The 28th annual Great American Beer Festival is right around the corner and it has sold out earlier than ever, quite an achievement for the Brewers Association and the craft brewers whose unpaid participation is so crucial to the event’s success. I look forward to experiencing the 30-percent increase in floor space that the BA is heavily promoting and hope that the additional 3,000 tickets sold (out of 49,000 attendees) will not result in some geometric anomaly where we’re all still crowded together at the tables. By the numbers, 3,362 beers will be entered in the GABF Competition, 2,100 beers from 495 breweries will be served in the hall, with 51 new breweries attending the fest for the first time. Looking at the handy map of the festival layout, I am a little disturbed to see that New England’s dwindling presence appears to have hit a new low, sending not even half the number of brewers as the Southeast will represent.
As I did last year, and the year before, I want to provide attendees and other interested parties with a preview of things to come at this year’s event. Instead of misty remembrances, I’ll just quote from last year’s offering.
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 [fourteenth] visit.
The Brewers Association’s cornerstone event well-serves the general public and generates a huge amount of revenue for the association itself, all while small craft brewers don’t get paid for their time or beer (still an issue for another article entirely). And while I am not sad to see the fatally flawed Beer Journalism Awards go away, I would like to have some discussions about how we can promote beer writing in the future. I look forward to attending the festival’s successful and increasingly popular cooking demonstrations and panel discussions. After finishing a draft of my book, I’m also looking forward to trying some new beers from breweries that crossed my path during the writing process. I’m also looking to get to know some folks whose paths I have also crossed on-line in the last year and to seeing many old friends. Let me know which beers you have marked on your lists as must try offerings and have a great fest.
Here’s a look back at my coverage of the last half-decade or more of Great American Beer Festivals.
And will this finally be the year that craft brewers decide to dump their big brewery corporate sponsors they privately complain about? I guess we’ll see but I know what I’ll be happily drinking when I watch the Rockies kick the Cardinals’ butts on Friday evening…