The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held in Denver each October, is the American beer industry's most prestigious event. More than 49,000 ticketholders, media, judges, volunteers and brewery staff attended this year's event, held Oct. 10-12. Tickets for the festival sold out in 20 minutes. There were 624 participating breweries, and they worked hard to secure slots.
Abita and Bayou Teche Brewing were able to sign up immediately for GABF, and NOLA Brewing joined them after a short stint on the waiting list. The Louisiana breweries took their responsibilities to represent the state seriously. "People were so intrigued to hear about how we involve our culture in everything we do from our beer, music, food, art and just simple good living," said Derek Domingue, Bayou Teche's sales and marketing representative.
This was NOLA's fifth year at the festival, and president Kirk Coco notes that NOLA's specialty beer Girl Stout Cookie — its Irish Channel Stout made with mint leaves and cocoa nibs — was popular, resulting in long lines and positive comments. "Feedback from GABF influences how we produce our beers," Coco said, adding that Girl Stout Cookie should be commercially available within the next year.
When the winners were announced, Abita's Andygator was awarded a silver medal in the bock beer category. This is Abita's first GABF medal and the first one given to current Louisiana breweries (Tom Conklin of Gordon Biersch won a silver medal for Bohemian Pilsner in 2009). Abita recently began offering Andygator in six packs of 12-ounce bottles.
"The true mark of the beer being well-received is the returning customers," said Keith Pumilia, Abita's draft specialist and former brewer (pictured wearing Abita's bock beer silver medal). "We had people hang out in our area all night and (keep) coming back to drink Abita."