Rules for Great American Beer Festival

My vacation this year has taken me to Denver, CO for my favorite event on Earth: Great American Beer Festival.  Here are a few rules I’ve developed from previous trips.

Rule #1

If you have tickets for the opening day, don’t try to get in the Convention Center right at 5:30. There will be a line.  A very long line.  It will seem endless, and it won’t be moving.  If you can, enjoy Denver, grab a bite to eat and walk around the downtown area, it is beautiful.  Then, once its 5:30 go to the line and start walking towards the entrance.  You will get in, in no time.  Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way.

Rule #2

Either get the GABF app for your phone or make sure you grab a program on the way in. They both will provide you with a floor map and brewery list.  It makes finding the breweries you want to try really easy.  The reason you will need a map and a brewery list is you need a plan.  There are around 600 breweries and 3000 beers at this shindig. You will not be able to visit every booth and taste every beer even if you go all three days.  Now, you don’t need to work this like the D-Day Invasion, but you do need to have some idea of where you want to start and what you want to taste.  Personally, I pick a style or two I want to try and then concentrate on then start at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic sections.  Once I’ve spent time going through those sections I just go and find other beer to try in the styles I’m concentrating on for the night.

Rule #3

Do not wait in a long line for a taste.  Again there are 600 breweries and 3000 beers, in all likelihood if you go walk around and taste other beers the line will probably go do if it is something you really have to try.  Also, if it is a brewery that has a national distribution do not stand in line for that beer.  The only two exceptions to this rule are a special brew from a nationally distributed brewer or a brewery that has a lot of buzz and little national distribution at this point.  This year’s new brewery with ridiculous buzz is Asheville’s own Wicked Weed.  Well-deserved buzz by the way. I’m glad I’m NC local because I was not going to stand in that never ending line last night.  Long live #NCBEER.

Rule #4

Experiment.  You are in a place with almost 3000 beers. Try a style you’ve never had.  Try a style with experimental ingredients.  Try a brewery you’ve never heard of and try a couple of their beers.  If you see a booth with no one tasting a beer and one of the brewers or someone else who works at the brewery standing there looking bored, go up try a couple and talk to the pourer. You will learn so much about the beer and the brewery and you will find something new to drink.

Rule #5

Don’t taste big flavors early.  If you start the day with smoked beers, bourbon barrel aged beers, gose’s, or any other strong flavors you will spoil your taste buds for a bit.  Save those big flavors for your last tastings. You’ll enjoy them a lot more.

Finally, a bit of advice.  Use Google Maps to find food if you are not from Denver or like me have a friend who lives in Denver to go with you. My recommendation:  Sam’s No. 3 Diner.

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