What I Learned on My Beer Vacation: Tales from Local Brewers

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver earlier this month drew 49,000 brew-lovers thirsty to sample more than 4,000 beers from 580 different brewers. A few Dallas brewers made the trip, including Deep Ellum Brewing Co., gold medal winner Peticolas and Chris Rigoulot, who will open Noble Rey Brewing Co. early next year in Grapevine. I asked them what they learned after being in a (huge) room for three days with so many beers. Not so much in terms of beer tasting notes, but more in terms of the overall experience.

See Also: Texas Brewers Win Big at GABF Drew Huerter, head brewer, of DEBC

• When in doubt, attendees go for the higher ABV.

• Starting with a Great Divide mid-morning makes for a long day. Lesson learned. (We assume he's not referring to the half chocolate/half vanilla ice cream treat from Blue Bell. We start our mid-morning with those all the time and feel great.)

• There were plenty of excellent beers that failed to medal.

• Brewpub chains have a distinct advantage in the competition (due to allowable entries).

• For the love of all that is holy, stay hydrated.

Tait Lifto, DEBC sales ninja • It's a total party foul to drop your glass anytime during the festival. You will get loudly booed.

• Hydrating is important.

• The brotherhood among the brewing community is alive and thriving. And that also goes for the passion for the process. At the end of the day we're all working towards the same goal.

• Flatulence is afloat. When you get a bunch of men in a big room and they're all drinking beer all day, it gets smelly.

Chris Rigoulot of Noble Rey Brewing • As the owner of a brewery in planning, this was a huge education for me. I was able to mingle with other brewery owners and brewers. Mostly we talked about what types of beers we liked the most, but I was also able to glean some valuable knowledge about how to finance, where to look for the best equipment and most important that nothing ever goes according to plan in the beginning.

• There are folks who will go to any lengths to promote Texas craft beers including outfitting a 1970s bus with taps on the outside so that they could give away free beer from many Texas craft breweries. The Beerliner is owned by Davis Tucker, who also owns NXNW in Austin.

• The final thing I learned, and this is important, come prepared. This means you better have your pretzel necklace ready! On the first day I noticed a ton of people walking around with pretzels hanging off lanyards and was curious as to why? Well, it seems that pretzels make for a great palate cleanser for all of the hops.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.