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The Ten Best Beers I Tasted at the Great American Beer Festival

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The GABF blew through town this past weekend for three days of beer, medals and revelry. I personally attended three sessions, trying dozens of the over 2,200 beers on the Convention Center floor. Here are the ten I found to be the tastiest:

1) Urca Vanilla Porter - Dry Dock Brewing Co., Aurora, CO

Locals Dry Dock picked up four medals at the GABF, but it was this porter that impressed me the most. The dark beer was rife with vanilla flavors: a real treat.

2) Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA - Flying Fish Brewing Co., Cherry Hill, NJ

Brewed with wild rice, this New Jersey IPA is super hoppy, yet balanced. Here's hoping Flying Fish picks up some wider distribution soon.

3) Christmas Ale - Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH

The best Christmas Ale I've had in a long time, this Cleveland brew already has me looking forward to a spice-filled winter.

4) Spruce Pilsner - Short's Brewing Company, Bellaire, MI

In many ways, Short's was the talk of the festival with a line length the opposite of the brewery's name. Many people went head over heels for the Michiganders' Key lime brew, but I am partial to this spruce beer. It's like having a tree in your mouth...in a really good way.

5) Derailed Black Cherry Ale - Erie Brewing Company, Erie, PA

Hands down the best fruit beer I samped at the GABF, Derailed has notes of cooked pie and an exceedingly well-balanced tartness.

6) Theobroma - Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE

Mad scientist/beer-geek hero Sam Calagione famously tinkers with wild recipes to create his concoctions. Theobroma is part of the company's Ancient Ales series and derives its smoothness from Aztec cocoa and other ingredients based on the analysis of Honduran pottery fragments that were believed to have contained the world's first alcoholic chocolate drink.

7) He'Brew R.I.P.A. on Rye - Shmaltz Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA

This silver-medal-winning ale is aged in rye whiskey barrels giving it a bit of bite. It's also extremely rare, so if you see a bottle, grab one.

8) Flying Mouflan - Tröegs Brewing Co., Harrisburg, PA

A delicious barley wine, this complex drink took home gold this year in its category because of its dark yet subtle characteristics.

9) Le Petit Saison - Twisted Pine Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

I tasted this flowery saison at a media lunch when it was paired with a lemon-ginger-lavender sorbet: a perfect combo.

10) Hellats Good Beer - Pug Ryan's Steakhouse, Dillon, CO

The gold-medal winner in the bock category, this smooth brew lives up to its name. Dillon here I come.