I attended the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) two weekends ago in Denver. Now that I have (somewhat) recovered, I feel like I can honestly and succinctly write about it.
It was amazing.
Succinct enough for you?
All joking aside, I have to admit that I went into the GABF with a few preconceived notions that were proven correct; I also learned quite a few tricks for next year.
But, before I share my learnings, here’s a photo recap of the weekend.
There were beards. And great costumes. And Sam Cagalione and his wonderful lobster stout. And lots of wonderful people tasting and talking about their favorite thing: beer.
Tips and Tricks from (and for) the GABF:
- Make it a special occasion. Dress up, if you’re into it. Don paraphernalia from your favorite brewery. Get crafty.
- Bring your own pretzel necklace. Feel free to add other snacks to the necklace. They don’t actually sell them there (at least, I didn’t see them) and it’s much more fun if you can customize your own.
- Make new friends. There were a few beers that I wanted to try badly enough that I was willing to stand in line (Funky Buddha was one of them) and, as a result, I met folks from all over the country–and world, for that matter. It was great comparing notes and hearing stories while waiting for the next one ounce pour.
- Stick to one style. This was the hardest thing for me to do and possibly the rule that I should have tried harder to obey. There were so many different beers that I wanted to try that I hopped from IPAs to stouts to porters to everything in between. The resulting concoction was not pleasant in my stomach. Next time, I plan to concentrate on one style and then, if I get tired of it, switch to something else.
- Seek out the brewers. Don’t get me wrong–the volunteers are awesome. But, if you really want to learn about the beer, look for someone that actually works for the brewery (they’ll most likely be wearing something from the brewery) and you can get the whole scoop.
- Explore. There’s more to the GABF than beer. Well, actually, it’s all about beer, but there are some fun elements that go beyond beer, if you’re willing to explore. St. Arnold Brewing Company was conducting weddings. The Night Watch showed up at Ommegang’s tent. A coffin was constructed for He’Brew’s commemorative Black IPA. You could power your own beer at Sierra Nevada. The Yard House had a photo booth complete with costumes. A Scottish band complete with bagpipes and kilts came through the Fest. There was karaoke (yes–I sang). And, of course, there was the silent disco. You can’t try it all….but you can try to see it all.
If You Go
- The Great American Beer Festival usually takes place in October in Denver at the Denver Convention Center.
- Tickets sell out quickly: in 2013 tickets were gone in 20 minutes. They usually go on sale in July, so check the GABF website for details.
- There are four sessions: Thursday evening, Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. The Saturday afternoon session is only open to members of the American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association members only, but if you’re really set on going, it would be worth it to get a membership in the AHA. Plus, you get a shot at members’ pre-sale tickets.
- For more tips and tricks, check out the articles I wrote for Liftopia and Viator.