1. You've got to love a beer festival where there are touts on constant patrol outside the venue, because tickets sold out after just one week
2. Something has changed. This event is louder, more raucous, more masculine than it was five years ago, last time I was here. There are fewer women here than there used to be. The vast hall is a constant roar. I think there might be a link between extreme hops and elevated testosterone.
3. “There’s no margin in having enemies” – John Hickenlooper, Governor of the state of Colorado and former craft brewer, perfectly sums up the good business sense that drives the spirit of cooperation in craft brewing everywhere.
4. A sample pour size of 1oz (ie one twentieth of a UK pint) is not enough to really coat the tongue, so it’s impossible to taste any beer properly.
5. After fifteen years, in business, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head is still constantly behind the Dogfish Head stand, still selling his beers personally to a queue of fans stretching down the hall, tirelessly greeting everyone who wants to shake his hand, have their photo taken with him, have him sign stuff. You still want to not be impressed by him, to not be taken in by his boyish charisma. But you still are.
6. It’s too busy. Despite the tiny sample pour size, every single beer I’m interested in trying has a huge queue to get those miniscule measures. The size of the measures simply feeds back into making the queues bigger. It’s therefore impossible to get a good taste of a great beer. The system is broken.
7. In general, it reminds me a lot more of the Great British Beer Festival than it did when I was last here five years ago. I think this is partly due to the GABF not being quite as good as it once was (see points 2 and 6), but mainly due to the GBBF being quite a bit better than it once was.
8. Wells & Young’s have relaunched Courage Imperial Stout here. Wells & Young’s is often criticised in the UK for having a dull portfolio of beers relative to its competitors. (They rationalised the range of interesting Young’s beers when they took over that range, and they don’t place as much emphasis on seasonals and limited editions as their key competitors do.) Now, they’re reviving a truly legendary beer – but it’s only going to be available in the US. It won't be available in the UK for another year. I have no idea why, in the present British beer climate, any company with such an amazing asset would be so over-cautious with it.
9. There are carpets. And the teeny sample glasses are made of plastic. (All events are a mix of good and bad, swings and roundabouts)
10. There is life after extreme hops. And it's here too. And that's good.