Sunday, October 14, 2012

Great American Beef Festival (GABF) 2012

The day that I describe as a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas finally arrived Friday - the 2012 edition of the Great American Beer Festival.  This is by far one of the more fun days of my year!

My history of going to the Great American Beer Festival started back in 2009.  At that time I was in the process of transcribing the book "1001 Things To Do Before You Die" into an Excel spreadsheet.  I was doing this tedious task so that I could track how many of the 1001 Things in the book I had done.  As I came to the United States section of the book, I found that attending the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) was one of the items in the book.  Given that the GABF takes place in Denver every fall, it was a no-brainer that I had to go to this event.  Little did I know that it was to become an ongoing pursuit of mine.

That first year the festival was already sold out before I made the decision to attend.  To get a ticket I had to turn to Craigslist.  I ended up paying $90 that year for a $65 face value ticket.  Regardless it was well worth the price as I attended the Festival that year and I discovered how much fun it was.

Though I have tried year after year to buy tickets through the normal channels it is almost impossible.  This year the tickets sold out in record time - 1 hour!  I managed to get 4 tickets via Craigslist from a guy who wasn't going to be in town for the weekend.  I had to pay a bit of a premium, but to me it is worth it to get the tickets.  The four lucky attendees were of course me, my brother, Lisa and her oldest son.

We arrived at the Denver Convention Center at 5:25PM - 5 minutes before the 5:30PM start time.  At the time we arrived the line to get in stretched from the entrance of the convention center the whole way around the building and back to the entrance again!  We didn't realize that when we got there and we walked the whole 1/2 mile around the building.  It was crazy how long the line was!

Despite the length of the line, it moved very quickly.  In fact, it seemed it took us longer to walk to the end of the line than it took us to walk in the line back to the entrance.  When all was said and done, we entered the convention center around 5:50PM. That was not too bad for a 1/2 mile long line.

At the entrance to the convention center, your id and ticket are checked to make sure that you are over 21 and have a proper ticket. You received an arm band at the ticket check to show that you were a legitimate ticket holder and then you proceed up the escalator to the main exhibition hall on the second floor.  Walking into the exhibition hall you are overwhelmed with the number of breweries that are set up there.  The entire hall of several hundred thousand square feet was full of tables.  All told there were over 4700 beers on exhibit at this year's GABF.  4700!!

You receive your sample cup when you walk through the door.  The armband and your ticket serve as the marker for you to receive your beer glass.  With beer glass in hand, you then can begin sampling to your hearts content.

All told this year I sampled around 40 different beers.  Each beer is poured into your glass by a volunteer server.  You are only supposed to be given beer one ounce at a time, but many of the servers clearly poured more than one ounce.  In general I was disappointed by this year's crop of beers.  In the past there have been some really remarkable beers made with some unusual ingredients.  My all time favorite that I sampled at the GABF was a green chili lager.  It was fantastic.  (That was last year.) This year there weren't any beers that really stood out.  One of the more unusual beers that I had this year was a Chocolate Pilsener.  It definitely had a chocolate taste and was pretty good.  But it wasn't totally remarkable that I would order a case of beer from the brewery.  Another one that was fairly good was a Lemonade Shandy.  I could have drunk a lot of that beer, however the sweetness of it would have gotten to me after a while.

As is the normal situation each year there were quite a number of people dressed up in costumes.  We didn't do any costumes but we made sure we had our pretzel necklaces.  During my first year at the GABF in 2009 I had wondered why all these people were wearing pretzel necklaces as we waited in line to get in.  I quickly found out that the purpose of the pretzel necklace so that you can eat a pretzel after each beer to clear your palate.  Since that first year I have never gone to the GABF without a proper pretzel necklace.

Some of the more unique costumes we saw this year were several people dressed up as characters from the Mario Brothers computer games.  We also saw plenty of people in kilts and in traditional German dress.  There were also several characters that I can only describe as being dressed up like professional wrestlers.  It was quite the colorful crowd!

 (The Mario Gang - I have not idea who the other guy is with the pretzel necklace.  Just happened to be there when I took this photo.)

We had a great time and none of us got drunk.  I think we all got a little buzzed but to be honest it is hard to get really drunk unless you try.  If you are there to have an enjoyable time with friends it's hard to get drunk.  By 9:00PM we were beered out and headed for the exit.  We only had to wait about 5 minutes to catch a light rail train headed in our direction.  We transferred lines at the DU stop as we didn't want to wait at either Broadway or Southmoor and before you knew we were home and another GABF was over!

Hope everyone has had a great weekend!  Hope you all have a good week ahead.

Thanks and peace to al1! ~J.

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