Great American Beer Festival attendees clink glasses outdoors Upslope Brewing Firm’s sales space throughout the 2017 pageant in the Colorado Conference Middle. With glasses in hand are, from left, Austin Grissom, David Kolodziej, Daniel Currens, Al Panicucci and Al’s spouse Kathy Panicucci. (Andy Colwell, Particular to The Denver Submit)
Once you step right into a ginormous conference corridor that’s been remade as the mecca of the brewing world, the scene is a beer-lover’s dream. However it’s additionally daunting: a cavernous area, unfurling over the equal of eight or so football fields, providing four,000-plus choices to pattern from 800 breweries from throughout the nation.
At the Great American Beer Festival, set to be unleashed Sept. 20-22 in downtown Denver, the place do you begin?
First, by ensuring you’ve obtained one of the 62,000 tickets divided amongst 4 periods over the course of three days. Tickets have been simpler to snag than regular this yr — and as of early this week, they have been nonetheless on sale for the opening Thursday night time session for $85. However one of the open secrets and techniques of GABF is that the secondary market is full of resale tickets, and sometimes they are often discovered being hawked for face worth on the road outdoors the Colorado Conference Middle.
OK, so you might have a ticket. Whether or not you’re attending for the first time or hitting GABF as a veteran, subsequent you want a plan. Listed here are a bevy of ideas gleaned from my expertise at the final 4 GABFs in addition to The Denver Publish’s previous GABF protection, together with this useful information for first-timers.
The fundamentals: You’ve acquired quite a bit of floor to cowl
This yr’s GABF is the largest in almost each means. Particularly in measurement: The 584,000-square-foot pageant area consists of the addition of a sixth conference corridor, two extra halls than the 2016 pageant used. The additional area is permitting the pageant to spread out, accommodating extra attendees and offering extra diversions to entertain (and educate) them.
“Wear your favorite, most comfortable shoes,” advises Ann Obenchain, the advertising director for the Boulder-based Brewers Affiliation, which places on GABF. “And then have a plan (for leaving): a designated driver or a public transportation plan or using ride share,” corresponding to Uber or Lyft.
Right here are some things to know at the outset:
- It’s gone alphabetical: GABF’s custom of grouping breweries by area has been thrown out the window. This yr, most breweries are ordered alphabetically en masse, alongside the pageant’s lengthy banks of tables and stations, regardless of the place they hail from. This could make it simpler to discover your favourite by identify. The Brewers Affiliation says the change additionally ought to scale back congestion from previous years round cubicles in the most well-liked areas.
The Great American Beer Festival’s 2018 flooring plan displays its expansiveness, masking six conference halls. (Click on to enlarge.)
- Besides: As in the final three years, brewery tables staffed by brewers or their staff — fairly than GABF volunteers — are set off in the Meet the Brewer part. This enables attendees to chat up the individuals who brewed the beer they’re consuming. This yr, 176 breweries made the reduce, a rise of 40 % over 2017.
- Meals-pairing occasion grows, too: Together with the pageant, its fashionable — and individually ticketed — offshoot of food-and-beer pairings, appropriately referred to as PAIRED, additionally is greater. The BA says 25 cooks from round the nation are working with an equal quantity of breweries to create bites that go together with brews, rising the area by a few quarter.
Everybody should undergo an ID examine and safety screening, so make sure to arrive at the conference middle nicely earlier than the begin of your session. And although there’s meals on the market inside the corridor, it’s all the time a good suggestion to eat a meal beforehand so that you simply’re prepared for the lengthy haul.
When you make a plan, you’ll take pleasure in the expertise extra
I’m not speaking about locking your self into an in depth itinerary — in any case, GABF is a heck of quite a bit of enjoyable, and half of it’s following your fancy and making discoveries.
But when all you do is wander from sales space to sales space, you’ll drink quick; you’ll imbibe a palate-confusing mishmash of IPAs, sours, porters and Pilsners that more and more mix collectively; and also you’ll doubtless find yourself disillusioned — and perhaps even wasted — by session’s finish.
Right here’s my recommendation: Jot down the breweries you’re keen on and people you’ve all the time needed to attempt. Do some Googling to discover scorching breweries and beers in a area or state that pursuits you. Discover unsung or hidden-gem brewers you need to seek out. (Right here’s our recent record of 26 breweries to scout out, and right here’s one other good listing to seek the advice of from final yr, since most of these breweries shall be again.)
Obtain the My GABF app: Tag the breweries you need to go to, and discover out the place they’re situated. The app will function your information inside the corridor, righting the ship as soon as your senses are on overload. It additionally permits you to price what you attempt, serving to maintain monitor of your favorites. (The app already has information for all the breweries which might be collaborating, and the Brewers Affiliation says every’s beer choices might be uploaded by Wednesday night time.)
A number of different ideas for the flooring: Begin with lighter beers, and hit the heavies later in the session. Don’t simply go for the massive names — go searching for buzz round smaller breweries. And be prepared to pivot for those who hear different attendees speaking up a brewery that’s catching hearth on the flooring.
An excellent early cease: The Heavy Medal Sales space options award-winning beers from final yr’s GABF competitors. “It can give you an idea of what you might like,” longtime GABF volunteer Matthew Rawlins informed us earlier than a previous pageant.
Respite from strains: At the Shield Craft Guilds Pavilion, guilds from two dozen states will supply pours of beers you’ll be able to’t discover anyplace else in the corridor, typically from newer breweries that didn’t make the trek to Denver. Often the strains are minimal, and a few beers are surprisingly good. An alternative choice is a brand new collaboration providing, during which skilled brewers have paired up to brew beers they’ll be pouring at the Collaboration Competitors Sales space.
Dressed as beer steins, Boston resident Katie Piscopio, left, of Boston, and her pal Andrea Liner, of Denver, stroll by way of the Great American Beer Festival at the Colorado Conference Middle after making an attempt beer from Colorado breweries. (Andy Colwell, Particular to The Denver Publish)
Pattern so much of beers — however don’t get loaded
When every desk is providing 1-ounce pours, how lengthy does it take to get tipsy? Reply: Much less time than you’d assume.
Exhibit A: By the finish of the night time, the pageant corridor can get rowdy. The clinks of dropped plastic tasting cups will immediate more and more annoying swells of “Ohhhhh!” from surrounding crowds.
However in case you take a deliberate strategy, you’ll maintain your wits. As a colleague suggested final yr, solely end the beers that put a smile in your face. My addendum: Understand that you simply’ll be smiling much more as the session wears on.
The taste-and-dump technique is formally sanctioned, actually.
“You don’t have to drink the whole beer. It’s fine just to taste it,” Obenchain says. That’s why every desk has a swill bucket. In case you really feel hesitant to dump out the beer at the place that poured it, simply wait till you get to the subsequent brewery.
Don’t overlook: Drink tons of water. GABF has tons of water stations, so make frequent stops to hydrate. Out-of-towners, keep in mind: Denver’s excessive altitude can hasten the results of alcohol, making it much more necessary to drink water typically.
And keep in mind to eat. The pageant doesn’t permit outdoors meals, until you put on it — therefore the much-debated pretzel necklaces that present prepared reserves of sustenance, in addition to a palate-cleanser. Apart from the typical meals stand choices, GABF this yr has lined up 5 Denver meals vans to arrange inside the corridor, together with Dude Bro Taco, Mile Excessive Cajun and Smokestack 70.
Keep away from the longest strains, and know the place to chill
Boulder resident Glenn Grant shows his lanyard of pretzels, beer buttons and different paraphernalia at the Great American Beer Festival in 2017. (Andy Colwell, Particular to The Denver Publish)
For well-liked breweries you’re dead-set on hitting — in my case, Three Floyds from Indiana and New Glarus from Wisconsin — do it early. By every session’s again half, the most in style breweries’ shares start operating out.
However don’t spend the complete session in line. There are too many good beers from less-known brewers. A number of years in the past, I found Bayou Teche Brewing, out of Arnaudville, La., they usually didn’t have a line all night time. Annually brings a brand new discovery that doesn’t require an eternity in line.
Don’t overlook to hit pause a few times, whether or not to get meals or to take a breather. Listed here are some choices:
Hit the pavilions. Apart from the state guild cubicles, there’s the Meals & Beer Pavilion that gives talks and demonstrations. “You can get food there, which is free,” Obenchain says. “And you’re learning about beer and food pairings. This year we actually have one on pairing beer with bugs,” together with extra typical subjects.
Dance it off. Again at the pageant this yr is the Silent Disco space, the place a stay DJ will pump the soundtrack into headphones worn by dancing individuals.
Two new hangouts. Jameson Irish Whiskey is sponsoring the Jameson Caskmates barrel-aged beer backyard, which can embrace talks on bourbon-aging, and Buffalo Wild Wings is sponsoring a sports activities bar the place attendees could make a pit cease and catch video games on big-screen TVs.
Lastly: Make a toilet plan
It sounds easy, however when you could have to go to the rest room, likelihood is so much of others will, too, and also you’ll face a squirm-inducing line. Make notice of the place the loos are alongside the corridor’s perimeter, and make a beeline earlier than nature calls.