There is something surreal about Sunday morning at the Denver airport after four days of the Great American Beer Festival.

The bright, stark light of the Colorado plains has replaced the muted hues of the festival interior. Gone are the roars of the crowds, the beer talks, the presentations, replaced by the dampened tones of an airline departure lounge. Sitting in a chair replicated ad infinitum through the long concourse, I couldn’t help feel like I was out of place, out of time. My nerve endings just wanted more.  And that’s probably the best magic of the Great American Beer Festival — wanting more.

Every Sunday morning, post GABF, I’ve had the same yearnings. I wish to hell I’d tried more beers!  That may sound funny after attending three out of five sessions, but the fact is this is one of the best opportunities to explore the world of American beer that you’ll ever find with one plane ticket!

After giving the whole thing some thought, and stuffing myself with a couple double lattes and one of the best breakfast burritos (complete with green chili sauce) I’d had in years, I realized a few bad habits that I have with the GABF that I’d like to share with you.

First, is food, or it’s absence. I rarely eat during these few days because of the sheer complexity of the schedule. Sure, I get to events where there are snacks, but proper meals are few and far between. Major mistake. Effective beer research takes a quantity of food to sustain it. However, care should be given not to load up on brats and chips. I had a major rally on Saturday when I wolfed down a pizza with plenty of veg.

Second, is the friends. After nearly 30 years in the business, I have a lot of friends and acquaitances. To be candid, this is one of two great events for catching up with a lot of people whose company I really enjoy.  (The BA, the talent behind the GABF, also puts on the other event, not surprisingly.) However, it makes working my way through beers a bit of a challenge. I end up in the middle of the hall catching up with one friend after another. It’s pretty cool, actually, but it cuts into sampling time.

Third, is the shoes. After going to every single GABF, you’d have thought I would have the shoes thing down. This year I took my hiking boots and somehow things just didn’t go well between them and the cement, not to mention the marching back and forth between the hall and the breweries of Denver. I actually had better luck with my dress shoes, to be honest.

Fourth, the altitude and dryness takes its toll each year on this North Carolinian. I just never got into the swing of drinking the gallons of water necessary to counter the effects of both. If you want to sample some of the best beers in the country, then proper hydration is a necessary habit to acquire, and quickly. Each year, I’ve failed at that.

Fifth, putting on a few events around the big festival kept me a bit too wired and focused for the leisurely wandering that goes with good beer exploration. Our magazine cohosted Rocktoberfest with Cargil Malt, White Labs and Hop Union, where a few hundred brewers got to socialize under a tent at Rock Bottom. What an insane evening: I hardly knew a single person. Another generation has come to the forefront and I enjoyed beginning to get to know them.  I was also overwhelmed at the success of the Denver Rare Beer Tasting, which we put on with Pints for Prostates. Rick Lyke and I had worked for eight months to create this event and ended up with an extraordinary afternoon where beer lovers and beer brewers met over exotic beers. Finally, we joined Dogfish Head, New Belgium and Allagash for a late night tasting of Reinheitsgebot-busting beers with a raucous crowd at Falling Rock.

So what’s a beer lover, and industry member, to do? Those stalwart few who have followed my erratic writings since the beginning may remember I proposed setting out on a journey. Here I am describing the behavior that derailed that adventure at the GABF. Is there a solution? I can see a lot of small behavior changes which could be made if I can seem to remember them (eat meals with veg and fruit, drink plenty of water, find better shoes, etc.). Still, friends and events are my steady diet (in my mind, magazine publishing is running a series of special events ) and not likely to go.

All I can say at the end is, “Next year it will be different. More beer!”