Beer Man

Great American Beer Festival Celebrations Are Here — Sort Of

If you want to wear a costume for GABF, you'll have to do it from your own couch.
Danielle Lirette
If you want to wear a costume for GABF, you'll have to do it from your own couch.
Normally at this time of year, we roll out a massive online calendar of planned tappings and events in the Denver area related to the Great American Beer Festival. Dozens and dozens of special beers, mini-fests, pairing dinners, classes, tastings and other activities are usually scheduled at bars, breweries and restaurants.

This year is different. The public portion of GABF, which had been scheduled for September 25 through 27, was canceled and replaced by an online series of events and a brewery passport program, which will run on October 16 and 17. The competition will still take place, but judging will be spread out over several weeks.

Bars, breweries and restaurants, meanwhile, are operating at limited capacity and under strict rules because of the pandemic. Some are just trying to keep their heads above water. Others, like Euclid Hall and the Rialto Cafe, which often held annual GABF-related activities, have closed for good.

But the Denver beer world is trying to keep its chin up with a variety of live and online events — some of which are taking place this week, since it was the original GABF week, and some of which will be strung along between now and the online festival.

Kicking things off, as usual, is Falling Rock Tap House, which is rolling out the Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beer (FRAFOGB) from September 24 through 27. Falling Rock is billing the fest as "a little taste of the GABF atmosphere, but done in as responsible of a manner as possible, and following all local guidelines."

There will be four sessions (just like GABF) over the four days, with properly spaced tables inside and outside the beer bar. Each table will be served a lineup of thirty different beers in two-ounce pours; there are two different lineups posted on Falling Rock's website.

Here are the rest of the GABF-related and would-be GABF-related events taking place over the next five weeks.

Courtesy of Falling Rock Taphouse
Thursday, September 24
If you enjoy the standard-bearers of great beer in the United States and you're missing the wide variety of two-ounce pours from GABF, then head to Falling Rock for FRAFOGB (see above).

Friday, September 25
If this had been a normal year, the Great American Beer Festival would have been in town, along with the 12th annual Denver Rare Beer Tasting. But this is not a normal year, so the organizers of Denver Rare Beer have decided to throw a virtual series of events featuring eight hours of content spread across three days, including an auction, panels on beer topics, meet-and-greets with luminaries of the craft-beer world, videos from breweries around the country, and virtual bottle shares. In addition, for the cost of a $60 ticket, participants can get a commemorative tasting glass and T-shirt shipped, VIP status for next year’s in-person Denver Rare Beer Tasting (scheduled for October 8, 2021), and access to purchase special releases (not included in the cost of the ticket) from breweries around the country — all of which will benefit the Pints for Prostates campaign, which raises money for prostate cancer awareness. Participating Colorado breweries include WeldWerks, Westbound & Down, Burns Family Artisan Ales, Westfax Brewing, Great Divide, Joyride, River North Brewery and Verboten Brewing.

The Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beers continues (see above).

Saturday, September 26
The Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beers continues (see above).

Sunday, September 27
The Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beers continues (see above).

Thursday, October 1
Although GABF moved its dates to October 16 and 17, hundreds of breweries across the country are offering discounts, BOGOs, special releases and other deals to GABF Passport holders beginning today. Find all the deals on the GABF website; some breweries have begun scheduling special releases, as well.

click to enlarge
Hops & Pie celebrates its tenth anniversary.
Jonathan Shikes
Saturday, October 3
Hops & Pie is a must-stop destination during the Great American Beer Festival (and, frankly, every week), and it typically celebrates its anniversary around the same time. This year is a big one, as Hops & Pie turns ten. For the occasion, it's hosting a socially distanced rare-beer blowout, with a crazy tap list, live music and giveaways every hour from noon to 5 p.m. Beers on tap include Single Barrel Laws Coconut Medianoche from WeldWerks, Mornin' Delight from Toppling Goliath, Persica from Crooked Stave, East Bank, Bourbon East Bank and a special tenth-anniversary Blend from Casey Brewing & Blending, 3653 Days of Delicious Monotony from Call to Arms, Hops & Pie 10th Anniversary Double IPA from Comrade Brewing, Another Hops & Pie 10th Anniversary IPA from Cannonball Creek, Oktoberfest from Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest in Maine, and "many more secret treasures," the restaurant says.

Saturday, October 10
At least six breweries are participating in the Beer Pennant Race as a way to bring attention to both the GABF passport and small breweries. Dry Dock Brewing, Downhill Brewing, Living the Dream Brewing, Station 26 Brewing, Woods Boss Brewing and Ursula Brewery will all have mini brewery pennants available to collect for GABF passport holders to purchase a beer (see breweries for specifics).

Wednesday, October 14
The 2020 version of Crooked Stave's GABF Gold Medal-winning Get The Funk Out will be released today at both of the breweries taprooms in Denver and Fort Collins. But this being 2020, the beer is called Stay The Funk In. It is a spontaneously-fermented ale aged in French oak barrels.

Thursday, October 15
Autumn is Big Bad Baptist season at Epic Brewing, which has been brewing this bourbon barrel-aged imperial coffee stout — and a variety of variants — for many years now. This year, the brewery will release more variants than ever, including Bigger Badder Baptista, brewed with smoked malt and Café de Olla spices; Big Bad Baptist Double Chocolate Double Peanut Butter, a combination of two previous beers; Big Bad Baptist Pecan Pie, brewed with cinnamon and pecans to pair; Big Bad Baptist Chocolate Raspberry; and Big Bad Baptist Sextuple Barrel. They will all be on tap today, along with the original Big Bad Baptist, now in cans. In addition, the brewery will have vintage Baptist variants available, along with merchandise, paired food and a DJ.

Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17
The 39th annual Great American Beer Festival is not happening in person — though there will still be a judged beer competition. But the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which hosts the greatest of all beer fests, is trying to bring people around the country together in spirit with its Brewnite campaign, which involves a $20 GABF passport (see above). In addition to beer specials and releases, Passport holders will have exclusive access to online content during the Official Virtual Festival. "Tune in for tips and tricks to enhance beer knowledge and enjoyment, lager lore and sudsy stories from craft beer luminaries, profiles of breweries and individuals that are transforming their communities one beer at a time, and flavor fusions through beer and food pairings to tantalize the taste buds," the BA says.