From October 9th to 15th I enjoyed an excellent, fun packed trip to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival 2007. Hereís what I got up to :-
Tuesday 9th October 2007
An early start today as I needed to be at Manchester Airport by 0900 to check in for my flight to Chicago. I had finalised all the packing the night before so all there was to do was put the travel bag in the boot of the car, I opted against taking a suitcase this time as I thought the bag would be more portable and this thankfully did prove to be the case.
My plane was an Airbus and the airline was BMI who I hadnít flown with before but were fine, I even had the added bonus of a window seat for the 8 hour flight. Soon we were flying over the Atlantic and lunch was being served. I opted for the risotto which was very tasty and quite filling. Later into the flight sandwiches were served along with various drinks and the time passed pretty quickly as we headed towards the USA. The approach to Chicago was particularly impressive as we flew directly over Lake Michigan which I never realised was so vast until I saw it close up! It was a warm if slightly breezy afternoon when we arrived at OíHare Airport where as a visitor to the USA I had to collect my baggage and clear customs and immigration. No problems here thankfully and I was soon able to hop on the monorail shuttle from Terminal 5 to 1 where I could then pick up my onward flight to Denver.
This flight departed only 90 minutes or so after arrival time in Chicago so there was just about time to get my first beer of the trip at a cafť bar in the Airport. It was a German dark lager style beer and went down very well. I drank up and boarded my Denver flight, this time flying with United Airlines on a Boeing aircraft. This was a much shorter flight but they were still serving drinks and snacks. I opted for tomato juice with a slice of lemon which was something I hadnít tried before but apparently popular in the USA. After a couple of hours flying we approached Denver and touched down about 1630 local time, the weather warm and sunny. Sadly by the time I had rode another airport monorail and collected my baggage I had just missed the hourly Skyride bus service into Downtown Denver so I went to the travel office and picked up some brochures and timetables which would come in handy during my stay.
It was still quite warm and sunny when I boarded the 1745 bus into Denver. I had ridden on this service the last time I was here back in 2005 so it was nice to relate to some of the places en route into town. I got off at Market Street Station which is pretty well the centre of Downtown by which time it was around 1845. To get to my hotel, La Quinta Denver, I then needed to get to the 16th and Lawrence Street junction to board a number 38 bus which rolled up just before 1900. I already had a route map for this bus so quite easily worked out where to alight. From the bus stop it was only a couple of hundred yards walk and then across a main road and I was there. Check in was remarkably easy too and it wasnít long before I got handed my keycard to my room. First thing that was noticeable was the giant and very comfy bed which guaranteed a good nights sleep every time. The room was en suite and had plenty of space, TV, coffee machine etc, really everything I needed for my stay. I wasnít in the least bit tired from the journey so after a quick shower and a change I decided I would walk back into Downtown and reacquaint myself with some of my favourite bars.
I soon found myself at Union Station as my hotel was on Park Avenue West, just after the railroad depot and the famous Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play their home games. From Union Station I hopped on the free Mall Ride which is a very useful service that takes you up and down 16th Street. I got off again at Market Street and headed for the Celtic Tavern on Blake Street as this was one of the bars that wasnít open when we visited in 2005. It was pretty quiet in here and the mood was nice and relaxed. I ordered up my first American IPA of the trip and this went down very well. I followed up with an Irish style ale and then took the short walk to the Wynkoop Brewery which is an old favourite of mine. I had joined the American Homebrewers Association prior to my trip and the membership card offers several discounts in certain bars all across the USA, the particular deal in the Wynkoop being happy hour prices all the time! What I remember most about this place from my last visit is the friendly atmosphere and hospitality of the staff and this thankfully was still the case this time around. I started off with a pine of their light ale and then their American IPA. The brewer then came over for a chat and was telling me which brews were going into the GABF competition this year. He gave me a sample of one of their strong specials, a barley wine straight out of the barrel which was a great beer and then recommended I try his English style bitter which again was on top form. Suitably refreshed I didnít feel like going back to the hotel just yet so it was back on to Blake Street for a visit to the Falling Rock Taphouse. This place is probably the bar with the biggest choice of beer in town with over 70 taps available! The staff here are fun and lively and really get into the party spirit along with the drinkers. The barman pointed me to an American IPA which was being served English style on handpump so I tried this first. There were some special beers they had got in just for festival week so those were the next to be had, first a lovely dark strong porter and to finish off the night a Belgian style strong ale. I met some more great people whilst drinking in here including 3 chefs from the Jax Fish House in Downtown who very kindly invited me to their restaurant. Being near the ball park at Coors Field I decided I would walk back to the hotel which didnít take too long at all and I was ready for a good nights sleep with an early start scheduled for the next morning.
Wednesday 10th October 2007
Looking at the hotel brochure the La Quinta was serving up breakfast between the hours of 0600 and 0830 so I figured it would be a good idea to get some food as today was the Boulder Beer Cruise bus tour which was leaving Denver at 0900. Breakfast was a self service style with cereals, juices, coffee, bagels, and mini hot dog type things which I hadnít seen before but tasted very nice all the same. I allowed myself some walking time and set off for Downtown, again taking the easiest route to Union Station following the tracks from where I hopped on the Mall Ride which I took all the way to Stout Street. A short walk down this street took me to the Colorado Convention Center, home of the GABF and starting point of the Boulder Beer Cruise, excellently organised by the Left Hand Brewery of Longmont. Our tour guide greeted us as we boarded the bus and handed out leaflets and a free t shirt. We got underway at about 0915 and headed North through some lovely scenery with the Rocky Mountains too our left and vast open plains to our right.
First stop on the tour was Boulder and the Boulder Beer Company which they told us was Coloradoís oldest micro brewery and we arrived here at 1000. Breakfast tortillas were laid on here and a free pint so I went for their porter. I decided not to do the brewery tour here as you could actually see most of the set up it being very open plan. A little more ambitious was to try their sampler, a range of 10 beers that they brewed in small sample glasses which included golden and copper ales, amber ale, dry hopped ale, IPA, double IPA and a special spiced beer. Normally this would be fine only we didnít have too much time before we had to set off to the 2nd brewery so it was just a case of getting a taster of what these guys brewed really. I got talking to a very friendly couple from New Jersey in here, the people on our bus had travelled from all over the USA for festival week and there were some from further a field too such as myself and also a group of guys from Sweden. We left the Boulder Beer Company at 1115 for the short journey to Longmont and the Left Hand Brewery, home of the organisers of the trip. Arrival at the Left Hand was at 1140 and we again treated ourselves to a complimentary drink, I chose the 10.4% Imperial Stout which was smooth and had plenty of strength and flavour. I took the brewery tour here and found it very informative, this place actually used to be a sausage factory before being a brewery and the reason for the name Left Hand is a translation of the name of a local native Indian chief from back in history. Soon we were off to our 3rd brewpub of the day, leaving the Left Hand at 1310 for the 5 minute run across town to the Pumphouse Brewery which used to be a fire station. This was a more modern large building with lots of sports memorabilia on the walls and a large restaurant area attached to the brewery. I went for another stout here, this time the Backdraft which was a blend of 2 stouts, one 4 years old and the other from 2007, matured in American and French oak barrels and including in itís ingredients Belgian semi sweet chocolate and tart Michigan cherries to produce an exquisite tasting beer to savour. Lunch was also laid on here where we enjoyed frankfurter hot dogs and sauerkraut. Another brewery tour was on offer here and it was amazing how open plan this brewery is, on brewing days you can actually see the guys going through their brewing process, and of course all the aromas that go with it. After doing the tour and drinking up it was time to head to our last brewery on the tour, the Oskar Blues in Lyons and we left for here at 1440. The guys at Left Hand at this point generously handed out some of their bottled beers to the people on the bus and I chose to have their Deep Cover Brown Ale which was pale and malty with plenty of fresh hop aroma and taste. Arrival at the Oskar Blues was just after 1500 and this was my favourite location we had visited being situated right in the Rocky Mountains with excellent views in all directions. For the first drink I again went for the stout here and this was nice and strong with some coffee roast. Iíd heard about this place having a dedicated arcade room with lots of 1980s games to play but I didnít find it but was assured by a woman from South Carolina who I had got talking to earlier on our bus that the room was indeed there, a shame I missed out on this but I did get to see Oskar Blues canning plant. Itís unusual for a craft beer to be produced in a can but these guys had perfected their process to produce a very smooth tasting beer, not at all as over carbonated as I thought a canned beer might be. The canned beer I tried was called Old Chub which was a Scottish style ale and tasted very nice with plenty of malt and roast flavours coming through. I also got to sample their pale ale thanks to another of the guys on the bus.
We left the Oskar Blues at 1630 for the return trip to the Convention Center back in Denver and by now the bus had got quite noisy after all the alcohol we had consumed. The most amusing part was that the Swedes had got this beer chant going ĎBeera beera beera boise boise boiseí which is probably not at all how it is spelt in Swedish but apparently means Ďmore beer, more beerí and by the end of the trip all the Americans had joined in the chant too! Arrival back at the Convention Center was just after 1730 and our bus driver who was heading home to Golden very kindly offered to drop me back off at my hotel as he was going that way so I arrived back at the La Quinta just before 1800 where I showered and got changed for the evening.
I was soon walking back into Downtown to pick up a Mall Ride shuttle from Union Station which I took to Wazee Street as I was off to meet up with Kyle and the guys, the chefs who had invited me to Jax Fish House. When I arrived and announced myself at the Jax Fish House the hospitality was amazing, they poured me some Avery IPA which went down very well then invited me to take a seat as they then brought me a platter of West and East Coast oysters which really did have different tastes and textures. A funny moment then occurred as they supplied me with some Cholula to go with the oysters but not knowing just how hot this sauce was I took a mouthful of it and my throat nearly caught fire! This stuff is great but I think only intended to be used in dashes so I reached straight for my IPA in order to cool down.To follow this I enjoyed a ĎSeafood Dynamiteí which was a mixture of various prawns and shellfish in a creamy and slightly spicy sauce, very tasty. I thanked the guys for their brilliant service and needed to be at the Pre GABF Party which was a gathering of beer drinkers who had clubbed together to bring some of the rarer and aged beers along for a mass tasting. So it was back to 16th Street for the Mall Ride down to Curtis Street then a few blocks walk to a darkly lit part of town where there was an old synagogue. Strobe lights lit the staircase and this reminded me of some of the old rave venues we used to go to back in the UK. I knew I was in the right place when I entered a large white room to find barrels of beer set up around the place and some music playing. Here I met up with Kevin who I had spoke to by email before my trip and he then introduced me to some of the other USA drinkers, Jeff, Ernest, KP and Logan, the guy who organised the party. Many rare and aged beers were tried here and we spent a good couple of hours or more enjoying the atmosphere before heading down to the Falling Rock Taphouse to finish off the night. The Falling Rock again had got hold of some special beers and I tried an IPA from California which had plenty of hop and fruit flavours. I followed up with 2 more IPAís as I enjoy the American ones because they tend to be far more hopped up and flavoursome than the ones I can get back home in the UK so it was really a case of making the most of them. After last orders we were all a bit hungry so Kevin, Jeff, Ernest and I headed off to a pizza parlour where we nearly witnessed a fight between a couple of drunks, one had called the other a bum and he had retorted that he wasnít old but I think things calmed down at that point and the guys cooled off and went their separate ways. We had the pizza and then Kevin wandered off home in a drunken manor leaving Jeff to cycle back across town and Ernest and I to walk back to the hotel, coincidentally we were staying at the same place. It mustíve been around 0300 by the time I got back to the hotel so it was a case of just watching a little TV before crashing out in order to keep up with the Colorado Rockies play off score against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Rockies were going for the World Series and had made a great start winning the first couple of games in a best of 7 contest)
Thursday 11th October 2007
Today was the first day of the GABF but the opening session didnít start until 1730 so I thought I would take a trip to the Bull & Bush Pub in Cherry Creek which is a pleasant leafy suburb on the South East side of Denver. I was up quite early again and after breakfast walked down to Union Station to catch the Mall Ride to Market Street. The original plan was to catch 2 buses but I had just missed one and didnít fancy waiting around for the next one so I took a walk to the Convention Center where I picked up the Light Rail service to Louisiana & Pearl which is about a quarter of an hour trip. I had seen the Light Rail running around town several times but this was my first trip on one and itís much faster than taking the bus as it doesnít have the problem of getting stuck in traffic. I arrived at Louisiana & Pearl just before 1100 and found the bus stop where the Crosstown service 11 went from. After another 15 minute wait and then a further 15 minute journey I arrived on Cherry Creek Drive South. Unfortunately the bus driver didnít know the exact location of the Bull & Bush Pub but simply following the numbers on the buildings on the street soon took me to my destination.
The Bull & Bush instantly reminded me of a pub back home, with wooded timbers and dark lighting inside along with lots of brass and copper ornaments and dťcor. It was good to see that the beer sampler was available here too. I had previously had 2 of their beers on my last trip in 2005 but that still left 11 beers for me to try, amongst these a brown ale, pilsner, hefeweizen, lager, 2 stouts, kriek, Belgian amber, lambic and a couple of barley wines! The stout proved to be the best of these but they were all pretty good beers. The locals and staff here were very friendly and we chatted for a while about the GABF and the great performances of the Colorado Rockies. I could have stayed here far longer than I did but realised I had to be back at the Convention Center so I retraced my steps to the Cherry Creek Drive South & Cherry Street bus stop to catch the number 11 Crosstown back to Lousiana & Pearl. The weather was still warm and sunny but a bit of a breeze had got up and this was blowing a lot of the leaves off the trees. Everything looked a beautiful shade of gold as we were in the height of the fall. A short wait at the Louisiana & Pearl Light Rail station and I was soon on my way back to the Convention Center which by the time I arrived just before 1700 was packed with people and the atmosphere was buzzing. A massive queue for the GABF had already developed so I joined this and awaited the big event.
As it came round to 1730 the doors opened to great cheers from the crowd and they started letting everyone in. Scottish bagpipers led the festivities as the festival was declared well and truly open. Walking into the hall you canít help but be impressed by the sheer size of the event, over 1800 beers from all parts of America arranged neatly into regions so that you could easily find the area if you were after any particular beers. I decided for this first night to concentrate on sections O, J and F which were all Northeast American brewers. Throughout the night I ran into some of the people who were on Tuesdayís Boulder Beer Cruise, it was nice to have a chat and enjoy a beer with some familiar faces and while this is definitely a drinking spree itís also nice to have that social aspect too. With my favourite styles being IPA and Stout these tended to dominate my beer choice but I was always open to trying different and new styles. By the end of the evening I had managed to try 52 beers which sounds a lot but the samples here are small so it is really geared up for trying lots of beers during a session. It had been a great opening night which I had looked forward to for a long while and it totally lived up to expectations.
The GABF session finished at 2200 and I had noticed from reading the bus timetable that route 38 stopped just a block away from the Convention Center so I took the 2215 service which took me right to the doorstep of the hotel. I needed another early start the next morning so I just put on the TV and watched some more of the Diamondbacks versus Rockies play off game, again the Rockies had a great night winning the game 3-2 going into a commanding position in the race to make it to the World Series final.
Friday 12th October 2007
Another early breakfast today, in the dining room they had a TV and during the course of the week there was often an amusing or bizarre story featured. Today a 6 year old boy had taken a car and attempted to drive it into town so he could go and check out a movie! Not surprisingly he ran off the road but thankfully there were no injuries, apparently he had the ingenuity to get himself a cushion so that he could reach the steering wheel!
Today I had arranged to meet up with almost 100 people who were on a mass pub crawl arranged by the guys at Beer Advocate, a website for beer fans mainly in the USA but with members worldwide. The first point on the crawl was in fact not a bar but a breakfast place on Larimer Street called Snooze. I walked into town via my usual route and took the Mall Ride from Union Station to Larimer then walked a few blocks to the junction with 22nd which ironically is the same street my hotel was located at. Snooze was doing a roaring trade this morning mainly due to the influx of people on the pub crawl and an added bonus was that they were doing bottled beers from the nearby Great Divide brewery so I got myself a Denver Pale Ale and ordered up the steak and eggs benedict which was a while coming due to the place being so busy but definitely well worth the wait. This was a really substantial and filling breakfast and set me up for the dayís drinking.
First point of call on the crawl was the Great Divide itself and we got there just after 1100 where everyone crammed in as near to the bar as they could. This place would normally hold around 25 to 30 Iíd guess so you can imagine just how congested it was! The staff at the brewery were very good and eventually we had all got served a beer. There were tours round the brewery here so I had a look round. They had lots of storage tanks and fermenting vessels and are still an expanding businesses with soaring beer sales and also have their own bottling plant on site too. The beer sampler was available again so I got the chance to try 12 of their beers which covered a good range of styles including 3 IPAís, a couple of stouts, a porter and a barley wine. My favourite here had to be the Yeti Imperial Stout which had plenty of roast, bitterness and coffee flavours. I stayed here a bit longer than the scheduled time of the crawl as I wanted to try their range and the next couple of places on the crawl were ones I had already been to before so I went my own way after leaving the Great Divide. The plan was to have a look at the Flying Dog Brewery as this was another place I hadnít ever been to. As luck would have it I met 2 brewers from Arizona just outside the Great Divide and they were heading to the Flying Dog too so I joined them as they knew the way to it. They also offered to take a picture of me standing outside the Great Divide which was a nice gesture. After a short walk we arrived at the Blake Street Tavern next to the Flying Dog Brewery and one of the brewers got us all a round of Doggie Style Pale Ale, again another nice touch. This was a nice pale ale but not overly hoppy and fruity unlike the majority of American IPAís I had tried this week. The brewers went off to do the tour of Stranahanís Whisky Distillery which was just a couple of doors down so they left me to relax and enjoy my pint. I drank up and thought it would be fun to look in at the whisky place so I went in for a quick look around and a chat with the distiller, these guys make some great malt whisky more in the Scottish or Irish style than the American rye styles. There wasnít another distillery tour for a while so I went to the Flying Dog Brewery Tap situated in between the distillery and the Blake Street Tavern. I tried 4 of their pale ales including a cask conditioned blend which had been matured in oak chips and was packed with flavour and hops. The staff here were very informative and told me they had started exported their bottled beer to Europe so I will have to keep an eye out for that. After the sampling I took their brewery tour and again got to sample the Doggie Style Pale Ale direct from the fermenting vessel and this tasted considerably better than it did from the tap next door. When the tour finished it was time for the whisky tour which was another first. It was great to see the difference in equipment and processes between a brewery and a distillery and when they showed us the cellar the aroma of maturing whisky in the oak vats was quite amazing, I could have stayed right in there! Time was moving on now and there was just one more beer which could be sampled back at the Flying Dog Brewery Tap. I asked for something special to send me on my way and they didnít disappoint, offering me the 9.5% Gonzo Imperial Porter. This was quite possibly the best porter I have ever tasted and there have been a few. Lots of fruit and roast, really smooth drinking and just the right amount of bitterness and coffee flavour. All too soon it was time to leave for the GABF once more so I took a walk down to 16th & Wazee to catch the Mall Ride down to Stout Street arriving just after 1700.
The queue for the GABF was even longer than the previous night so I joined and waited for the doors to open. It must have been gone 1800 when we got in which wasnít really ideal, the problem I think being that they only open one entrance, it would work much better if similar to sports stadiums they had some sort of gate on each side or corner of the building to improve the flow of people. As per the previous night I ran into some people off Tuesdayís bus tour and this time went one better than last night and sampled 53 beers. The sections I concentrated on tonight were I and N which were Mountain region and M which was Pacific region. Again stouts and IPAís were the staple choices but I did find some other interesting styles such as ginger, raspberry, hefeweizens, dunkels, kolsch and oktoberfests. Time flew again and it was 2200 before I knew it. Once more it was tempting to take the 38 bus from 15th & Stout right back to the hotel as my Saturday was going to be the biggest drinking session of the trip! I was back at the hotel for 2230 so I flicked through the GABF program and planned which beer sections I would be trying the next day before watching some more baseball and crashing out.
Saturday 13th October 2007
This morningís bizarre news stories on the TV in the dining room were that the CIA had made some electronic remote controlled dragonflies to spy on anti war demonstrators and that the government were advising people to get inoculated before they went to Nascar meetings!
Walking into town today I passed the California Zephyr train which I think was on itís way West to California but must have been running a little late. These are real luxury trains compared to the ones here in the UK and I wouldnít mind a trip on one on a future visit as they go right through the Rocky Mountains offering some great views of the countryside. They also run East to Chicago which is another city I would like to see more of so thereís possibilities there too. I took the usual Mall Ride from Union Station this time alighting at Wynkoop. I was heading for the Fado Irish Pub which we visited on the last visit. This place shows the European soccer matches live on satellite TV. I was a little late for the England v Estonia European Championship qualifier as this kicked off at 0800 Mountain time but I did catch some of the Azerbaijan v Portugal qualifier whilst enjoying a pint of Killianís Irish Red. A couple of doors down from Fado is the Denver Chop House which was another place I had never visited on my previous trip so I thought I would stop by. The sampler was again available at this brewpub and I tried 9 of their offerings which included 3 lagers, wheat ale, rye ale, red ale, pale ale and 2 stouts one of which was barrel conditioned using a Wild Turkey bourbon barrel and I would have to say this one was my favourite here. The Chop House is a throwback to the good old days, this area used to be the site of the old railway station and you could be back in the 1930s when you walk into this place. Itís very smartly decorated and has old style music playing on the stereo. I was lucky here to run into the brewery and he was keen to get my opinions on his beers, especially the English style ones as his aim is to recreate the styles authentically and I think he achieved this judging by the beers I tried here. There was just time to finish all the samples before catching the Mall Ride from Wynkoop down to Stout Street for the grand finale of the GABF, 2 sessions back to back!
I had arrived at the Convention Center a little after the 1230 start time for the afternoon session so there was the bonus of not having to queue up as most people had been let in by this point. I randomly met up with Jeff again, one of the guys from Tuesday nightís party and he invited me to a similar party on the Saturday which was being held in one of the rooms of a hotel. This sounded a good plan but a combination of drinking all day and not knowing the way to the hotel let alone the room number led to me not actually getting there, funny how this link between alcohol consumption and a partly functioning brain comes up again and again! For this first session I was concentrating on the Pacific and Mid West regions whilst chatting to some of the bar staff in between drinks. I got talking to a Latino guy called Paul who had travelled around quite a lot and we had an interesting discussion about world travel, politics, different cultures etc. By the end of the afternoon session I had managed to sample a total of 32 beers. Before too long it was time for the afternoon session to end but with only an hour to go before the start of the evening session and the anticipated large queue for that I decided it wasnít worth going to another bar during the interim period so I arranged to meet up with Paul again at the end of the evening session, he was going to be working behind the bar all evening as he had during the afternoon, and then took my place at the front of the queue.
The evening session was the final one of the 2007 GABF and I decided to go out in style and sample lots more beers before closing time at 2200. The plan for this evening was to focus on sections P and Q at the far end of the hall which were all Pacific Northwest brewers. These included beers from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii and featured many different styles. Lots of top quality stouts, porters and IPAís were tried here but I noticed some beers were now starting to run out, Saturday is when the judges award the medals to the best brewers and once the public learn of this you tend to find the winners become very popular and everyone wants to try them. Having swept through the P and Q sections there was still some time left to try some more beers so I decided to go with section L which was Mid West beers which included a few award winning brewers which I was keen to taste. The highlight of this section were some bourbon barrel aged stouts and barley wines which had plenty of strength and flavour. It was now approaching closing time so I went back to the stall where Paul was working and noticed he had become pretty drunk by now, the staff get to taste the beers as they are serving which is a nice perk of the job! By the end of this evening session I had amassed another 69 beers so had got to over 100 for the two sessions today. We left the GABF and had some fun with some cops outside, explaining the different handshakes and greetings in the USA and the UK, quite bizarre but very cool how easy going these guys were, I canít imagine doing that in England at all! We then headed down 15th Street and went to a pool bar there but the tables were all taken so we headed back into Downtown and Blake Street. The next bar we went to was eventful as Paul had ordered up a beer for us both but the barman was taking ages to get round to serving him as they were pretty busy as was everywhere in town that night. So Paul walked away and we were just about to head over the road when the security people stopped him and asked him to pay for the drinks he had ordered! When Paul said he wasnít going to wait any longer to be served the security guys wouldnít go for it and before you knew it a cop had arrived on the scene. Reluctantly Paul had to hand over 8 dollars even though we left the place without having a drink! Luckily the good old Falling Rock Taphouse was our saviour and here we met an Irish American brewer from California who had very differing views from Paul on politics, culture etc. I think my views lied somewhere in between these two guys so I just sat back and let them get on with the debate which at times got quite heated but for me it was a great insight into some of the issues, aspects and viewpoints of American society. The brewer guy was also a keen rugby player so we chatted about the England v South Africa World Cup final which was coming up and then did a mock scrum, he played hooker so Paul and I posed as prop forwards, total drunken shenanigans! Closing time came round at 0200 and we needed to go and find Paulís car which was back near the Convention Center by a drive in McDonaldís near the Speer Boulevard. It had started to rain and get cold by now, this was the first time all week that it hadnít been warm and sunny but the weather in Denver can turn really quickly. We got a burger from the drive through and Paul was feeling tired and didnít fancy his drive back home so he came back with me to La Quinta and crashed out there. By now it must have been about 0400 and I still had to pack my things as I was heading back to England later that morning!
Sunday 14th October 2007
Trying to do your packing whilst still drunk is quite fun but can take a bit longer than usual so by the time I had finished there wasnít really any point in going to sleep as I didnít want to miss my bus to the airport in the morning. Paul was well asleep by now so I just left him to it and checked out the bus timetables and flight schedule for later in the morning.
I had to be on the 1025 Skyride bus from Market Street Station so I gave Paul a shout just before 1000 and he went to start the car whilst I was checking out of the hotel. Paul dropped me off at Market Street Station with a good 4 minutes to spare so I thanked him for the lift and said goodbye. The bus arrived on time and I was back at Denver International Airport by 1125. Check in was all automatic which I hadnít encountered before but it was just a case of punching in your flight number and scanning the passport and then the machine issued you with boarding passes which must save lots of time. I took the monorail to Gate B where my flight to Chicago was leaving from. We left on time at 1320 Mountain time from Denver and after a short flight serving snacks and drinks arrived into OíHare at 1635 Central time. All was going smoothly until I took the monorail to International Terminal 5 only to notice my 1830 flight to Manchester with BMI had been cancelled! Chaos ensued as everyone headed for the BMI check in desk. After queuing for a good hour and a half the BMI people did offer me an alternative flight, I could either return home via London or Copenhagen so I decided on the latter as I had never been to Denmark. The flight was with SAS Scandinavian who Iím guessing have some affiliation with BMI and this left Chicago on time at 2200 Central time. This was quite a long overnight flight but I had a nice comfortable window seat and the hostesses served dinner and then breakfast later on into the flight. I realised just how hard the flight attendants work on these long haul trips as they were constantly up and down the aisles getting meals and drinks and attending to any queries or problems the passengers might have. It was a good flight back and for the first time I can recall I managed to get plenty of sleep.
Monday 15th October 2007
Arrival into Copenhagen was at 1315 European time and it wasnít too long before I had cleared customs and immigration. There was a good 4 hours until my flight back to Manchester so I asked a local how far the city centre was and got told it was just 15 minutes or so by train. Ever the opportunist I decided I would go for a look round so I got some local Krone currency out of the machine (No Euroís here!) and bought myself a return ticket into town. Copenhagen is a wonderful old city with some impressive buildings but the only place I have been that reminded me remotely of it was Berlin although even that is very different in other ways. I decided to look out for anything with the words ĎBryggerietí (Danish for brewery) and my luck was in as I soon found the Bryggeriet Apollo. Here I tried their pilsner which had been brewed on site and this was a very clean, crisp and refreshing drink. Prices for beer here are around twice as much as you would pay back in England so it was a case of small measures! I got some food at a place nearby and then noticed over the road there was a place called ĎThe Old English Pubí Curious to see how authentic this was I took a look in and it was a great looking place, lots of leather upholstery, brass ornaments, pub memorabilia etc, quintessentially English really. They even had the beers on handpumps so I tried a Carlsberg Carls Ale which was much nicer than the standard Carlsberg lagers we see back in the UK. Time was getting on so I headed back to the station to pick up some souvenir postcards and a Copenhagen drinking glass. I was back at the airport for 1645 and once again had to go through security but this didnít take too long as Copenhagen is a relatively small airport compared to Chicago and Manchester. The flight for Manchester left at 1735 and was routed over Amsterdam and the outskirts of London. I was quite surprised that a flight to the North of England would fly so far South but the pilot was saying that the normal routes were very busy so this could well have been an alternative one. Arrival in Manchester was at around 1900 UK time and there were no delays at customs as I just walked right through which was nice. I got myself a train ticket and headed to Manchester city centre where I thought I would call in at a few pubs I hadnít been to in a while. First up was the Marble Arch Inn which brews itís own beers. I tried a couple of guest beers and then their own Ginger Marble which is a bit of a classic, plenty of spiced flavour. Here I met up with Tim who is the landlord of a pub just outside of Manchester and we had a good chat about his pub and how he had brought it on in the past few months. I showed him the GABF brochure and mentioned about some of the USA beers being available for distribution in Europe now so thereís the possibility his pub might be stocking some in future. Next pub on my list was the Smithfield but strangely this place was locked up so I tried the Burton Arms next door where I stopped for a quick half. I finished off the night at the Bar Fringe which is a Belgian style brown bar but also serves UK beers too. Here I chose 2 beers brewed up in Aberdeen and these were pretty good, both having plenty of hop and roast flavours. I drank up here and then walked back to Piccadilly station and got on my last train back home to Northwich arriving home just after midnight to reflect on another brilliant Denver holiday!
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We left the GABF and had some fun with some cops outside, explaining the different handshakes and greetings in the USA and the UK, quite bizarre but very cool how easy going these guys were, I canít imagine doing that in England at all!