There are three times more beers available at this year’s 30th Great American Beer Festival than there were people in attendance at the first Great American Beer Festival.
On June 4, 1982 the first Great American Beer Festival was staged in Boulder, Colorado. For 5 hours in a 5,000 square foot hotel ballroom we celebrated American beer like no one in America had previously done .
Did we ever think that the Great American Beer Festival would come to this? Only in our wildest beer-induced dreams. 1982 was a paradigm changing year. It was the year that 4 microbreweries emerged onto the national spotlight. They traveled to Colorado to attend the Great American Beer Festival. There were many other international beer “industry” people and pioneer beer enthusiasts who attended the American Homebrewers Association National Conference which was held in conjunction with the Great American Beer Festival.
Roger Briess (Briess Malt), Ron Siebel (Siebel Institute), David Bruce (London brewpub pioneer), Al Andrews (Riverside, Calif. Homebrew’s “Mr. Wizard”), Byron Burch (Great Fermentations, Calif.), Tom Burns (Boulder Brewing brewmaster), John Devlin (pioneering Colorado microbrewery beer distributor), Fred Eckhardt (Portland, Oregon beer guru), Ken Grossman (founder Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.), Michael Jackon (London-based beer icon), Joe Kortuem (Krones, Inc representative), Professor Michael Lewis (U.C. Davis, Calif.), Bill Newman (Newman Brewing, Albany, NY), Gil Ortega (Coors Pilot Brewery Supervisor), Otto Zavatone (past brewmaster of Boulder Beer), Jim Schlueter (Founder Sacramento River City Brewery), Fred Huber (Huber Brewing) were among the 850 people who attended the events of that weekend in June.
The welcome introduction in the 1982 program was simple and to the point:
Sponsored by the American Homebrewers Association the Great American Beer Festival 1982 is possible only through the generous cooperation and direct contribution of the participating breweries
Chosen by committee, the beers present at this Festival represent a particular direction in contemporary brewing. These American beers were selected for their quality, unique and special character.
The committee has gathered information about these selected beers and made it available to consumers and homebrewers to assist in learning about American brewing.
We hope you enjoy the Festival.
While this introduction may seem quite mundane by today’s standards, the entire concept of a festival celebrating beer made in the United States – was absolutely incomprehensible in 1982. Only a minisculely few beer drinkers and homebrewers were interested in learning about American brewing. Without their support and enthusiasm in the early 1980’s the Great American Beer Festival and the entire microbrewery/craft brewing phenomenon would never have emerged. The event was a paradigm change.
Some of the beers I thought were memorable: Coors’ George Killian Irish Red Ale (debuted at the festival for the first time), Anchor Steam and Porter, Boulder Extra Pale Ale, English Ale, Porter and Stout, Christian Schmidt’s Prior Double Dark, Ballantine India Pale Ale (with a fresh Cascade type hop character aged in wood), Naragansett Porter (also with a fresh Cascade hop character), Frankenmuth Bavarian Dark, Huber Bock, Augsburger Dark, Ludwig Hudepohl Bock, Rainier Ale, River City Dark and Gold, Sierra Nevada Pale, Porter and Stout, Yuengling Porter. These were among the approximately 40 beers that highlighted a new direction in American beer taste. Perhaps for the first and last time, I was able to taste every single beer at the Great American Beer Festival.
Where has all this led to? Here you and I are at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. You can tell me. And if you can’t find me in the crowd, tell a friend – just like we were doing in 1982.
Who was involved in the founding committee? Frank Morris (deceased), Tom Burns (deceased), Stuart Harris and myself, along with the critical and essential help of beer distributor John Devlin.
For the 30th time – CHEERS!