6 Things I Learned At GABF About GABF

Dear Great American Beer Festival 2013:

This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of flying out to Denver to attend you. I am writing today (now that my liver is sufficiently dried out and my acute case of Brain Fog appears to be thinning), to say several things.


Great American Beer Festival 2013 (photo via GABF.org)

1. I Love You

Actually, I don’t just love you. I’m in love with you. Honestly, you’re my Huckleberry.

I walked in on Friday evening not fully knowing what to expect. Some brewers? Some beer geeks? Some decent beers to be had? Um, yeah. Except replace “some” with “seemingly a billion.” From the moment I joined the line (that wound all the way around the massive Colorado Convention Center), I knew that I had grossly underestimated all of it. And once I got in the doors? My friends, this was joy.

2. You Are Extremely Well Organized

This year, there were 4,809 separate beers available from 732 breweries. Over the course of three days, there were over 45,000 attendees. The competition was presided over by 201 judges from 11 different countries. To me, this sounds like a recipe for chaos. Luckily, the Brewers Association (with the help of a veritable army of volunteers) is all like, “Pffft. We got this.” I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never seen so many people, so much booze, and so few problems all in one place. Kudos BA. You did a damn fine job.

GABF Volunteers

Just a couple of the many, many GABF volunteers. (Photo via GABF.org)

3. Did I Mention That I Love You?

With my first steps into the hall, a whole shining world was laid out before my eyes. The breweries, arranged by geographic location, seemed to stretch on forever. Booth after booth, row after row, of dedicated, imaginative brewers humbly offering the cream of their crop one glorious ounce at a time. This isn’t Iowa. It’s Heaven.

Field of Dreams

“Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s the Great American Beer Fest.” (Photo via rayonsports.com)

4. Beer People Are Great…

From the aforementioned volunteers happily pouring at each booth, to the pretzel-necklaced attendees, to the genius brewers who want nothing more than just to talk beer with you, it seemed like everyone at GABF was more or less in the best mood ever. Even in a room full of people drinking a whole lot of pretty damn strong beer, tempers rarely seemed to flare. It’s as though there was a tacitly understood agreement between thousands and thousands of people to just not be a jerk.

GABF Crowd

Pretzel necklaces and smiles for as far as the eye can see. (Photo via GABF.org)

5. …And So Is Beer

It’s hard to oversell the variety of world-class beer that’s available at GABF. All the craft rockstars are there (Firestone Walker, all of the Pizza Port locations, the Lost Abbey, Cigar City, etc. etc. etc.). And of course, any little brewery might end up becoming the Next Big Brewery by virtue of a good showing at GABF. The amount of craftsmanship and imagination on display under one roof is, frankly, mind-boggling. Some of my favorites were the Chai Milk Stout from Yak and Yeti Brew Pub, Stupid Sexy Flanders from Sun King Brewing, the Fire Starter Chipotle Porter from Right Brain Brewery, and the Big Pimpkin from Lucky Bucket Brewing. But honestly? Even the stuff that wasn’t for me wasn’t bad beer. I could taste the passion and dedication in literally every sip I had.

6. I’ll Be Back

I mean, duh. I kind of wish I never had to leave. Even with a fair bit of drinking under my belt, I felt like I had barely scratched the surface. So many beers, so little time, you know? But the good news is that GABF 2014 is only 352 days away. I don’t think I could wait a second longer.

Thanks for everything,


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