The beer industry is gearing up once again for the overwhelming experience that is the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Held annually in Denver, the GABF (now in its 26th year) is one of those things every beer lover should experience at least once. It is at once an incomparable tasting event and an unmatched opportunity to rub shoulders and clink glasses with brewers, distributors, bar owners, writers, and beer enthusiasts from nearly every state and dozens of countries.
The GABF is an event I have long-enjoyed and although I am a relative youngster in this industry, this will be my twelfth consecutive year in attendance. My first visit to the GABF was a watershed event for me. I was just beginning to acknowledge and appreciate that there was a difference in American beers. I had just spent a semester in London, where Guinness taught me to taste and feel again. Upon my return, a brewpub opened up in my college town and I stopped by on its opening night to find a stout wholly different from Guinness (the cream stout!). So it was that I happened to be visiting a friend in Denver at the same time the festival was taking place. My friend bought us tickets and upon entering the beautiful environs of Currigan Hall (long since replaced with the cold, soulless Colorado Convention Center) , I actually shed a tear or two at the splendor of American beer.
While the event remains a must attend, today’s GABF is no longer the simple, cozy event of years past. The GABF is a slickly produced show, tightly coordinated, and business first. It is also a place where lazy journalists can coast on information provided to them by the Brewers Association. To get the fluff out of the way, 1408 breweries will be present on the festival floor (24 more than 2006), serving 1884 beers (230+ more than 2006), 474 breweries will participate in the judging event (24 more than 2006), which will involve 2832 beers (442 more than 2006) in 75 categories (a ridiculous increase of 6 from 2006). For a look at the GABF’s judging process, review the article on the value of a beer medal.
I could bore you more data, such as the average number of competition beers in each category (37) , but what would I have left to report?
For those who have never experienced the carnival that is the GABF, BeerScribe.com offers you its annual review of the past five festivals as part of our eco-friendly article recycling policy. Enjoy.