Denver is a great craft beer town, but when the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) comes to town, it becomes the beer epicenter of the United States. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I found out I was going to be in Denver for work the same weekend as GABF. And, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I called the crew from Full Sail Brewing from my Brewmaster Cuisinternship, and they allowed me to extend my internship for just one more day, allowing me to use a brewers pass.
There are a ton of beer related activities going on around town surrounding GABF. Many of the local breweries hold events and specials during the festival. I visited Great Divide, which was having a huge outdoor event, and then went to dinner at Wynkoop Brewery and stumbled into the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting event. Everywhere you look downtown, people are in the mood for the festival.
When you walk into the event, you are handed a small sampler glass, and look up to notice the massive scale of the event. It is, without a doubt, the largest beer festival I’ve ever attended. The enormous convention center room is divided by regions of the United States, with the breweries at tables within those areas. Some breweries have the basic pipe and drape provided by the convention center, while others custom build their own small tasting room on the end of the aisle.
Most of the tables had brewery representatives at them (handing out brewery swag), with several volunteers serving beers. If you’re really into craft beer, like I am, it was truly amazing how approachable the celebrities of the craft beer world were. I walked right up, took a selfie and talked with Charlie Papazian, the godfather of homebrewing, and founder of the American Homebrewers Association and the Great American Beer Festival. Other brewers just mingling and walking around the event included Sam Calagione fom Dogfish Head, Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewing, beer author John Palmer, and Adam Avery from Avery Brewing (who, while chatting, I found out grew up near me in central Illinois).
Not only is the event awesome for meeting craft beer people, but it’s also a chance to try some awesome beers that are usually limited by geography or quantity. One of my first stops was the Russian River booth to try some Pliney the Elder and Younger. I also stopped over at the Founders booth and had some CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout), The Bruery booth for Black Tuesday, and several others.
You get a 2oz sample of each beer, but the number of samples you’re able to get were only limited by the length of the session and your tolerance for so much good beer. With nearly 500 breweries and over 2,200 beers, I would recommend making it a 2-3 day affair. The single 4 hour session I attended at GABF flew by faster than I would have ever expected – and I didn’t really have to wait in any lines, since I had the brewers pass. Again, I sincerely thank the crew from Full Sail Brewing for everything, as this experience would not nearly have been as exciting without the Brewer’s Pass. I really hope I can get a chance to go back, as this really is the pinnacle of beer festivals!