For most people the Great American Beer Festival is a hectic effort to get one of the 60,000 tickets before they are all gone in less than an hour, then scrambling to get a hotel room reasonably close top the Colorado Convention Center in Denver (forget reasonably priced) and then waiting in impossibly long lines to get in to the venue of the day of the event.
However, once inside they will be able to attack some 3,700 beers from 750 brewers from all 50 states (and Washington DC) – one ounce at a time. It is the only place where you will ever see that many varieties of beers from that many beer makers anywhere in the world. It also one of the best places to dress up in silly costumes and enjoy being yourself
To do the Great American Beer Festival right, you need to get into Denver, CO, on Wednesday. That gives you time to visit some of the big name breweries and a few smaller up and comers.
This is a must for the beer blogger. From the airport to the hotel is about an hour, and after checking in, you should be ready to go around lunch time. The 16th Street shuttle will take you up and down the heart of the city – and it’s free. It runs about every two minutes.
You can check out places from the capitol and mint area, to the heart of the brewery district and Coors Field if you want to take in a Rockies baseball game before the festival (schedule permitting). There are many cool places to eat, from Marlowe’s and the Yard House to Subway and Chili’s.
If you ride to the end, or get off at Blake or Wynkoop streets and head to the right, you will walk by Wynkoop Brewery (co-founded by Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper), Falling Rock Alehouse, Breckenridge Brewery, Jagged Mountain, and Great Divide. You can find great eateries like Morton’s Steak House, the Denver Chop House and less pricey spots like The Keg.
You can occupy yourself for many hours up here and then head back to your hotel to rest up for Thursday.
Thursday – Festival Day 1
Okay, so the festival doesn’t actually start until 5:30 pm so you have all day to see the sights or take in some touristy things like shopping, museums, or bus tours into the Rocky Mountains. Or you can go to Sam’s #3 for breakfast – get there early – it has quite a loyal following. You can do the brewery visitations too , but you will want to hold off a bit because there will be some 3,700 beers waiting for you to sample that evening.
Friday – Festival Day 2
Day 2 is pretty much the same scenario for the general festival goer, but for media types like me it is a non-stop whirlwind of beer education, beer tasting and great food.
It starts with a stop at Starbuck’s (literally on on every corner) and a breakfast munchie, and then to Marlowe’s for the Sam Adams Media Event. It was a fabulous feast accompanied by a Pumpkin Spice ALe and the traditional Sam Adams Lager.
Jim Koch is probably the most entertaining, knowledgeable voice in the craft beer industry. He uses the GABF brunch to showcase what is new at Sam Adams. They will introduce three beers in February nationwide that use nitrogen for carbonation. We got to try one of them. It was very good.
Jim also announced winners in the Longshot program. One part of the program hosts a homebrew competition with two winners who will get to brew their recipe with the Sam Adams brewers. The winning brews were a Belgian Golden Strong Ale and a Raspberry Gose. The second program provides mentorship for an up and coming brewer who will get coaching, hands on training and the use of Boston Beeer Company resources to raise the bar for their brewery.
Jim also will publish a book that will feature his observations about the craft beer industry and where he sees its future. It will be titled Quench Your Own Thirst and available in April, 2016.
Next up, the media luncheon – a five course pairing of gourmet dishes and top flight beers. All this while getting the latest news from the Brewer’s Association and American Homebrewers Association. Go to craftbeer.com to catch up on all the programs they are sponsoring to improve beer education for servers at pubs, hotels and restaurants.
Right after the meal and education we headed out to a couple of new local breweries in a Denver suburb. Ratio Beerworks served up some unusual brews; a coffee scotch ale, and a lime gose.
Spangalang Brewery built a beautiful place the courtyard of a small shopping area. They are making a variety of taste brews.
We made it back just in time for the Friday night session. More beer. More crazies.