Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festival

, Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festival

We all know that beer festivals can generally get out of hand quickly if you’re not prepared for what you’re up against. All the tasters, the crowds, sometimes a lack of food or water can all cast a dark cloud over your best intentions to have a kick-ass experience.

Then there’s the GABF – “the single largest ticketed beer festival and event with the biggest selection of beers in the U.S.” Not only does this mean there’s more stuff to do and beer to drink, it also tends to attract more savvy drinkers, so you’ve gotta be prepared. Here’s our guide to surviving the 35th Anniversary of the festival and getting the most out of it in the process.


, Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festival


The Basics

  • Download the GABF App – success at GABF is primarily about pla, Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festivalnning. The app (on apple and android) enables you to select which brewers you want to sample, then check them off once you have and even rate each beer. It provides detail about the convention layout that you can’t get on the website, it currently lists all of the 800+ brewer locations in the hall and will soon have each of the roughly 3,800 beers listed, all sortable into 21 different categories from barrel-aged beers to first time breweries at GABF.
  • Gear – Wear a colorful or silly hat so your friends can easily spot you in a crowd. Pretzel necklaces are fine to bring in, but no other food. Water Bottles are legit to have if they’re clear plastic (i.e. Nalgene) but not metal or opaque. And don’t forget the new policy this year, Backpacks are prohibited.


Inside the Hall

  • Featured Panel: “Why Independence Matters” – during the Thursday Session, at 8:30 pm, there will be a panel of bre, Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festivalwers discussing the origins of beer in America, its current landscape and what the future holds. It will include Bob Pease, Brewers Association; Rob Tod, Allagash; Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head; Jacob McKean, Modern Times and Christine Perich, New Belgium.
  • Paired –
    Formerly called “Farm to Table,” Paired will feature 21 chefs matched with 21 craft brewers, offering 42 total unique pairings. The featured chefs from across the country are defining new American cuisine in their own communities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., Denver, Boulder, and for the first time, London. While a separate ticket is required for entrance and it’s sold out for 2016, it’s an amazing event worth getting into, whether it’s this year or next.


Outside the Hall

  • Plan Ahead for OffSite Events – The craft beer , Surviving and Thriving at the Great American Beer Festivalrelated events surrounding Denver already started Monday, so try to catch what you can while you’re in town. Westworld has an excellent list of must-do events when outside of the convention center, not to mention all the information the GABF site offers.
  • EAT! We all need to eat, but especially when imbibing 30 to 40 samples in a 4+ hour span. Eat breakfast at your hotel or get something more than just coffee. If you’re near the convention center, there are plenty of places (inside and out) to hit up, but if you’re also looking for great beer, check out Euclid Hall, Freshcraft or just across the way at Stout Street Social.

Most of all? Have an excellent time, meet as many new people as you can, try all the new beers you’ve never heard of before and most importantly… don’t drop your cup!

GABF graphic and app images courtesy of the Brewers Association. All others by Warren Wills.

About Warren Wills

Warren is the former Assistant Editor & Portland Correspondent for American Craft Beer. Creator of "The State of American Craft Beer" series, he now maintains his own site at
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