Slideshow: Our Favorite Beers at the Great American Beer Festival 2012

Perennial Artisan Ales Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout
Perennial Artisan Ales Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout
This was our favorite beer at the Denver Rare Beer Tasting—that's saying a lot, since the event featured 33 rare and one-off beers from some of the nation's best breweries. This stout smelled like chocolate milk and tasted even better. Notes of coconut (it was briefly aged on coconut flakes) melded with chocolate and ended with a light burn from the rye whiskey.
Deschutes Anniversary Vertical Tasting
Deschutes Anniversary Vertical Tasting
In the Brewers Pavilion at GABF, Deschutes held a 5 year vertical tasting of their imperial Black Butte anniversary beers. One of these beers, 22, was never released to the public in bottles. With subtle recipe differences year-to-year, it was interesting to taste them side by side. Black Butte 21 stole the show for us with its intense roastiness and smooth blend of vanilla, coffee, and bourbon.
Sun King Pappy Van Muckle
Sun King Pappy Van Muckle
Anyone who knows their bourbon has heard of Pappy Van Winkle—and for good reason. Their barrels are even harder to come by than the whiskey itself, so when we saw that this Scotch Ale spent some time slumbering in 20 year-old Pappy barrels we jumped on it. The bourbon complemented the intense malty backbone of the underlying Wee Mac Scotch Ale with notes of dark fruit, vanilla, and caramel. If you were sampling Sun King's beers during GABF, chances are you saw us...we hung out here a lot. This beer took home a Silver in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Ale category.
Cambridge Brewing Company
Cambridge Brewing Company
Another one of the Brewpub darlings of the year, Cambridge took home a Silver Medal for their Heather Ale. However, the beer that blew us away when we visited their tent was Cerise Cassée, an American Sour Ale that was truly mouthpuckering. Loads of sour cherries and vinegar dominate the palate of this beer with just a touch of funk.
DESTIHL Antiquity Rye Wine
DESTIHL Antiquity Rye Wine
The darling of last year's festival didn't disappoint this time around, pouring 10 beers—5 of which were their vaunted sours. We found their sours (including a Flanders Red) to be terrific, but there was a diamond in the rough on the adjacent table. Antiquity, a bourbon barrel aged Barleywine made with rye, was a welcome variation on the traditional English style. Sweet, sticky, loaded with flavors of dark fruit and toffee, and enough spice from the rye malt to keep it interesting.
Devils Backbone Danzig
Devils Backbone Danzig
Devils Backbone had their way with the Great American Beer Fest Awards, and after sampling this beer we could see why. Danzig is a Baltic Porter that took Silver this year (in addition to the 7 other medals they took back to Virginia). A great full body with dark fruit and licorice notes set this beer apart from the dozens of other porters we sampled.