The 35th Annual Great American Beer Festival is upon us! Just ONE WEEK away!
Thursday, October 6-Saturday, October 8th, the Great American Beer Festival returns to Denver. And I couldn’t be more thrilled! GABF is my absolute favorite beer festival of the year. Why? For starters, approximately 800 breweries and thousands of unique beers, many of which are unavailable in Colorado 362 days of the year. If that isn’t something to get excited about, I don’t know what is! If you’ve been to the Great American Beer Festival before, you know what to expect. But there are some great new things in store for 2016:
Golden Ticket. This year, six lucky attendees (and their friends) will get the chance to enter the hall early to go tasting with some big names in beer. The brewers below will randomly select one person from the entrance line and personally escort them through the hall before the event opens to the public. How cool is that?!
- Matt Brynildson – Firestone Walker Brewing Company
- Rob Tod – Allagash Brewing Company
- Vinnie Cilurzo – Russian River Brewing Company
- Tomme Arthur – The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Company
- Sam Calagione – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
- Garrett Oliver – The Brooklyn Brewery
The Backyard. What exactly is The Backyard? Think 1982: Throwback arcade games, temporary tattoos, awesome photo ops and music at the Jambulance and Silent Disco. There will also be picnic tables so attendees can have a place to sit and eat or just take a load off.
Whether you are a first-timer or a pro, here are a few of my personal tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
First, have a plan. While the official beer list doesn’t come out until Wednesday, Oct. 5 (by the end of the business day), you can get started with the brewery list. Is there a particular region of the US whose breweries don’t distribute in your area that you’d like to try? Have you heard great things about certain breweries but haven’t had a chance to get your hands on their beers? Now is the time to give it some thought. Once beer list is out, if you love a certain style (or five) of beer, do a search for that style, see what’s being poured, and make note of it. So have a plan, but keep in mind that it’s fine to deviate from it. Make random stops when you see something interesting.
Porchdrinking.com’s 2016 GABF Pour List Preview already has over 1500 beers and is being updated on an hourly basis. I highly recommend checking it out for those who want to start their planning early.
Next, eat before the festival. This is very important. Each session is 4.5 hours long (with the Saturday Members Only Session being 4 hours), and there are way too many excellent beers to sample to get too tipsy too early; don’t risk getting overly drunk too quickly and missing your chance to try as many beers on your list as possible. I personally like to eat a fairly light meal so that I’m not completely stuffed, leaving plenty of room for beer. And then of course there are numerous food options inside the venue should you get hungry during the event.
Also, don’t fear the new entrance. In 2015, a second entrance was added at 14th & California. Since I had waited in the usual line at all past GABFs, I decided to try the new one last year. When I got there I thought I’d made a mistake. There were so many people! And people arriving after me were directed to a different line which appeared to be shorter than the one I was in. I wasn’t sure why, and I wondered if I should change lines. Was I ever wrong! Once the doors opened, I was shocked at how quickly the line moved and how fast I got in. Trust those who are working the entrances; they have been through this before and are quite skilled at what they do. UPDATE: Since publishing this post I have received information that the entrance at 14th & California is the only entrance this year.
Download the app. It contains a ton of helpful information such as a festival map, brewery/beer list, and much more. You’ll be glad you got the app, trust me!
Want to know some of my favorite breweries and beers from years past? Just click the links below to read all about it!
GABF 2015: Recap, Best in Show
Best in Show: The Standouts of GABF 2013
Best in Show: The Standouts of GABF 2012
Even if you weren’t able to score tickets this year, don’t forget about all the amazing tappings and events going on before, during, and after GABF. Take a look at my special GABF Week Events post for a some truly fantastic options. Take advantage of the entire week and drink some rare and/or otherwise unobtainable beers! And most importantly: have fun! Cheers!
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