| Report From the GABF
by J.J. Martino
Hello Bob -
As a beer lover I've always wanted to go to the Great American Beer
Festival. Well, this year I finally did it. It was the lure of 2,000 or so
breweries I guess though I can't confirm that's true. Needless to say
I didn't get to all of them. And it was really hard to keep track of all
the beers I tasted. I started entering them on Untappd then just
gave up. It was taking away from all my fun. I can tell you there were
thousands of beer fans there in Denver. I even met a few who made
the trip from my home state, Delaware. .Almost everyone I met was
nice but a crowd is a crowd and something I'm not very fond of.
You might get a kick out of some of the stats from the festival.
There were more than 7,500 kegs of beer, 250 tons of ice, 20
refrigerated semi trucks, 4,000+ volunteers, four miles of gas lines,
nearly 10,000 competition beers to be judged. How do those judges
do it? If they need one for next year, I'm volunteering now.
The beer were organized in a regional format that grouped
breweries by alphabetical order within their geographical locations.
We got glass tasking cups. I learned that last year they used
plastic. Are they kidding? I would not have been happy with that.
I got my tickets early but was told this is the second year in a row
that tickets remained available the week of the festival. The Friday
evening and Saturday afternoon sessions were sold out, but tickets
for Thursday and Saturday evenings did not as far as I know. I was
surprised at that since I had always heard this was a super hard
ticket to get. Now that I think about it maybe I shouldn't be so
surprised after all. There are a lot of festivals out there and the
number keeps growing. They may not be as big but they're still fun
and exciting and a lot less expensive to go to.
Two of my friends had gone before and their advice was that I do a
little bit of research ahead of time. I did just that and it was really
helpful. The beer list is available early which meant I could have a
game plan. I prioritized the main breweries I wanted to visit and beat
some of the long lines. Oh, don't get me started on the lines. They
were no fun though that's when I got to meet a lot of terrific beer
I lucked in when I went to something called the Fresh Hops booth. It’s
hop harvest season and nothing beats a beer made using hops
picked just hours earlier. At the booth I enjoyed five (or was it three
or maybe six?) fresh hop beers from brewers they said couldn't be
found elsewhere at the festival. Someone there then suggested I go
to in the Brewers Guild section in the middle. The state guilds there
were pouring a slew of beers. I had several really great ones there.
If I ever go again I'll make sure to be there a few days before the
festival starts. It seems that some of the best beer poured that week
in the Denver area didn't appear at the festival. I leaned that many
the hottest breweries in the country hosted their own events — tap
takeovers, dinners, special releases — at area bars and breweries
Everything was not perfect however. The pouring size you got was
one ounce. One ounce?? I thought that was a joke. I also found
that the majority of tables were manned by local volunteers who
didn't know a thing about what they’re pouring. It was no better than
any local festival you'd care to go to. Also tickets were expensive.
General session tickets are priced at $85.
Now if you ask me would I go again the answer would be probably
not. The lines and the small pours and the expense of getting there
are really issues for me living so far away. Having said that I had a
good time and am very glad I went. You know I just might try it
again. But not for a while. There are a lot of other festivals I want to
go to before even considering a return.
That's it from me. Hope you enjoyed reading my impressions of the
GABF. Thanks Bob!
Thanks JJ for your article. Your experiences at the festival were
interesting, informative, and entertaining. Usually we only read about
the GABF from the breweries and organizers' perspectives. It was
refreshing to hear from a patron.
Again, many thanks for sending your article. I'm glad we could publish it.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as JJ did. I select the best and publish
them here. So join in and get writing!
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