The Great American Beer Festival, one of the largest beer fests in the US, is just six days away. The three-day event known as the Olympics of beer is sold out, but if you are one of the lucky 50,000 or so who will be in attendance when it takes place in Denver next week, now is the time to plan your perfect GABF experience.
The GABF is more than just an excuse to drink beer (lots and lots of beer – nearly 2,000 beers will be available for sampling), it’s a chance to learn more about beer than you ever thought possible, meet the brewers of your favorites, and try brews not available in your local area.
In addition to the basic beer tasting, there are several special events going on at the festival. At the Beer and Food Pavilion, local chefs will be working with brewers to pair beer with food. Attendees can learn how to pair the two at home and taste samples. At the You Be the Judge booth, drinkers can learn the secrets of judging beer and taste several brews alongside an official judge. There’s also a Great American Beer Fest bookstore, lectures from the brewers, and a Designated Driver Lounge where DDs can sample craft-brewed root beers and soda and receive a free massage.
With so much going on, coming up with a strategy to make the most of each four-hour session can be daunting. The Great American Beer Festival website is here to help though. They’ve created an interactive networking website where attendees can talk about their favorite beers, arrange for beer trades, and discuss the best ways to plan their GABF experience. Veterans of the event offer advice to newbies like: eat beforehand (the high altitude can increase the effects of the beer), make a “pretzel necklace” to munch on as you taste so you don’t have to waste time waiting in the food line, costumes are not uncommon, and whatever you do, don’t drop your tasting glass.
The website also hosts a map of each brewery’s location so you can plan your route through the convention hall. Some GABF experts recommend you not try to do too much – chose your top 10-15 breweries and plan a strategy to visit them in the order of importance. Others suggest choosing the beers you want to taste according to style, maybe concentrating on IPAs or porters, or by geographical location of the brewery. And some attendees prefer to just bounce from booth to booth, sneaking in for a sample at whichever one has the shortest line. You can pick a plan of attack based on your preferences, but if you’re serious about tasting beer, you’ll need some kind of strategy to make the most of your limited time.
If you weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets this year, mark your calendar for June 2010. That’s when tickets for next year’s GABF, to be held September 16-18, go on sale.