Like all good things, the Great American Beer Festival has come to end, and for some people in the craft beer industry battling a week-long hangover, it’s not a moment too soon. But there was something different about this year’s fest. From the new layout to the downsized booths, the 2017 GABF had a scaled back look lacking its usual drama. But this year’s fest wasn’t without a little drama. Long security lines had both attendees and brewers frustrated this year and quite whispers about breweries who can no longer carry the Brewers Association’s seal of independence could be heard through the steady roar of noise inside of the Colorado Convention Center. But perhaps one of the biggest changes this year was an overhaul of the awards ceremony. From the location, to the stuffy vibe felt by those who made it inside, Saturday morning had a rocky start.



9:15 am: Big security lines begin to form as the groggy crowd of nervous industry members pass through the upgraded security measures the festival took on this year.

9:30 am: Hundreds of rugged-looking industry folks refueled with burritos and coffee outside of the Mile High Ballroom in the Colorado Convention Center — a festival tradition and motivation for brewers to get up before noon on the final day of the fest. The venue change (the awards ceremony is typically held in the Bellco Theater) proved to be a major problem for the Brewers Association. According to a watchful fire marshall, the room filled to capacity before 10 am, leaving a good chunk of brewery representatives stuck outside, watching the awards on a big screen. Some medal-winning breweries barred from entering were unable to make to it the stage to pick up their award and get the coveted celebratory fist bump from Brewers Association and Great American Beer Festival founder, Charlie Papazian.

10:00 am: The awards kicks off with an annual “thank you” speech from longtime festival organizer, Nancy Johnson. Following her speech, Johnson passes the mic to Bob Pease, president of the BA, who after a short cheers to the brewers, launches into an odd, political introduction to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who shares some memories of his time at Wynkoop Brewing Company to a seemingly confused crowd anxious to get the medal portion of the ceremony started. The vibe in the room is stiff, and it feels more like we all inadvertently signed up for a corporate training retreat instead of a beer competition.

10:10 am: The BA’s craft beer program director, Julia Herz, energetically takes the stage and enthusiastically shares some stats (and gives a plug for the organizations seal of independence) with the room. 7,923 beer entries were logged this year by 2,217 breweries in 99 different categories.

10:15 am: Odell Brewing Company picks up the first medal of the day with a bronze in the Pro-Am category — a unique category which pairs up commercial breweries with homebrewers. 105 West Brewing Company from Castle Rock, Colorado picks up silver, and Denver Beer Company picks up gold, giving Colorado it’s first category sweep of the day.

10:31 am: Figueroa Mountain Brewery picks up their first medal — a bronze in the American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast category for their Wrangler Wheat. The brewery would go on to win two more medals, carrying on their success at the fest for a the second year in a row.

10:40 am: Monday Night Brewing from Atlanta, Georgia picks up a bronze medal in the Chocolate Beer category for Tears of My Enemies, giving the still sleepy audience a good chuckle.

11:02 am: Firestone Walker picks up a bronze medal in the German-Style Pilsener category for their Pivo Pilsener. Pivo was flowing all throughout Denver during GABF week as beer drinkers looking to pace themselves for a heavy week of beer drinking were reaching for the light, flavorful brew between sessions.

11:13 am: Colorado-based Wibby Brewing Company steals the show when brewery co-owner and co-founder, Ryan Wibby, drops to one knee while accepting a silver medal in the Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager category to propose to his girlfriend.

12:20 pm: The last medal is handed out and industry people spill back into the main hall where a mellow crowd of some of the best-dressed festival goers of the weekend are kicking off the member’s only session and the second-to-last session of the festival. Unlike previous years, massive crowds didn’t immediately form in front of the medal winners from the awards ceremony. Instead, breweries like Avery Brewing Company, Bells, and Allagash sported long lines. Even though Colorado brought home 38 medals this year, and Wyoming’s Melvin Brewingbrought their shenanigans to the awards stage to pick up hardware twice, the Mountain Region stayed relatively quiet following the ceremony. Instead, the Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic and Southeast regions were bustling hubs of beer drinkers looking to taste the next generation of craft beer. Rising craft beer states like Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas came away big winners.

3 pm: I hit up the Beer Travel section of the fest. For the first time, tourism officials from some major beer regions and up-and-coming craft beer meccas set up booths inside of the fest to lure fans of craft beer into booking their next beercation in one the handful of beer destinations in the section. Although most booths seemed pretty gimmicky with spin the wheel giveaways and hooky souvenirs, this section of the festival stayed relatively busy throughout the entire festival, furthering the rise in travelers using their vacation time to visit their favorite bucket list breweries.

5 pm: The last session begins with most breweries serving up more “sorry, we’re out” sticky notes than actual beers. The craziest session of the fest brings out the “pour me whatever your highest ABV beer is,” and lots of “I’ll take the dark one.” This continues until it’s time to shut it down for the evening, and officially put the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in the books.



Day two of the 2017 Great American Beer Festival is in the books, and once I again, I got caught up in the sour beer styles and farmhouse ales that were flowing from nearly every booth. While the Thursday night session is usually for the more serious beer drinker looking to taste highly sought after brews before they run out, Friday night’s session is all about fun. Couldn’t make it to the fest? Here’s what you missed on day two.



5:30 pm: After spending the morning listening to festival-goers from Thursday evening rant and rave about Scratch Brewing Company, a microbrewery and farm in southern Illinois, I head straight to the Great Lakes section and taste my way through the brewery’s earthy foraging-inspired line-up of beers. Using yeast strains and ingredients harvested on the 80-acre farm the brewery is located on, the line-up of beers included a delicious oak cherry sour, and a ginger root beer with just the right amount of burn.

5:45 pm: I catch up with Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, about the seal of independence that can be found all over the Colorado Convention Center. The BA recently made a big push to help consumers recognize independent craft breweries and educate craft beer drinkers about the effect that a brewery selling out to big beer has on the entire industry. Much like last year, sell-outs and the fight to stay independent dominated a lot of conversations.

6:00 pm: About 15 people walk by wearing different versions of PBR-themed get-ups. And despite his best efforts to blend in, I spot my first Where’s Waldo of the night.

6:15 pm: Employees from Bull & Bush Brewery wearing some seriously sterile all-white costumes and holding handmade signs appear to be picketing their own brewery booth, but I’m informed they’re dressed like lost lab scientists because the ladies like it…

6:30 pm: Continuing my sour crusade, I spot a short line at Karl Strauss and fill my taster glass with the brewery’s Queen of Tarts — a pucker party in my mouth. Aged in American oak barrels with Michigan tart cherries, the Queen of Tarts is excellent beer for fans of the sour styles.

7:00 pm: I spot the coveted cheese table near brewpub row and lose myself in some smooth and creamy goat cheese. If you’re headed to the fest on Saturday night, head to this booth early, and get some free samples of the good stuff. You’ll be happy you did. If you really want to get crazy, head to the Krave jerky booth for a free sample when you’re done.

7:09 pm: Against my better judgement, I can’t resist the urge to just walk by Ass Clown Brewing Company, and head over to strike up a conversation with this North Carolina brewery about how hard naming businesses can be, and the brewery’s Betwixt 2 Berries — a surprisingly balanced kettle sour made with kiwi and strawberry.

7:22 pm: Some poor soul drops his taster glass, but recovers quickly and leaves the scene of the crime before people can figure out who they’re booing.

7:45 pm: A long line starts building at the Cigar City booth, so I head over to see what the buzz is all about. People are going nuts for the Florida-based brewery’s Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and the Life is Like Milk Stout — a hearty sweet stout aged in bourbon barrels.

7:55 pm: I get my first taste of Drake Brewing Company’s 2017 Lusu’s Love Child — a damn tasty collaboration with Bedrock Wine Company. The Flanders red style sour is just the right amount of tart and boasts big fruity notes with a bit of spice.

8:30 pm: I make it to the Beer and Food pavilion just in the nick of time to catch the charcuterie pairing, but the room is so packed, I can’t find a seat. So instead, I head over to the Sip and Sit section of the fest where a crowd has gathered to listen to Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project talk about different types of fermentation and share samples of the Denver-based brewery’s Petite Sour Peach.

9:00 pm: Things are starting to go downhill and I pass a dinosaur who’s struggling to stay upright. Even though the level of drunkeness rises around this time, the crowd tends to thin out a little bit and the lines start to get smaller. Even with the smaller lines, most of the breweries are out of the most popular brews for the day, and only core beers remain.

9:30 pm: Most people are on the move, heading out to one of the many industry parties raging throughout town. The best part of GABF week in Denver, is you don’t have to have a ticket to each session to taste some rad beers and have a good time. Limited releases, specialty brews and iconic beers from all over the country can pretty much be found on tap at any bar or brewpub in town with a draft system.



In it’s 36th year, brewers from across the country and thirsty beer drinkers from across the world, once again descended on the city of Denver to celebrate (and drink a lot of) craft beer at the Great American Beer Festival.



Festival-goers were greeted with blue skies and cool temps on a beautiful Colorado day. While GABF week has been raging since Monday, Thursday marks the official start of the festival, and the streets of Denver became a sea of gnarly beards and flannel, and badge-clad brewery reps trying to overcome hangovers from the night before. Couldn’t make it to the fest this year? Here’s a recap of some of the action of day one.

5:15 pm: Sounds a New Orleans-esque brass band fill the streets around the Colorado Convention Center, thanks to the dude’s at Melvin Brewing Companywho serenaded GABF-goers waiting in the infamously long line to get in with tunes from an energetic band on a flatbed trailer pulled on a loop by a Melvin Sales van. The brewery also stood out in the sprawling mountain region section of the fest where they poured their notoriously big beers from a bright yellow bus blaring music.

5:20 pm: Security was tightened up at this year’s fest, and attendees were met with airport style security that included a stroll through a metal detector and pat downs of all bags. Although a lot of rumblings could be heard in the security line, most attendees didn’t argue with the new measures introduced this year.

5:30 pm: “I smell beer!” The doors open and throngs of beer drinkers make a mad dash into the fest to be the first in lines for some of their favorite breweries, like Russian River, who quickly accumulated a line that snaked back and forth into the already bustling and slightly chaotic aisle. This year’s festival layout was designed differently from last year, and didn’t seem to be met with quite as much success. In past years, some of the larger and more popular breweries could easily be found at the endcaps of each aisle, but this year, breweries seemed to scale back on the money spent on their GABF booth. Many of the big breweries who shelled out some major dollars last year for prime placement in the fest, were tough to find, and mixed in with hardly-decorated brewery booths, which often caused pile-ups of people trying to creatively find new and more efficient ways to create lines in short spaces.

5:45 pm: The bagpipers are back. In a tradition that has spanned many years, the sounds of well-dressed bag pipers marching through the main hall marks the beginning of the festival.

5:49 pm: The bagpipers stop, and genuinely look lost. I don’t blame them. There’s year’s layout is a little tricky to get accustomed to.

5:50 pm: The bagpipers find their way again, and pick up the tunes once more — which is great for me — since the loud sounds from the pipes cover up the noise of my glass dropping on the Convention Center floor — and saving me from the 30 seconds of humiliation that would have followed should anyone of busted me.

6:00 pm: I venture over to the Protect Craft Guilds section for the first time, and am pleasantly surprised to see the several state brewers guild booths manned by the men and women employed by each guild. At the Minnesota booth, cans of Surly lure me in, but it’s the other brews from smaller state breweries unable to attend the fest, like a Rye IPA from Urban Growler — an all female-run brewery—that really impress me. If you’re interested in checking out new breweries, and learning more about independent craft beer from each state, brewers guilds are a great resource.

6:12 pm:  I run into my first dinosaur, literally. I politely exchange apologies with the Booze Raptor, and we continue on our way.

6:30 pm: I start my long journey through the three rows of breweries in the Meet the Brewers booth. At a festival that’s known for a huge volunteer base that pour beer in place of brewery representatives at most booths, it’s nice to be able to actually grab a beer from someone who can tell you a little more about it. Several popular breweries landed in this section, which was a generic line of slightly decorated black table cloth-clad tables connected together — until the City Star Brewing booth — which was built to stand out in the towering shape of a country farm barn.

7:22 pm: I swing by the Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales booth and am met with disappointment and a sign saying the brewery is out of beer for the evening.

7:25 pm: Spotting a rare short line at Dogfish Head booth which was casually decorated this year apparently to look like my grandma’s basement, I seize the moment and grab one of the brewery’s delicious and citrusy Flesh & Blood IPAs.

7:30 pm: The Good Bugs: Culinary Flavors of Yeast beer and food pairing kicks off in the Beer and Food pavilion. Led by Jensen Cummings of Brewed Food, the first pairing is three different types of sauerkraut made using yeast and bacteria also found in the three different beer offerings paired with the dish. Breweries like Fremont Brewing, Odd 13 Brewing, and Rhinegiest all brewed beers specifically for this pairing — which showcased a rising trend of breweries using yeast to impart major flavors on their beer.

7:45 pm: I get my first unpleasant whiff of other things “fermenting” at the festival.

8:30 pm: I discover the massage therapists waiting in the wings of the main hall, tempting beer drinkers on a mission with a few minutes of peace and quiet amidst a room full of somewhat organized chaos.

9:00 pm: I get a taste of Allagash Brewing Co.’ s Fluxus 2017 — an anniversary beer the brewery recreates each year. This year’s version is a mixed-fermentation saison brewed with rhubarb and packed with flavor.



Heading to the Great American Beer Festival this year? Check out these insider tips on 5 really rad things that you probably didn’t know you could find inside of the fest.


It’s that time of year again. Time to bust out your lederhosen, dust off that half-eaten pretzel necklace stashed in the pocket, and dip into your kids’ college funds so that you can drop a boatload of money to make the pilgrimage to the Great American Beer Festival — the World Series of beer drinking. But if you think this iconic beer fest, which is currently in its 36th year of destroying livers in the state of Colorado, is all high-ABV beers and humiliating people with butterfingers, you’ve got another thing coming this year. Prepare yourself for one hell of a beer fest this October by studying up on these five awesome things you probably didn’t know you could find at the Great American Beer Festival.

Free Food. This is not a joke. You shelled out a couple hundred bucks for a flight to Denver, a pretty penny on lodging for the weekend, and $85 on a coveted ticket into the festival, but did you know that once you make it into the fest, you can give your busted wallet a break? It’s the truth. If you know where to find it, there’s free food all over the Colorado Convention Center during GABF. For starters, there’s a table filled with cheese gloriously mixed into the sea of brewery booths. No strings attached. Just a magnificent spread of complimentary cheese. Turns out, October is American Cheese Month, and the American Cheese Society celebrates every year by serving a massive spread of artisan cheese from cheesemakers and producers across the country at the Great American Beer Festival. You can find this little slice of cheese heaven near the karaoke stage at the back of the festival hall, but be sure to hit this table early on in the evening. Free cheese tends to go quickly in a sprawling event hall full of beer drinkers. Samples of free cheese not enough for you? Then you should hang out in the Beer & Food Pavilion. Here you’ll find expert pairings from chefs and brewers, as well as demonstrations on how to create your own pairings. An ice cream social, charcuterie spreads, slow food and beers from Mexico — you’ll find it all, at no cost, all three days of the fest. Keep this link to the Beer & Food Pavilion’s schedule handy, and take a break from waiting in line to slam taster pours to enjoy some killer food paired with exceptional beer.

Short Lines. This also is not a joke. The Protect Craft Guilds Pavilion is one of the festival’s underutilized areas, and not only will you find shorter lines here, but you’ll also be supporting independently-owned craft breweries and get to sample 178 beers from breweries that are members of 19 different state brewers guilds from across the country. Learn what makes the craft beer scenes in states like Vermont, Michigan, Florida, and Minnesota unique. The best part of this pavilion (aside from promoting independent breweries) is that you’ll have the opportunity to sample brews from up-and-coming breweries not attending the fest this year. Want to learn more about the conversation of why independence is important to the craft beer industry? Don’t miss the Why Independence Matters featured panel on October 6 at 8:30 pm in the Brewers Studio Pavilion to hear from some of the biggest names in independent craft beer speak about what the future holds for independent craft breweries.

You Could Win a Golden Ticket to Have a Private Beer Tasting Tour of GABF. Ever dreamt  of drinking beer with brewery celebrities like Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker, Garret Oliver from The Brooklyn Brewery, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Vinne Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing Co. and Rob Tod from Allagash Brewing Company? Well your dreams could just come true this year. Prior to each evening session, two of these celebrated brewery owners will pluck one lucky GABF attendee and their crew from the entry line inside of Hall A for a private tour of the festival before the doors even open. Dress to impress and be on your wildest behavior, and you just might win the golden ticket.

Hardware Hall of Fame. Yep. The Brewers Association went there this year. They rounded up a variety of 2015 Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup winning brews, and they’re pouring them all from one booth. Try some of the most decorated beers created in recent history at this year’s Heavy Medal booth, located in Hall B near Section Y.

Karaoke. Go big or go home, right? What pairs better with copious amounts of alcohol than a karaoke stage? Find this genius festival entertainment in The Backyard section of GABF, along with live music, yard games, and apparently a DJ named Brian.

Get the full schedule of events and a map of the fest at, or better yet, join the 21st century and download the app…


The Great American Beer Festival Makes Its Way to Boulder

Missed out on your chance to grab those coveted tickets to the Great American Beer Festival this year?

Huge bummer, dude. 

But don’t worry. Even though thousands of people battle it out on the interwebs each year to snag a ticket to the fest before they sell out (which happens in a matter of minutes), the GABF craft beer fun doesn’t stop at the walls of the Colorado Convention Center. Local breweries are updating their events calendars as we speak with craft beer-centric events, special tappings, and additional tour hours to celebrate GABF week and all that is good about craft beer.

Check out how these local breweries are celebrating GABF week this year:

Avery Brewing Co.

Oct. 1st through Oct. 3rd - Avery will be running brewery tours at 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., with special tappings taking place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.  

Oct. 3rd - Great Avery Boulder Fest | The Fox Theater | 8:30 p.m.

Join Avery as they bring a little bit of the GABF to Boulder at this event that celebrates a local venue, locally-made beer, and live music by local bands. They’re busting out the big guns at this event, and dipping into Adam Avery’s own personal cellar along with favorite special tappings from the Avery tap room including: Rumpkin, Pump[KY]n, Bad Apple, Lillikoi Kepolo, Chai Brown, Out of Mind, Wet Hop Pale Ale, and GORED! The Magic Beans and Analog Son! are providing the live music. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.


Sept. 29th - The Art of Pairing Beer & Food |  6 p.m. 

Sept. 30th – Special Tapping – Loch Wee Heavy Scotch Ale | 6 p.m. 

Oct. 1st – 2nd Annual Steins & Staches | 7 p.m. 

$8 house pint pours in your stein. Contest for best facial hair 

Oct. 2nd – Special Tapping – 2nd Anniversary Ale | 6 p.m.

Complimentary hand built ale for GABF ticket holders

Oct. 3rd - Beer Dinner in the Brewery | 7 p.m. | $40 per person

An intimate 3-course family-style beer dinner

Oct. 4th – Special Tapping – Fresh Hop American Pale Ale | 6 p.m.

Oct. 5th - GABF Hangover Brunch | 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. | $22 per person

Entree & 2 hand built ales included in ticket price

Click here for more info on all of Bru’s GABF events

FATE Brewing Co. 

Now through September 28th- The folks at FATE feel bad for you for not snagging GABF tickets this year. But it’s cool. They’re giving a pair away! Click here for more info on how to win. 

Upslope Brewing Co. 

Oct. 1st - Special Tappings | 11 a.m. 

While Upslope has a lot going on in Denver during GABF week, they’re kickstarting festivities at their Flatiron Park location by tapping a Nitro Blonde Ale and the UpUpUpUp Local Honey Pale Ale— a collaboration beer with Freshcraft. 

Oct. 1st - The Perfect Pairing: The local cheese gods at Cured are stopping by the Flatiron Park tap room for a beer and cheese pairing.

For more info on both events.

Wildwoods Brewery

Sept 27th – Wildwoods is throwing down on September 27th with a big ol’ anniversary party to kick off GABF festivities. Enjoy special beers, live music from Caribou Mountain Collective, food from Blackbelly, and commemorative mugs.More info here.

The Bolder Life: Coming to a City Near You


Tyra Sutak

Published on: September 28th, 2011

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that this weekend is the 30thannual Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It’s a beer geek’s heaven and a hellish hangover for the fresh batch of newly 21-year-olds that are responsible for well over half of the dropped taster glasses that hit the floor of the Convention Center and the echo of boos that immediately follows. It’s kind of the place to be this weekend.

Unfortunately, tickets sold faster than hot cakes this year, leaving a vast number of GABF lovers seeking other plans for the weekend.

Thankfully—I’m here for you. I got your back. Check out these fun events going on in a city near you for a fraction of the price of admission to Denver’s giant beer festival.

Hangover Brunch at Oskar Blues Liquids and Solids with Maui Brewing
Sunday, October 2nd | 10:00 am | $30/ticket
You are so bummed that you couldn’t get tickets to the GABF. Don’t worry—Oskar Blues is bringing a little bit of the GABF to you with a Hangover Brunch complete with a guest appearance by the owner of Maui Brewing, Garrett Marrero. Rub elbows with Garrett and enjoy one of Maui Brewing’s popular microbrews that are being featured at OB for the day. Menu items include: 14 hour smoked pork shoulder, house cured bacon, andouille sausage, blueberry maple sausage, old chub bangers, crawfish etouffee, “Kiss My Grits” shrimp grits and “Fat Elvis” French toast stuffed with peanut butter and bananas.

3rd Annual Niwot Oktoberfest
Saturday, October 1st | 2:00-9:00 pm | Free Admission

So you had your heart set on attending a beer festival this weekend. You can still get your wish and instead of shelling out a hundred bucks for a ticket, you can get into Niwot’s Oktoberfest for free! The festival, taking place in Cottonwood Park, promises live music, plenty of authentic German food, beers by Left Hand Brewing, Polka dancing, plenty of beer and wine, face painting and a bouncy castle.

Pearl St. Stampede
Friday, September 30th | 7 pm | 1300 Block of Pearl St.

Check out the Pearl St. Stampede this Friday, and help cheer on the CU Buffs football team as they parade along Pearl St. with the Golden Buffalo Marching Band before their big game on Saturday! Anyone who’s been watching the Buffs play lately knows that they could use a little pick-me-up, so catch them in front of the Boulder County Courthouse and follow the parade, led by Boulder car-collecting legend, Stephen Tebo’s, antique CU fire truck.  (Go Buffs!)

Devil Dash 5K
Saturday, October 8th | Bohn Park, Lyons | Registration Closes on Thursday, October 6th

After a weekend filled with a steady flow of good food and beer, you’re going to need a good workout to burn off all of those delicious calories. This devilish 5K isn’t until next weekend, but pre-registration closes on Monday, October 3rd. Check out this muddy course filled with obstacles themed after the 7 Deadly Sins and finish the race at the Avery Brewing Beer Garden of Eden. Mud, live music,