It was clear that most of the crowd had done their homework: there were instant long lines for Lawson's Finest Liquids (I had the sublime Double Sunshine IPA and BIG HAPI India Black Ale), Pretty Things (the bracing Our Finest Regards English barleywine was worth the wait), and the dark beer specialists from Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (Hoppy Bunny American Black Ale, mmmm); tastings from Dogfish and Goose Island also required patience throughout the session, though most of the queues moved relatively quickly. Other standouts were a trio of specialty brews: DC Brau's On the Wings of Armageddon (a great double IPA); Element Brewing's massive 6:56 (Double Red Giant 2011), a 13% ABV red ale; and Sierra Nevada's Knock On Wood Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout (kicked up a notch with chilies).

My favorite non-liquid moment: seeing Paul, the distinguished gent who is pictured with his late friend Cy on the label of Smuttynose's IPA, sitting in his lawn chair at the back of the New Hampshire brewery's booth, wearing the same clothes that he sports in the iconic portrait. For Paul and all the other revelers, the ACBF was indeed the finest kind.

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