Colorado beer calendar: Get ready for the Great American Beer Festival

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Are you ready to rumble? We are. The Great American Beer Festival kicks off on September 29, but there are plenty of GABF-related events where you can practice in advance -- or even instead -- of the big show. In fact, there are too many events to list, but I did my best. Check 'em out below.

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Thursday, September 22

Falling Rock Taphouse, 1919 Blake Street, will be ground zero, as it always is, for non-session beer geekery during the Great American Beer Festival. The place will be packed every day of the week beginning with Monday's kickoff party. So, the meetup group, BrewDEN, is offering you a Last Chance at Falling Rock before the madness. Meet there tonight at 6 p.m. to enjoy good beer and good conversation.

Friday, September 23

Freshcraft begins its three-day Colorado Small Brewers Showcase in which it will pour beers from some new and/or up-and-coming Colorado breweries that distribute their beer themselves. They include Asher Brewing (Boulder), Backcountry Brewery (Frisco), Copper Kettle (Denver), Crabtree Brewing (Greeley), Crazy Mountain (Edwards), Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Fort Collins), Denver Beer Co (Denver), Dry Dock Brewing (Aurora), Funkwerks (Fort Collins), Renegade (Denver), and Strange Brewing (Denver).

Saturday, September 24

A great warm-up for the big event itself, the Great COntenders, takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. Now in its second year, the goal is to celebrate some 2010 winners and give a proper send off to many of the local beers entered into this year's GABF competition; after all, they'll be representing Colorado on their home turf and battling for our state's pride. The event, a fundraiser for the Colorado Brewers Guild, will feature more than fifty beers from more than twenty breweries around Colorado. Tickets are $25, and if you buy them online at www.wynkoop.com, you'll be automatically entered into a drawing for a pair of tickets to GABF.

After the Great COntenders is over, follow the smell of beer back to Copper Kettle Brewing, 1338 South Valencia, which will be throwing a party to honor its loyal Brew Club members and tapping Raspberry Wheat, a beer that uses the raspberries that the club members helped pick in August at a local farm. The food trucks, Crock Spot and GIgi's Cupcakes, will be serving up their own raspberry-influenced specialties as well. The party runs from 4 to 9 p.m., and there will be acoustic music from Lizzie Huffman.

Hops & Pie will tap a firkin of Firestone Walker's elusive Velvet Merlin, an oatmeal stout that will raise the hair on your head. Tapping is at 5 p.m.

The Ritz Carlton, 1881 Curtis Street, turns the place over to beers, brats and music from 3 to 6 p.m. tonight on its outdoor Plaza Level terrace with an event featuring beer from Great Divide and Oskar Blues, music from The Kentucky Parlor Pickers, over-sized pretzels and house made brats with Great Divide DPA. A portion of our proceeds will benefit the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Fund. Tickets are $45.

Odell Brewing will re-release its Bourbon Barrel Stout today at its Fort Collins taproom before the beer, available in 750 ml bottles, hits liquor store shelves. This year's batch boasts new bourbon barrels and an updated label that pays tribute to those barrels, the brewery says. The beer should have notes of sweet milk chocolate, smooth vanilla and roasted coffee beans. There will be food trucks and live music at the release party.

Denver Beer Co will tap its first annual Neighborhood Hop Swap Brew today at noon. Made with hops from plants handed out by the brewery and grown in Denver back yards, the beer is golden in color with distinct green, wet hop flavor, says Denver Beer co-owner Charlie Berger. "It has a malty backbone, but the highlight is the earthy, sweet hop aromas that make this a delicious brew. Not sure if I can taste each of your individual backyards, but they are all well represented.

Sunday, September 25

The Littlest Big Beer Fest gets underway at 2 p.m. at Hops & Pie with a firkin of Coffee and Vanilla Bean Brown Ale from Upslope Brewing. You'll also find Upslope's Kolsch and pumpkin beers on tap, along with its IPA poured through a fresh-hopping randal.

Monday September 26

The digital countdown clock at Falling Rock Taphouse will hit zero today as the beer bar hosts its 14th Annual GABF Kickoff Party beginning today at 5 p.m. Falling Rock will tap ten special kegs that owner Chris Black has been saving to to get the week started right.

Wit's End Brewing will open its doors for the first time today in Denver around noon with at least two beers on tap. The brewery is the fifth to open in town this year. It will be one of the stops on a free Brews Cruise tour, which will be running a shuttle today from noon to 5 p.m. between Pints Pub, Strange Brewing, Wit's End, Breckenridge Brewing and Renegade Brewing.

The Rackhouse Pub will hold a Double Tapping Party today at 6 p.m. as it digs into two different beers that pub owner Chris Rippe collaborated on. The Swaby Belgian Quad was specially brewed for the Rackhouse second anniversary (coming up on Halloween) by Dry Dock head brewer Bill Eye and Rippe; it will only be available through Halloween at Rackhouse and at Dry Dock. The second beer is a collaboration between Rippe, Ryan Conklin of Euclid Hall, Kevin Burke or Colt & Grey, Justin Large of Star Bar, and Charlie Berger of the Denver Beer Co (where it was actually brewed). The saison style beer was made with peaches from Palisade and fresh hops from the Western Slope.

Enjoy a Mini Beer Fest today in the loft of the Wazee Supper Club where there will be ten different IPAs, double IPAs and other hop-head favorites on tap. Tickets are $20 or $25 the day of and include a tasting glass and tastings of those ten beers and other 22 that Wazee will have going. There will also be snacks and t-shirt and pint give-a ways.

Tuesday, September 27

Euclid Hall will tap the Fifth Horseman, a saison collaboratively brewed by Euclid's Ryan Conklin, Rackhouse Pub owner Chris Rippe, Kevin Burke of Colt & Grey, Justin Large of Star Bar, and Charlie Berger of the Denver Beer Co (where it was actually brewed). The beer was made with peaches from Palisade and fresh hops from the Western Slope.

Wit's End Brewing, Denver's news brewery, opened yesterday at 2505 West Second Avenue in an office park. Check em out.

Head over to the Paramount Cafe, 519 16th Street, to meet Chris "The Gubna" Katechis, brother of Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis, and other brewery reps and to taste HGH, a version of their G'Knight imperial red that was dry-hopped -- or, rather wet-hopped -- with fresh hops that the brewery grew on its Hops & Heifers farm. The event runs from 5 to 7 p.m.

Falling Rock Taphouse will break into kegs of a couple of Boulevard Brewing's Smokestack Series beers around 6 p.m. Boulevard head brewer Steven Pauwels will be in the house.

Try Alaskan Brewing's 25th Anniversary Perseverance Imperial Stout, which will be tapped tonight at McLoughlin's Restaurant and Bar, 2100 16th Street, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Come see the reason why Strange Brewing is so strange! The brewery will have a showing of the movie Strange Brew at 6 p.m. and a special tapping of its Double Take Imperial IPA. They will also raffle off three pairs of GABF tickets; Thursday and Friday evening sessions. Food provided by Il Mondo Vecchio.

SOLD OUT: Get ready for GABF with the Rackhouse Pub's Beer Judge School, which has brought in beer professor extraordinaire, Gwen Conley, who will hold court from 7 to 9 p.m. and offer and full education in palette development, flavor recognition, style guidelines and overall beer enjoyment. Conley is a seven-time GABF judge and World Beer Cup judge. She is currently the quality-assurance director at Port/Lost Abbey Brewing in Southern California and has held similar jobs at Flying Dog and Ball Corp. Beer Judge School costs $25 at door or in advance. It's limited to fifty people.

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