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101 Beer Experiences: Drink like a pro

Insider tips on how to get your hands on sought-after brews from Russian River and Hill Farmstead, plus tricks for navigating GABF and Founders' KBS Week.
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Photo of Avery's Midnight Breakfast

Photo of Avery’s Midnight Breakfast

Some of the most sought-after beers in the world can be yours this year … if you’re savvy about your hunt. Here are insider tips for scoring free beer, maxing out the best beer festivals and finally catching your whale:

If you didn’t score a ticket to GABF, it’s still worth heading to Denver. Go to all of the beer events and spontaneous craziness that happens when nearly 700 breweries descend on Denver at one time: Stop by What the Funk, a festival of wild, funky and sour beers, where you’ll taste the latest from the foreign breweries like Cantillon. Check out Rare Beer Festival, where you’ll taste whale after whale. Individual brewery events abound, including classics like Avery’s Midnight Breakfast (which is a killer beer breakfast, at mid-night) at Euclid Hall.

Travelers to Greensboro, Vermont, can now fill as many growlers as they want at Hill Farmstead Brewery, thanks to a new retail building with 12 taps that opened in October. That means more containers of in-demand beers, such as Abner IPA and the Society & Solitude series of double IPAs, for anyone lusting after Shaun Hill’s creations; it also should help alleviate the long lines of people waiting for beer to go. Bottles and merchandise are still sold in the former retail shop.

Denver is undoubtedly a beer mecca, and River North is one of the nation’s hottest ’hoods for cool art and new breweries. There’s Mockery Brewing Co., Ratio Beerworks,  Zephyr Brewing Co., Beryl’s Beer Co., Crooked Stave, Black Shirt Brewing Co., Epic Brewing Co. and Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co.; a few more will open soon, including a new outpost for Blue Moon.

It sounds too good to be true, but Newport Storm Brewery offers free beer on Fridays for the first 50 people to sign up each week. The brewery in Newport, Rhode Island, started the practice 16 years ago to promote the fact that it was open for two hours (6-8 p.m.) each Friday. Back then, the first 50 people to simply show up received a tour and free drinks. Now, the lucky participants must be among the first 50 to sign up via a Facebook contest (the post goes live at noon each Friday). Fifty folks with access to free beer for 120 minutes may sound like a recipe for drunken antics, but Newport Storm’s Clare Simpson-Daniel says they’ve never experienced anyone abusing the privilege because the local patrons don’t want to see the tradition end.

Super-eager beer fans line up for Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Co.’s coveted triple IPA, the night before the first day each year the beer is poured at the Santa Rosa brewpub. But brewery president Natalie Cilurzo says it’s not necessary to wait that long since the draft-only beer is available until it runs out each day during its annual two-week run (which starts Feb. 5). She has had many guests tell her the wait was just 30 to 60 minutes for Pliny the Younger during a weeknight. So good timing during an off-day can help you achieve the beer geek rite of passage: drinking the highly hopped 10.25%-ABV whale.

Believe it or not, the best part about 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Day is waiting in line to get in: So go to the Munster, Indiana, brewery and queue up, even if you don’t have a ticket. Many attendees bring some killer bottles from their cellars to share with the total strangers standing next to them.

Book a stay in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Founders’ KBS Week (March 14-19). Many bars around town tap a keg of Kentucky Breakfast Stout, the much-loved imperial stout brewed with chocolate and coffee, plus the brewery’s taproom pours the beer all day long on the final Saturday of the week. Hotels in the area offer packages featuring discount rooms and beer swag like tote bags and glassware.

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