Because let's face it: For the average, beer-drinking Joe, the Great American Beer Festival can be a sweaty, draining sausage-fest -- and that's if you managed to get a ticket in time.
There are old guys with matted beards wearing faded beer hats and tank tops from homebrewing contests in the 1970s. There are young guys wearing pretzel necklaces and baseball caps turned around backwards. There are quiet guys with mustaches who either dragged or were dragged by their girlfriends/wives.There's a lot of yelling when someone drops a beer. There are a lot of lines, and if you want to learn something about a brewery, you are usually out of luck because the tables are staffed by well-meaning volunteers whose primary knowledge base involves how to pour one-ounce of beer without spilling.
So what do you do if want something more, or if you don't have a ticket?Head to our microbrew meccas: the Wynkoop Brewing Company and the Falling Rock Taphouse. These spots are where the out-of-state brewers go to talk shop, to drink each other's creations and to have a good time while the masses are one-ouncing it inside the Colorado Convention Center. In fact, if you head to one of these spots around happy hour any day next week, there's a good chance you will find brewers, brewery owners and beer geeks talking about top-fermentation vs. bottom-fermentation, the lupulin content in hops, or the specific gravity of their latest home brew.
There are some private parties at both the Wynkoop and Falling Rock, but many others are open to the public: Falling Rock, for instance, will host its thirteenth annual GABF kickoff party at 5 p.m. tonight, when it will tap ten to twelve kegs of hard-to find beers.
Another must-see event: the infamous Kill-A-Keg, the tavern's annual attempt to drain a keg of Sierra Nevada at an ever-faster pace, which is slated for noon on September 25, when participants will till try to beat last year's record of fifteen minutes, four seconds.