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A Guide to the Great American Beer Festival, Denver, Colorado

The largest craft beer festival in the USA

by G. Kunkel

(This article was originally publish on on September 12, 2008)

Looking to sample different beers? Want to find exceptional craft beers? Want to try different styles of beer without buying duds? Try attending the Great American Beer Festival this year! What’s a beer festival?470_695635


They are competitions held around the USA in which brewers vie for medals and the general public gets to taste and compare potentially over a thousand different craft beers. What a win-win situation. The Great American Beer Festival is one of the premier beer festivals in the U.S.

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) was originally created in Boulder, CO by ex-nuclear engineer Charles Papazian. In the ensuing twenty seven years it has moved to Denver, CO and expanded from the original 22 breweries to 474 competing breweries. Competing brewers range from small craft breweries to large commercial breweries.

In 2007 more than 46,000 beer-aficionados descended upon the Colorado Convention Center and tasted more than 2832 beers in 75 beer categories judged by 107 international judges. Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded in each category.

Grab a program at the door and learn the layout of the breweries. Breweries are arranged on the convention floor by seven regions of the country: South, Midwest, Mountain, Pacific NW, North East, Pacific, and the Southwest. This will allow you to easily find regional brewers and their styles. While the pourers are local volunteers, many of the booths are staffed by the brewers themselves. This is your chance to ask a brewer about the intricacies of your favorite beer. In addition to the beer tasting, there is a designated driver lounge where you can get root beer, a beer gear store, a silent disco, beer seminars, and a learn how to judge beer booth.

To get the most out of the GABF, have a tasting strategy. With so many beers available, it’s impossible to taste them all. Pick up a program beforehand or go to the GABF website and try to find out the competing breweries and the entered beers. Do some research to find out which ones have won awards previously and those that you have never been able to try before.

Some brewer’s beers are only available regionally and this may be your only chance to try them. Write down a list of brews to try. Leave some space to write notes about the beer at the festival. Serious tasters come to the Members Only session, which is less crowded and has all of the competing beers in stock. As the festival progresses beers do run out so be sure to taste your high priority beers first.

470_690117Upon entry, everyone is issued a plastic commemorative tasting cup with a 1oz. mark on it. Hang onto it. This is your entry into beer nirvana. Just step up to the booth with the beers you are interested in tasting and hand the pourer your cup. They will pour one ounce but you are not limited to just one tasting. The sessions last at least four hours so there should be plenty of time for tasting your favorites. If you happen to drop your cup on the floor, you will be subject to a unique tradition of GABF. You will hear the people around you start yelling at you and it will then resonate to every corner of the entire Festival floor. This harkens back to the early years of the GABF when the cups were made of glass. If you dropped your cup, it broke and you were banished from tasting any more beer. Needless to say in the old days, as the evening wore on, the yelling became very frequent.

Every beer enthusiast should attend the GABF in Denver at least once in his or her life. It is held annually at the beginning of October. One can purchase tickets online or at designated outlets. The festival now routinely sells out weeks ahead so it is not recommended that you try to purchase tickets at the door. As the festival is run entirely by volunteers, it is possible to get in free if you sign up ahead of time. Reserve the date today and make your travel plans. Denver has more beer brewed per capita than in any other city in the nation.

© 2008-2014 G. Kunkel and Colorado, snowboards, and scooters. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to G. Kunkel and Colorado, snowboards, and scooters with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Google

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