Tickets for the Great American Beer Festival go on sale August 2nd. If you are a craft beer lover, you should seriously consider attending this festival at least once in your life. I attended GABF in 2011.
GABF brings together breweries from all over the country. The Festival consists of four sampling sessions: Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. We had two tickets to two sessions: Friday night and Saturday afternoon. The Saturday afternoon session is for members of the Homebrewers Association only. The sessions are 4 hours of drinking… I mean sampling different beers from across the country. In addition to beer samples, the Festival offers cooking demonstrations, cheese tasting, a silent disco, and a You Be the Judge experience where you can experience the criteria and process the Festival judges use to name the best beer.
To minimize time off work, we arrived in Denver Friday morning. We had lunch at a local French restaurant, assembled our pretzel necklaces and headed over to the Convention Center. Our other friends were hesitant to wear the necklaces, but were singing its praises by the end of the first session. You just take a long piece of twine and string pretzels along it and tie around your neck. It's a great palate cleanser and keeps a little food in your stomach. We were surprised how long the line was to enter. For Friday night, we had special entry due to Homebrewers' Association membership and it was worth every penny. It saved us about 45 minutes of line waiting just to get inside.
Once inside, I made it about two hours before I needed a pizza break. I just couldn’t keep up. The amount of beer was overwhelming. Some key highlights were the Oskar Blues Silent Disco where everyone in the roped off area wears headphones and the DJ spins some tunes.
The other unique offering was the 30th anniversary booth featuring the beers that were at the very first GABF. Some brewers even dug out the old recipes. After the session, we walked through downtown Denver and found a spot for a late dinner. The area surrounding the Convention Center offers a lot of restaurants and bars in walking distance. Plus food trucks set up right outside the Convention Center.Saturday morning, we headed to Sam’s #3 for breakfast. Sam’s was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It was worth the hour wait. The pork green chile was fantastic!!!
I was ready for Day Two – pretzel necklace in place. We hit the booths. This time we decided to brave the cheese tasting line. The wait was 45 precious beer drinking minutes. Thankfully, we had a plan. I stood in line and my husbandwent to the nearby booths and brought beer back to me. The cheese booth was very impressive once we got to the front. Plus they were pouring some of the beers that had the longest wait so it evened out.
I am glad we only did two sessions. Trying to hit all four would have been too much.
- Wear a pretzel necklace.
- Be sure to drink water along the way or the altitude will get you. We just took a swig every time we cleaned out our glass.
- Take the time to check the breweries in advance to make sure you hit the ones you wouldn't get an opportunity to try otherwise.
- Take pictures to keep track of what beers were your favorites.
For those interested, our favorite beers were:
Pizza Port Bacon and Eggs Stout
Pizza Port Bacon and Eggs Stout
Duck Rabbit Milk Stout
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Russian River Imperial Stout
Breckinridge Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter
21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat
Crabtree Chunkin Pumpkin
Airdale Dark and Stormy
Ska Fresh Hops
Mad River Chile Beer
Avery Out of sight house blend stout
Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale
Hollister Tiny Bubbles