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Alcohol Beer Drinks

Here Are The Do’s And Don’ts To Your First Great American Beer Festival

I remember the urge to run. The long line that snaked along the side of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver dragged me in the building, up a wide flight of stairs and released me into the
cavernous Great American Beer Festival®— my first. I’m not sure what I was running to. I almost expected a lifeguard to yell, “No running!”

So I did the same straight-legged, hand flat down my sides speed walk that over-stimulated children do around a pool. I hustled to the first brewery I saw. Little did I know that the first beer sampled at the country’s largest and most renowned beer festival was my symbolic cannonball into a fascination, a career and a whole new life that I have loved ever since.

That was over a decade ago.

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Today, my GABF starts well before the line begins. I’m on the other side of the stanchions — the other side of the booth. I still get just as excited. And proud. I see the same elation on other first-timers’ faces that I’m sure was stuck to mine. I think about how much the festival has grown, how much the small and independent brewery scene has grown and maybe I’ve grown, too. (Nope, still 5’10”.) I remember when dropping one’s tasting cup was license to go bat-sh*t crazy; it still is. Not necessarily from hearing that roar 20 times each session, but from seeing the joy that it brings.

(MORE: 10 Best Medal-Winning Names from 2015 GABF)

As we look to this next GABF, I figured I’d share some ideas for newcomers that I think will help make your GABF as life-changing as my first time. Everyone experiences GABF differently, but if I had a chance to do it all over again, I might consider these.

DO: Make a list

The GABF app didn’t exist for my first fest; I’m pretty sure none did, but it sure would have been helpful. In subsequent years, I’ve been able to create lists of breweries or beers that I wanted to visit. I’ve shared that list with others and they’ve appreciated the tips. Use the app to create your own list or check out the filtered lists of beers and other things going on at the GABF.

DO: Make a pretzel necklace

No accessory says “I’m here to have fun” like a pretzel necklace. Get creative, make it a statement piece. What? You’re too cool for pretzel necklaces? How are you going to cleanse that oh-so-refined palate? Matzo medallion?

It’s Friday! Bust a move & enjoy that weekend! ‪#GABF #TGIGABF

A photo posted by Brewers Association (@greatamericanbeerfestival) on

DO: Eat before. Drink water during

Savor the Flavor responsibly and don’t let the fest get the best of you. Having some food in your stomach is imperative and water is an important part of life in the Mile High City regardless if you’re enjoying beer or not.

(MORE: 5 Questions Brewers Want You to Ask During Tours)

DO: Ask questions

Nobody will ever know everything there is to know about beer — that’s part of the reason we love it — but sharing perspectives and knowledge can go a long way in understanding it better. Whether you like the beer you’re sampling or dislike it, ask about it. What’s the style history? What was the brewer’s intention? After you learn about it, maybe your initial impression will change.

DON’T: Wait in lines

This might be just my preference, but I can’t stand waiting in line. No matter what beer is being served at the front of the line, it’s not worth it. If a glass of beer is normally about eight to 10 minutes of enjoyment, then spending 15 minutes in line for a 1 ounce sample just doesn’t compute. Instead, set your sight on finding the beers that will be commanding long lines at next year’s GABF. There are plenty of them. Find them.

DO: Dump beer

I know what you’re thinking: This dude wants me to waste beer!? That’s right. Nobody is going to shame you for dumping a beer you don’t like. There are hundreds of others to choose from. You aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. Dump that sucka and find one you’d like to sip on for a bit. Downing a 12% barleywine that you don’t like will only wreck your palate, fill your tummy (and bladder) and bring you closer to naptime.

After 35 years the Great American Beer Festival has become much more than just a beer festival: it’s a family reunion for many attendees and brewers alike and a source of great pride for all who have the chance to work on it. If you’ve been before, you’ve likely figured out your own tips on enjoying your time. I hope that if you’re joining us for the first time you take some of my advice. With all that the festival and its breweries have to offer, we want you to have it wash over you like it has done for us. It is not an exaggeration to say that the GABF changed my life, and I have looked forward to it every fall since.

Bonus: Don’t run. Or at least don’t run like I did.

Written by Andy Sparhawk | CraftBeer.com

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Alcohol Drinks Features

9 Plans For Conquering The Great American Beer Festival

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Walking through the doors of the Great American Beer Festival can be overwhelming for a first-time attendee, or even a festival veteran. So many breweries times so many beers equals an experience where no beer fan can possibly hope to catch them all.

How can you avoid missing out on some of the most awesome beers at the festival? First, take a deep breath and realize that this is one of the most highly regarded festivals in the world. Each beer was sent to the festival with a mission and most of the time with the beer drinker in mind.

Setting a strategy before you walk in the door can help take off the pressure. We came up with nine creatively-themed tracks — think of them as missions or quests or even scavenger hunts — to add an element of mystery to your GABF experience. Most of all take it slow, drink plenty of water and remember that the festival is about the enjoyment of beer overall. As Andy Sparhawk recently reminded us: beer is supposed to be fun.

1: The Social Butterfly

social_butterfly3Are you a people person? Do you like to let fate be your guide? Then try being a Social Butterfly. This is where you ask a friend or the person pouring beer at a table which brewery you should try next. This is a great way to find out some other people’s favorite beers and break some ice.

2: The Gandalf

Wander around and try one or two beers from each of the regions in the festival hall, or one beer from each of the 50 states. Have you ever tried a beer from North Dakota? Fargo Brewing will represent the Peace Garden State. What about Alaska? Alaskan Brewing will be in attendance for the 49th State. Allagash Brewing will be the sole Maine brewery. Wander around and see what new beers you can find. After all, not all who wander are lost.

3: The Collector

the_collector_2Taneleer Tivan collects rare and wonderful objects from around the galaxy in the Marvel Comics Universe. What strange and wonderful beer ingredients can you find this year? See how many new ingredients you can try in your beers. Did Wynkoop Brewing bring their Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout? Did Firestone Walker or Adroit Theory happen to bring any beers aged in mezcal barrels? See how far you can step out of your comfort zone.

(MORE: 10 Off-Kilter IPA Ingredients)

4: The Fonzthe_fonz

Arthur Fonzarelli  knew lots of people and everyone felt like they knew him on the 1970’s sitcom Happy Days. Say “heyyy” to the CraftBeer.com interactive Beer Style guide and see if you can sample beers from categories you’ve never tried before.

5: The Indiana Jones

“Archeology is the search for fact, not truth,” Indiana Jones told his students. Just as Indy went in search of historical artifacts, brewers at GABF have produced beers fitting historical styles. Try to drink one of each of these historical beer styles: grodziskie, Lichtenhainer, gose, Berliner weiss, zwickelbier, adambier and rauchbier.

muscles_brussels6: The Muscles from Brussels

Just like Jean-Claude Van Damme took America by storm, now GABF brews up a storm of Belgian-style beers, all of them worth a try. In this track, sample beers with Belgian influence: golden ale, Belgian IPA, Belgian wit, sours and lambics. If in doubt, see if the beer’s name has the word “Belgian” in it.

7: The Luke Skywalkerdarth_vadar

A Jedi can appreciate this search for the light side of malt. Just as Luke trained with Yoda on Degobah and learned the ways of the force, this search looks for lighter-colored beers. These beers aren’t necessarily “light beers;” instead, they’re mainly beers brewed with lighter colored malts including the cream ale, kolsch, pale lager, pale ale, IPA, goses and pilsners.

8: The Darth Vader

Just as Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side,” GABF can be your ticket to exploring beers made with dark malt in some way. Hopheads in particular can stretch outside their comfort zone to find beers with dark and roasted malts including stout, porter, black IPA, milk stouts, imperial stouts and schwarzbiers.

technicolor9: The Technicolor

This is a horse of a different color. On this track, enjoy beers made with fruits, roots, woods, and barrels, or even beers of a different color like Irish reds, etc. The deeper the color the more unique the beer. How many beers are made with passion fruit? Dragon fruit? Lychee? Lingonberries? See how many strange fruits you can pick off this beer list.

MORE: A Fascination with Foraged Beer)

No matter how you choose to enjoy the Great American Beer Festival, make it memorable by enjoying in moderation, drinking plenty of water and being patient with fellow festivalgoers and staff. Remember that this event celebrates the community of beer, and we are enjoying this together. Cheers!

Written by Mark DeNote | CraftBeer.com