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Fear and Loathing in Denver


A long, beautiful, beer-drenched dream
Festivals January 9, 2003      
Written by Volgon


Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE -



<P>Note: names have been changed to protect the innocent.
<P>Thursday 7:45AM: The flight to Denver goes well, I slept most of way with
visions of hops dancing in my head. The Great American Beer Festival starts
tonight and I can hardly wait.

<P>1PM: I'm in my hotel room and getting ready to wander the town looking for food.

<P>4:45PM: I'm tenth in line for the GABF and they let us in half an hour early at...

<P>5PM: I pause at the entryway to see a huge area ahead of me, several times bigger than any beer event I've ever been to. I fly by Michael Jackson at the entrance (the beer critic, not the
pedophile), see CleanMike and the rest of the Marther's crew who are working
there. Sam Adams Utopias stands out, although it is not listed in any
program. I tell many a beer drinker about it, including a group hanging out
by the Pabst table. Poor fools. I wonder if they know what they are getting
into? My palette is already in trouble and I've only had about 25 beers.
Afterward a group of us head to Rock Bottom. Mediocre beer, good food and
great company.

<P>The group goes and I wander the streets with my map attempting to find the
Falling Rock. I find it and discover that they have many beers I've been
looking for. I chat with a beer-lover for hours. He reads each of the 800+
beers on my printed sheet. "Orval...only a 4.0?!!", he yells. I explain that
I've had it since and it's now a 4.3. "It's better than that", he replies.
We spend a long time talking about many beers and tell him to check out
RateBeer.com.

<P>2AM: The bar is closing and I'm bombed. I take a cab back to the motel with
a couple who is also there for the GABF. We go back to my room for a
barleywine, but that finishes them off quick.

<P>3AM: I fall asleep.

<P>Friday Noon: My head is killing me. The left-over pizza from the Rock Bottom
claims my stomach and the next 4 hours goes between sleeping and drinking
water.

<P>4:30PM: I'm in line, about 15 back.

<P>5:30PM: They let us in and the
crowd charging up the escalator is covered by a FoodTV film crew.
Friday goes by fast. I eat sushi as soon as I get inside and then sample
beer until late. Just like yesterday the pen rarely stops moving. It's much
more crowded than on Thursday, yet good brewers have small lines to get
their beers. People ask about the clipboard. “Are you a judge?” “What is
the best beer here?” I direct people to Pizza Port. I feel a tap on the
back, it's Kaya262! We try a bunch of different breweries together and
compare notes. CleanMike bows out early to hit the Falling Rock. The night
ends and I get an Arrogant Bastard t-shirt. I am worthy. Drop off everything
at the hotel room except some RateBeer sheets and a pen. Walk 10 blocks to
Falling Rock. Drunk locals try to persuade me to go to a sports bar, after
informing me that there is plenty of good beer there, like Heineken. They
are quickly mocked and deserted. Two Hair of the Dogs later, the Marther's
crew bolts and I go inside. After a pint or two, I decide I can't be in the
same condition tomorrow that I awoke in. I give some bicycle-cab people crap
for having Bud Light ads on the bike and then take a cab home. It's 1AM and
I'm beat.

<P>Saturday AM: It must be the altitude, but I feel like crap. A handful of
cashews later, I'm walking to the GABF. This time for two sessions in a row.
Now I'm sitting on cold concrete that is somehow soothing, yet very
uncomfortable. How am I going to survive this? I'm 10th in line, tired,
hungry and with a low grade headache. I'm counting on the sushi vendor to
give me energy once I'm inside. The line keeps growing, and so does the pain
that I'm in. The cold concrete has numbed my ass, but my legs don't want to
stand. I try not to think about the state that I'll be in after 8 hours of
drinking. My left lower leg muscle keeps on seizing up. Maybe the headache
is a lack of hydration and oxygen? A hangover? Or simply caffeine
withdrawal? I haven't had any coffee since Thursday AM, but there's no way
I'm losing my place in line and besides a scalding cup of black coffee will
only mess up my taste buds.

<P>There's an older crowd in line. It is out of sight again...

<P>"Have your tickets out and IDs ready!" shouts a voice that snaps me to
attention. Instantly the pain is gone. I barely notice one of my legs is
asleep and on pins and needles. I have some serious work to do and all day
Sunday to ache.

<P>50 beers later...

<P>Saturday between sessions: I am a rocking powerhouse of beer fueled mayhem.
Sushi is my energy. Beer my painkiller. I'm about 100 people back in line. A
much younger crowd than earlier. I ponder the events that unfolded in the
last few hours. My mind goes back to the session I just left and I struggle
to write it down. Like talking to Michael Jackson. I thanked him and asked
his option on Utopias. "I like anything that's different". I ditch him
quick, I got a lot of rating to do and I'm not doing that following MJ
around. The awards are mostly a farce. Busch beats Bud? Stone, Pizza Port
and Utopias not getting any medals? Giving out medals to macro lights over
micro lights that are clearly superior in every way? WTF? No RateBeer
members are seen.

<P>I snap back to reality again, staring at a row of pretzels suspended
perfectly on a young woman's breast. It takes a second before I realize that
neither the pretzels nor her bosom are magical. It is a pretzel necklace. A
thousand various thoughts, desires, and things to say enter my mind. Without
breaking eye-contact with the pretzels, I point at them and make a Homer
Simpson drooling noise. She understands me and points to a man selling them
to my left. I wave at him and soon, I'm eating my own pretzel necklace, but
still looking at hers.

<P>All of a sudden the line starts moving and I'm up. I only have about 6 hours
of being conscious left in this town. I better be sure to write all I can,
as a quick reread of my notes tell nothing about the event itself, besides
the 150 or so beers that I have rated. Kaya272 and Rongo are spotted and
then quickly lost when my back is turned.

<P>I'm back at the hotel. How the hell did I get here? Where's the article on
the GABF that I was going to write? I have to start writing while this is
fresh in my mind.

<p>The alarm clock goes off. I throw clothes, glasses, bottles (where did this
bottle come from?), and about 50 sheets of paper covered in notes into my
bag. The elevator opens to the lobby.

<P>How the heck am I getting to the airport? The people in the lobby point to
an awaiting shuttle bus in front and I'm off. I wake up when the plane
touches ground. I'm home. If it wasn't for the notes, I'm not sure that I
could convince myself the previous three days weren't a dream. A long
beautiful beer drenched dream.

................................................................

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