The 37th annual Great American Beer Festival is in the books! I say this every year, but I am continually impressed with how well organized this event is. And even with some big changes (read on), it all appeared to run seamlessly.
This year’s space at the Convention Center was a whopping 584,000 square feet, and it was wonderful. It was the most spacious GABF ever; it wasn’t shoulder-to-shoulder, and I never struggled to make my way through too-packed areas. Other than the fact that there truly was so much physical space, I believe another reason for the roominess is the amount of thought that goes into the organization of the breweries. While booths were arranged alphabetically, experience from past GABFs along with predictions on which breweries might expect the biggest crowds certainly played into the location of some of the end booths as to reduce the amount of crowding as much as possible.
Speaking of the booths being alphabetical rather than by geographical region, that was the most major change this year, in my opinion. While I heard some grumbling about the new set-up, I liked it. I understand many folks want to head to one area to sample beer from a specific region. But overall I thought A-Z was a nice change as I found it easier to locate the breweries this way. I’m curious to hear about the overall response to the new setup was and whether or not they will go back to regions next year.
Jameson Caskmates Barrel-Aged Beer Garden was a really fun addition to the fest. It was like a big backyard party that featured 17 breweries which all created their own unique Jameson barrel-aged beer aged in whiskey barrels shipped from the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Ireland. The three I enjoyed most are:
A few fun facts about the 2018 GABF festival:
- Over 800 breweries
- 4,000+ beers served at the festival
- 62,000 attendees
- 4,086 volunteers (festival and competition combined)
Upon seeing those numbers, it gives one a real appreciation for just what an enormous job it is to plan and carry out a festival of this scale.
My personal favorite beers this year include a few I’ve had before and a handful of new ones. And it seems I’ve gone over to the dark side, as is evident from the beers that topped my list. In no particular order:
- Barrel-Aged Henna: Karma — More Brewing Co (Villa Park, IL)
- Single Barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche — Weldwerks Brewing Co (Greeley, CO)
- Funky Jewbelation — Shmaltz Brewing Co (Clifton Park, NY)
- Wild Bill — City Star Brewing (Berthoud, CO)
- Old Devil’s Tooth Barleywine — Sockeye Brewing Co (Boise, ID)
- Crunk Berry Sour — Sockeye Brewing Co (Boise, ID)
- Triple Barrel Baptist — Epic Brewing Co. (Denver, CO)
- Big Bad Baptista — Epic Brewing Co. (Denver, CO)
Honorable Mention: While I didn’t love it enough to include it in my favorites, Weldwerks’ Spaghetti Gose was one of the most interesting beers I tried. Brewed with tomatoes, pasta, oregano and basil, it had all the flavor of an Italian dish. I heard that Weldwerks was pairing it with mini pizza slices for the first 100 people to visit their booth, but I wasn’t able to make it over before the pizza ran out.
For attendees, the festival itself is is what it’s all about. Show up, drink all the beer. But what most don’t see is the behind-the-scenes competition that a couple thousand breweries (and judges and volunteers) put so much hard work into.
Here’s a bit of info on 32nd edition of the GABF competition:
- 8,496 entries plus 101 Pro-Am and 49 Collaboration entries (Pro-Am entries are a pairing of homebrewers with professional brewers, who scale up their award-winning homebrew recipes)
- 2,404 breweries in the competition from 49 states plus Washington, D.C. (no Mississippi)
- 293 judges from 13 countries
- Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 83
- Category with the highest number of entries: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (391 entries)
- 280 medal-winning breweries (including Pro-Am and Collaboration)
- 306 total medals awarded plus three (3) each for Pro-Am and Collaboration
- 537 first-time GABF entrants
- 31 first-time GABF winners
Colorado took home a total of 30 medals! At the end of this post I have included the breakdown of all Colorado medals. And click here for a complete list of 2018 GABF Medal Winners. Congratulations to all!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at GABF 2018. Next year it will be held on October 3-5, so make note if you don’t want to miss out! Thank you to everyone who made the Great American Beer Festival a huge success!
All Colorado 2018 GABF Medal Winners:
- Apricot Saison — 105 Brewing Co., Castle Rock, Specialty Saison
- Drunkard’s Cloak — Banded Oak, Denver, Old Ale or Strong Ale
- BJ’s Quad — BJ’s Restaurant, Boulder, Belgian-style Dubbel or Quadrupel
- Sunshine Express — Butcherknife Brewing Co., Steamboat Springs, Australian-style India Pale Ale
- Netflix and Pils — Canonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, German-style Pilsner
- Barrel-aged Japance Off — Denver Beer Co., Denver, Barrel-aged beer
- Graham Cracker Porter — Denver Beer Co., Denver, Specialty Beer
- Guten Bock — Gilded Goat Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Bock
- Shoshone Stout — Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., Glenwood Springs, Oatmeal Stout
- Legendary Red — Golden City Brewery, Golden, German-style Alt Bier
- Bohemian Pilsner — Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Broomfield, Bohemian-style Pilsner
- Puckerberry — High Hops Brewery, Windsor, Gluten-free Beer
- Sawtooth Ale — Lefthand Brewing Co., Longmont, Ordinary or Specialty Bitter
- Transatlantic Kriek — New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, in collaboration with Oud Beersel, Beersel, Belgium
- Oktoberfest — Ska Brewing, Durango, Vienna-style Lager
- Colorado Kolsh — Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango, Kolsh Beer
- Jean Claud Van Blond — Wit’s End Brewing, Denver, Belgian Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale
- 1956 Golden Ale — Bootstrap Brewing, Niwot, Golden or Blonde Ale
- Little Red Cap — Grimm Brothers Brewing Co., Loveland, German-style Alt Bier
- Honeycomb Cream Ale — Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Denver, Honey Beer
- Citra Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch — Wiley Roots Brewing, Greeley, Mixed Culture Brett Beer
- Pro-Am Collaboration — Cheluna Brewing Co., Aurora
- Chips and Salsa Cream Ale — Cogstone Brewing, Colorado Springs, Experimental Beer
- Defcon Red — Comrade Brewing Co., Denver, Irish-style Red Ale
- Knee-Knocker Porter — Crow Hop Brewing Co., Loveland, Brown Porter
- Madame Psychosis — Fiction Beer Co., Denver, Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale
- St. Nigel’s Dopplebock — Front Range Brewing Co., Lafayette, German-style Doppelbock
- It Takes a Tribe Red Ale — Goat Patch Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Scottish-style Ale
- Dayblazer Easygoing Ale — New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, American-style Cream Ale
- Blonde Betty — Smuggler’s Brewpub, Telluride, Belgian Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale
- Howdy Beer — The Post Brewing Co., Lafayette, American-style Pilsner
- Abby Blonde — Thirsty Monk Pub & Brewery, Denver, Belgian- and French-style Ale