when you’re looking at a tub with nine different IPAs you’ve never tried from breweries you’ve never heard of? But that mystery and cluelessness helped make the exploration all the more enjoyable and eventually led to some great finds. My favorites from the night included Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ Far West Vlaming, a tart yet subtly spicy beer with a dark fruity taste, and Prescott Brewing Company’s Achocolypse, the chocolatiest, richest porter I’ve ever tried and what everyone who tasted it called Coco Puffs beer – a true chocoholic’s favorite.