After Vegas came Denver. After wholesalers came beer lovers. After hotels came the fest hall.
This is the Big Daddy of all beer festivals. Forget Munich in the fall. Denver is the place to be if you love beer.
The Great American Beer Festival stands alone among beer events. It’s not just the mammoth number of beers nor the spectacular awards. This is, after the NBWA, the other annual epicenter for the beer world.
For example;I just left Jim Koch; Boston Beer, George Reich; Anheuser-Busch, Dan Carey; New Glarus, and Jamie Jarado; Spoetzl Brewing in deep conversation about getting beer to market. Meanwhile, beer lovers were lining up to see if they could have their photo taken with Jim. It’s that type of festival.
There are the hard-to-get-to breweries – New Belgium, Dogfish Head, Boston Beer, Stone, Lost Abbey, New Glarus among other – with lines snaking across the hall.
Then there’s the surprisingly accessible breweries, my favorites include Odells, Deschutes, Goose Island, Iron Hill, Great Lakes, Great Divide, Firestone Walker, Snake River, St. Arnold to name a few.
I tried something different this year. I wandered the hall stopping at breweries whose name I didn’t recognize (mostly brewpubs) and tasted their IPAs.
Two observations: First, the reputation of the craft brewing industry is in great hands. The beers are all great. Second, what extreme beer revolution? These were all excellent, accessible IPAs.
As for hidden gems, the hall is filled with them. Shorts, Jolly Pumpkin and The Bruery are now becoming well known “secrets.” However, Choc, Upslope, Dry Dock, Pelican, Two Brothers are among a list of breweries deserving more attention.
Spread over three days, the GABF can break all but the faint of heart. Still, three days aren’t nearly long enough to sample the country-wide offering.