This year is the 29th festival and more than 2,200 beers will be available from 462 breweries (56 more than last year). The event sold out weeks in advance and 49,000 attendees are expected.
The first festival was held in 1982 in nearby Boulder, CO. There were 22 breweries, 40 beers and 800 attendees. The festival moved to Denver in 1984 and each year it the number of breweries, beers and attendees grew. By 1992 the festival had grown to 150 breweries, 500 beers and 7,000 attendees.
My First Time at GABF
GABF is not the first American beer I’ve been to (I attended the Orlando Beer Fest many years ago) but it is the first time that I’ve been to a festival on this scale.
Before the festival I was a little apprehensive due to the small amounts of beer that you get to sample. Each session costs $50 and you get to have as many 1 fl oz samples as you like. To those that only deal in ml, 20 fl oz equates to 568ml, or on imperial pint. Back home at British beer festivals you purchase beers in either third, half or full pint measures.
Quickly into the festival I realised that this method of serving drinks is much better. Generally, US craft beers are much strong with many reaching 9-11%. Being able to have just a little taste of these strong beers means that you can try more without getting drunk too quickly.
Comparison to UK Beer Festivals
At UK beer festivals, many people (or at least me) purchase their drink and then sit down to drink it. As a result, seating is at a premium. As you can only get small measures at GABF and other American beer festivals you are constantly walking around sampling beers.
Whilst you are tired by the end of the session, it allows you to mingle with and meet more people.
Certain breweries at the festival will always have large queues such as Dogfish Head, Russian River and New Glarus. As there so many breweries that I had never heard of, I avoided many of the longs lines.
On the whole I didn’t have many bad beers and the ones that stood out were New Belgium La Folie Sour Brown Ale, Deschutes Black Butte XIII, Great Basin Smoke Creek, Rock Bottom Argus India Brown Ale and Old Hickory Irish Walker 2009.
GABF has plenty to keep you entertained besides drinking beer. You can get your beard trimmed, test your singing skills on the karaoke or dance at the silent disco.
A great touch is being able to attend talks without having to pre-book. I attended a talk about sour beers that featured 4 breweries – New Belgium, Trinity, Cascade and Jolly Pumpkin.
Each person in the audience got a sample from each brewery to taste whilst the brewers discussed their beer. Not being great at tasting beers, I found it very educating.
More Photos of the Great American Beer Festival
Denver Convention Center
700 14th St
Denver, CO. 80202
Tel: (303) 228-8000
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