I know I am late with my posts for GABF but to make-up for that I will be posting three separate posts, one about the beer festival, one about the media lunch and brewery visits and one about the award ceremony! This post will be about the beer festival!
First off, the place is huge. By far the biggest beer festival that I’ve attended thus far. Let me throw some stats your way:
-In 2015, GABF added 90,000 square feet of hall space and expanded to 750 breweries.
-The festival sold out in 1 hour 17 minutes during the public ticket sale in 2015. In 2007, the festival sold out the week of the event.
-3,800 beers were poured in the festival hall—the biggest selection of American beers ever served.
-60,000 attendees (includes ticketed attendees, brewers, judges, volunteers and journalists) attended in 2015.
-750 U.S. breweries poured in the festival hall in 2015—a new record.
-GABF had a $21.9 million economic impact on the city of Denver in 2014, according to Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
If those stats don’t blow you away, I hope some of the pictures I took will suffice to show the gravity of the space. It’s crazy to try all those tasters from every brewery so it’s important to have a game plan, also because zig-zagging around that big of a facility is really tiring if you wander aimlessly. I used the article by my buddy Franny to help narrow-down those can’t miss breweries.
Notable beers/breweries I tried:
Brasserie St. James – this gem was one recommended by Franny and I am really glad I took her advice. I attended several sessions and I visited this booth like 5+ times. The plumb lambic was to die for.
The Bruery – I know they are local to me, but I got to try The Bruery Terreux’s Souren which is a collaboration wild/sour beer they made with New Zealand’s 8 Wired Brewing. It was complex and fruity, with a funky tartness that was really delightful.
Funkwerks – I was really excited to try some of these beers because I’ve heard some great things about Funkwerks. I tried the Raspberry Provincial Berliner that was super fruity and refreshing. This was actually my first taste of the festival and it was a great start.
Noble Ale Works – again, I know this is a home town brewery but I can’t help but gush about the Nose Candy – the session IPA that took home a Bronze Medal. It was really floral on the nose (probably why it was named Nose Candy) and very light in body. I had noted this one of my favorite of the day and was so happy to see Noble take home a medal for this beer. It’s even more impressive since there is such competition for the IPA categories.
The event was overall fun, albeit overwhelming. This was my first time at GABF and I was also traveling alone so I didn’t have someone to help me like I normally do. I was very happy to have some friends visiting town to explore the first night with me, and it helped give me courage to attack the later sessions solo. I really enjoyed the Thursday session, but I think the Saturday afternoon member’s session was my favorite. The high from the award ceremony and everyone wearing their medals made the event that much more fun.
Some overall observations:
- There should be a bit more water and dump stations in my opinion. There were a decent amount, but the crowd was thick making it difficult to navigate at times, the closer you are to the nearest water station the better.
- The bathroom lines can get crazy. This is kinda unavoidable because the place is just so big, but I know how much it sucks to spend a lot of your precious tasting time in line to use the bathroom.
- The elevation got to me a bit, so my feet were really killing me by the time the session was over. I thought I was golden because I brought my most comfortable shoes! I wish I took the time to sit and relax during the session. I could’ve taken advantage of the brewpub section in the center of the event, it looked so rad 🙂
- I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the attendance (people and breweries), I wish I had planned my attack a little better. The mapping is a bit confusing to try and figure out where you wanna go next, especially after a few drinks. They have a really helpful app for finding a specific brewery, but that could be across the room from where you are. Plan accordingly and your feet will thank you!
- Take the time to drink it all in, you are at an amazing beer event! Don’t get flustered by everything and everyone, just try and have fun. That’s the purpose after all.
GABF is just as much about the events surrounding the beer sessions as it is about the actual event. GABF Part 2 will be about the media luncheon and media bus tour to a few breweries. It was really fun to partake in a group tour of some local Denver breweries! I was also able to squeeze in a few more places before flying back to LAX on top of the bus tour, and I can’t wait to share it all with you. Cheers!