The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is the granddaddy of all beer festivals in the nation. As with all premier events, going in unprepared could cost you a good time and a waste of the $55 you spent on a ticket. This guide is to help the GABF rookie get the Willy Wonka experience at the biggest beer festival in the country.
What to bring
- Valid identification; they card everyone at the door.
- Some cash to buy beer swag at the front of the event hall.
- They may look cheesy, but pretzel necklaces are by far the best thing you can bring to the festival besides your ID. A pretzel can help stave off the munchies and clean your palate in between beer tastings and having these tasty treats in necklace form will keep your hands free. Plus the food in your stomach will delay the buzz a little longer. All you need is some twine and pretzels.
- A ride, whether it’s a sober friend or public transportation. You better believe Denver PD will be keeping an eye out for drunk drivers.
- Comfortable shoes, preferably closed toed. You will be on your feet for 4 hours and walk the equivalent of 3 miles during the whole event. Beer will inevitably be spilled and nobody likes to have sticky feet. It will be crowded and people will step on your toes.
What to do BEFORE the event
- Make a pretzel necklace.
- Hydrate. Much beer will be consumed and water will help you recover faster.
- Eat; food in your stomach means you can taste more beer.
- Go to the GABF Website and plan your attack. Everyone will be rushing the first beer booth they see as they get into the event hall. Be smart and go to the back and work your way forward for less of a crowd. Find your favorite breweries using the website that the wonderful people at the Brewers Association created and go there first.
- Don’t pre-party. People get turned away from the event if they look visibly intoxicated at the door. This is a beer festival, you don’t need to drink before coming. Don’t be that guy.
What to do DURING the event
- Get in line AT LEAST AN HOUR EARLY. This might be the single longest line you’ve ever seen. People who get in line the earliest get to drink beer first.
- Bring something to take notes. I’m not talking about tasting notes necessarily (although that’s perfectly OK) — I’m talking about writing down the names of beers that you enjoy so you can go out and find them again after the GABF.
- They will have water stations available. Use the 3-1 rule — after drinking 3 oz. of beer, drink 1 full taste glass of water. Your head will thank you for it in the morning.
- ‘Oooooooo’ when someone drops their tasting glass. Because it’s fun.
The purpose of the GABF is to expose people to new craft beer styles and flavors they never thought existed. There will be breweries at the festival that aren’t available in your area. Be adventurous and try something you might think will taste horrible. And most of all, have fun doing it!
Tomorrow: Secrets of the GABF!