The Great American Beer Festival is one week away! Whether you’re a GABF newbie or a veteran, this post highlights some of the “can’t miss” booths, areas, and activities at GABF 2017.
But before we get started with what’s actually at the fest, first–get that app: My GABF App
- Seriously—download the FREE app. The festival map comes in handy, you can search for particular beers and/or breweries, select beers you want to try, keep track of what you’ve tasted, take GABF selfies, and more. And check out the “Featured Tours,” such as Sour Puss, Dark Vader, Unicorn Beers, etc.
- There’s a new entrance this year. It’s at Welton Street. This is the only entrance to the festival (change from last year). Check out this handy map to see where to enter the convention center.
Now, what to expect inside the festival hall:
- There are nearly 800 breweries at GABF this year! While the beer list isn’t released until Wednesday, October 4th, you can see all the breweries in attendance here. If you just can’t wait to see the pour list, check out Porchdrinking.com’s Pour List Preview. List will be updated hourly until the fest.
- This is one of my favorite areas of the festival. Enjoy a brewpub atmosphere right in the middle of the festival hall! There are 42 breweries in the brewpub pavilion this year, representing each region of the country.
- A great place to visit for yard games such as corn hole and Twister, karaoke, the Heavy Medal Booth, and more.
- No, you won’t find hair bands at the Heavy Medal Booth, but you will find medal-winning beers from the Great American Beer Festival competition and World Beer CupSM.
- Always a popular activity with festival-goers. A live DJ plays tunes, you strap on headphones and let loose. The only people who hear the music are those wearing headphones. Not interested in participating? At least be sure to stop by for a few minutes and watch the silliness ensue.
- Spend some one-on-one time with breweries at CraftBeer.com Sit & Sips. Here you’ll find owners and brewers from 10 breweries of all sizes, who will invite you to sit down, will pour you one of their own beers of their choosing, and talk about running a brewery. Chat with folks from breweries in Colorado, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Georgia, Montana, and Florida. See the full schedule here.
- Ever take a Beercation? Ever want to? Then you’ll love the CraftBeer.com #beertravel Pavilion, showcasing some of the best beer destinations in the country.
- Want to learn about beer & food pairings? Here is the schedule for the Beer & Food Pavilion, from beer & cheese to beer & ice cream, and everything in between. Located in the Meet the Brewer Hall near island W.
- Meet the Brewer booths are awesome, because each one is staffed exclusively by their employees. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people behind the beer. This year, there will be 136 participating brewers! See the entire list here.
And finally, here are a few of my personal tips on getting the most out of the Great American Beer Festival:
First, have a plan. While the official beer list doesn’t come out until the day before the fest, 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 been able to get your hands on their beers? Now is the time to give it some thought. Once the beer list is out, search for your favorite styles and put them on your list. Have a plan, but keep in mind that it’s okay to deviate from it. Make random stops when you see something interesting. And if you taste something that’s not to your liking, don’t be afraid to use the dump buckets. GABF only comes around once a year, and you want to walk away with memories of all the fantastic beers you drank rather than the ones you didn’t care for.
Next, eat before the festival. I cannot stress this enough. Each session is 4.5 hours long (with the Saturday Members Only Session being 4 hours). You don’t want to risk getting overly buzzed too quickly, missing out on your chance to try the beers you looked forward to (and actually taste and appreciate them). I personally like to eat a fairly light meal so I’m satiated but not stuffed, leaving plenty of room for beer. And there are numerous options for grub inside the venue
should when you get hungry during the event.
Stay hydrated! There are water coolers all over the festival hall; use them.
Finally, make time to explore some of the other events around town. Whether you’re going to GABF or not, there are literally hundreds of special events, tappings, dinners, pairings, and more. I’ve put together over 60 of them for you right here.