I think for me the biggest lesson learned was to re-appreciate the brewing process and the need to have a good process to make good beer. Admittedly, I had started to get sloppy with sanitation, using the right equipment and really paying attention to the process to make the best beers possible. I was started to be disappointed by some of my beers which was probably the result of my poor attention to the process. That sort of slacking off happens to most people in most things they do so it's really good to get re-energized and restore those standards.
Another lesson I learned was to re-appreciate the session beer (not just the sessionable beer). As homebrewers we tend to be most likely to drink the crazy beers, the exotic rarities and the big beers, but we forget that most beer sold is session beer and there are some really good session beers. Personally I don't brew many session beers because with school I don't have a great amount of time to have people come over and drink beer so I brew what I want to experiment with. So I've decided I need to brew some more sessionable beers, not only for the sake of calories but also to have beer to share with people who aren't going to appreciate (or enjoy) something outlandish.
As far as Colorado goes it was enlightening to see a place where there was a lot of beer variety and people appreciated it and celebrated it. Everywhere we went (other than breweries) and talked about beer or where we had been the people were excited for us and gave us recommendations of places to go. Only one person recommended Coors in Golden. In Texas I live within driving distance of two craft breweries (Rahr and Franconia) but also the big three. Texas, especially beyond Austin, is dominated by the big three and that's what most people drink. It's telling about the culture that surrounds the two beer markets. People in Colorado seemed to care about beer and appreciated it as a food and an art. In Texas, beer is a social lubricant meant to get you drunk as quick as possible. People here would look at us funny when we talked about all the breweries we went to and the beer we drank and assumed we were constantly wasted. I don't mean to suggest that everybody in Colorado is a beer geek but there is definitely a culture of different appreciation. That culture is just starting to appear in Austin but hopefully it will come up this way.
I guess this post wasn't as long as I hoped, most of what I came back with was energy and excitement about the brewing process and I guess there's not a lot to tell about that. I didn't brew a lot the past few months so I'm looking forward to draining out some of my 2011 (and 2010) beers to make room for 2012 brews.