GABF: What’s the Big Fuss?

If you happen to be at CVG in the next couple of days you may see an unusually high surge of travelers donning craft beer swag. Why are so many guys with epic beards suddenly popping up at the Cincinnati airport? Because it’s American Craft Beer’s high holiday – Great American Beer Festival!

GABF is arguably one of the greatest craft beer festivals and competitions in the world and is in it’s 37th year. Hosted annually in Denver, Colorado by the Brewers Association, 62,000 craft beer enthusiasts flock to the convention center for this four-day event. With over 800 breweries pouring over 4,000 beers, it is no wonder that this event lives at the top of the craft beer drinker’s bucket list.

Part festival, part competition, this event has it all.

The Festival:

Oh, what a glorious sight to behold. This efficient and brilliantly run beer festival is a damn good time. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by equally nerdy beer enthusiasts from around the world while sampling the best of the best in craft?! New this year to GABF, the Brewers Association has reorganized the convention center so that breweries are organized in alphabetical order. We think this decision is a major win – gone are the years when you had to memorize the map in order to track down your must try beers for the night.

Additionally, they’ve expanded the footprint of the festival by 100,000 square feet this year, which will hopefully help in moving around those epically long lines that pop up around big name breweries.

This year 62,000 lucky attendees will have their pick from over 4,000 beers representing 800 breweries.

A couple tips from us to help you maximize your experience:

  1. Study the list and make some top picks before the session begins.
  2. But don’t stay married to your list. If you walk past a booth and something catches your eye, TRY IT! Even if you’ve never heard of it before.
  3. You may be tempted to stick to breweries that don’t distribute in Ohio, but we say there is something super exciting about connecting with your local breweries during GABF. Even if it is just to say “Hi,” visit the Cincinnati brewery booths and show them some Cincinnati love. GABF is all about love for and pride in the craft – so share in that positive energy!
  4. Water, water, water. And then remember that you’re at a high altitude, so more water.
  5. If you’re a loyal Untappd user, consider pre-loading your beers into the app for quick access and on-the-spot beer reviewing. Or take your notes on paper and spend your flight home updating your account. Worried that walking around with a notepad will make you look nerdy? You’re at a beer festival. It comes with the territory.
  6. Pay attention to beer events hosted at local craft beer bars and breweries. GABF is not just about the festival itself, but is about the city-wide craft beer party that happens all week long. The tap takeovers and other special events happening in Denver surrounding the festival are unreal and are not to be missed.

The Competition:

All eyes are on this competition, so no pressure. With over 2,200 breweries submitting over 8,300 beers in 102 beer style categories, these judges have quite the challenge. Guidelines for judging are based on the Brewers Association Style Guidelines and World Beer Cup Styles.

Each year categories are added and changed to reflect the ever-evolving industry. This year, new categories include three juicy/hazy categories (shocking we know). New in 2018:

Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale

Juicy or Hazy IPA

Juicy or Hazy Double IPA

Contemporary American Style Pilsner

The constant evolution is very intentional on the part of the Brewers Association and adaptations to the categories are not taken lightly. There is a concerted effort to make sure that style categories are relevant and are a true reflection of the current beer landscape.

Winners of the annual competition are announced on Saturday, September 22nd in a massive hall with brewers from around the country filling the seats. The awards show is fun to watch, even from a distance. We’ll share out livestreaming details closer to the event.

Not able to make it to Denver but want to get in on the action? Join us for our GABF Preview with Fat Head’s on Thursday, September 20th. Cheers!

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