The 27th annual Great American Beer Festival will be held October 9-11, 2008, at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. More than 46,000 beer enthusiasts from around the world will attend the event, where they can enjoy 1969 beers from 432 breweries around the country.
As of this writing just three short weeks out from the festival, the Brewers Association is reporting incredibly robust ticket sales for the sessions. The Thursday night session is 57% sold out, a few tickets remain available at select outlets for the Friday session, the members-only session is sold out, and the dread Saturday evening session is 83% sold.
As I did last year, I wanted to provide attendees and other interested parties with a preview of things to come at this year’s event. As I’ve written elsewhere, my first visit to the GABF had a great influence on my development and interest in craft beer. And it all happened by dumb luck. I was in Denver to visit a friend and on a lark the friend decided to surprise me with tickets to the fest. At the time, I was just beginning to acknowledge and appreciate the difference between certain American beers. Entering the beautiful environs of Currigan Hall (long since replaced with the mildly soulless Colorado Convention Center), I had a transformative experience, the effects of which have lasted to the present day. As much as I enjoy the festival and Denver, I’m having a hard time believing that this will be my thirteenth visit.
The Brewers Association’s cornerstone event well-serves the general public and generates a huge amount of revenue for the association itself (an issue for another article entirely). The association has some changes in mind for this year’s event (hopefully they will include banishing beer pong tables from the convention floor). It has added a Beer Enthusiast Bookstore, which will sell beer-related books, several state brewing guilds will be pouring local beers to showcase their state’s breweries, and the “You Be the Judge Booth” will allow consumers the chance to sit down with a trained beer judge one-on-one to learn about judging beer styles. The association is also returning its popular “Beer and Food Paring Demos.” The association will also return its “Inside the Brewers Studio” interview series, which I hope will be audio or video taped for future viewing on the association’s website, as was done with the panels at the SAVOR event in Washington DC. As someone who participates in a number of beer educational events through the BeerAdvocate festivals and others, too often some interesting debates and discussions get lost to history, a real shame in our multimedia world where they would be all too easy to preserve.
Here’s a look back at my coverage of the last half-decade or more of Great American Beer Festivals.
And for good measure, a detailed discussion about why beer writers shouldn’t participate in the Brewers Association’s well-intended Beer Journalism Awards.
And it won’t be all fun and games. After eyeing the program for a few years, I’ve finally signed up to attend the Siebel Institute of Technology’s Sensory Analysis Seminar. So while others are drinking beer for fun, I’ll be going to school for four hours…Overall, I look forward to seeing how the event further evolves as it becomes more of a business event for the industry. I’m also interested to hear about when the Brewers Association plans to dump its big brewery corporate sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller, and Molson Coors (remember, this is the Great American Beer Festival and I’ve heard more than a few grumblings on these international entries). I think it’s all about trying to stop those SandLot guys from winning all of the lager awards.