Surviving the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado

by Events

If you haven’t heard, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is one of the largest beer festivals ever.  Oh sure, the one the German’s throw in Munich in late September might be bigger by a few million people, but the GABF is the largest beer festival in the United States.  For a modest price of $50, you get unlimited one ounce samples of over 1,800 beers!

When you go to the festival they hand you a tiny 2 ounce taster cup.  You take this cup to a booth where someone will pour it with one ounce of beer.  You’ll drink it quickly and think I’ll never even get a buzz drinking one ounce at a time.  By the 50th taster you realize you’ve been had.  If you’re not prepared, drunkenness will sneak up on you like a beer ninja.  I’ve been there, well from what people tell me I was but I don’t remember.  Here are a few tips for surviving your first Great American Beer Festival.


The Great American Beer Festival - The largest beer festival in the USA

Don’t Drive

It’s the biggest beer festival in the United States.  The police are aware of the event.  They will be everywhere looking for people who can’t drive, and you don’t want a DWI.  If you’re not staying in a hotel near the convention center, find a near by park and ride.  You can park your car and take a bus into the city.  If you’re coming from the south, you can even take the light rail.  Beer and a Disney ride, how cool is that!

Eat Before Attending

There will be food at the festival, but you’re not going to notice.  You are going to be a kid in a candy store sampling the best beers America has to offer.  Drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea, and you will pay dearly the next day.  I’d eat something big before going.  The longer you stay standing, the more beers you can sample.

Leave the bag at home

Unless you have a baby with you (and I never understand why you’d bring an infant to this festival) you cannot bring a bag or backpack into the event hall.  I have no idea why.  It’s not like you’re going to sneak alcohol into the festival.  In any event, don’t bring bags or backpack.  They won’t let you in with one.

Pee before entering

There are about 10,000 people attending each session.  Almost everyone is drinking and about 8pm the lines start to grow.  This is not a festival for people with small bladders.  As the night progresses, the lines will get much longer.  MUCH longer.  You might find yourself waiting 20 minutes to use the restroom.  Enter with an empty bladder, and if you must go, go earlier.  “Breaking the seal” before your friends may cause you to lose some face, but you’ll be laughing later in the evening when you’re drinking while your friends are crossing their legs and standing in line.

Forget the map

You’ll get a map when you enter telling you where all the breweries are.  Don’t travel back and forth in the event hall casing your favorite brewery.  It is much easier to slowly make your way though each row.  Bouncing between breweries will only slow you down.  Make notes of the breweries you want to hit in each row so you know to stop when you are in the row.  You usually can make it through every row by the end of the evening.  Besides the point of the festival is not stay true to your favorites, it’s to discover new craft beers you may not have heard of.

Know where to twitter

If you’re tweeting your experiences, make sure you tag it with #gabf.  This lets everyone who’s interested in the festival listen in.  Using the tag also makes it easier to go back later to see all the tweets.  Don’t forget to follow me!  I’ll be tweeting and taking pictures all night for everyone, so those who couldn’t go can see how much fun we’re having without them! 🙂

Say Hi

There are going to be lots of people from the brewing world.  It’s fun to meet others who share the same love of beer as you do.  Don’t forget to say hi and meet people!

Drink water

Once the evening has ended, force yourself to drink water.  Drinking dehydrates you and the next morning will be painful.  The more you drink (and eat) before going to bed, the better your next morning (or afternoon) will go.

Have Fun!

gabf girls

Don't forget to have fun! See you there!

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!