Beer Man

Tips and Tricks for Making Your Tenth GABF New Again

Don't reach the end of the line. Start anew with GABF!
Don't reach the end of the line. Start anew with GABF! Brandon Marshall
If you’ve lived in Denver for a while and you like craft beer, chances are you’ve been to the Great American Beer Festival at least once — and maybe you're even a seasoned veteran. Chances are better that you now like to regale people with tales about how crowded the GABF is, how much better is was in the old days, how it’s not worth going to since there are so many awesome events around town, how it’s full of drunken douchebags. And you’re right — sort of. GABF is all of that. But it is also an amazing feat of organization, planning and dedication, a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list event for many out-of-towners and the biggest, most sophisticated beer festival in the world.

And while there are dozens of breathless lists out there for how to tackle your first GABF — I’ve written plenty of them myself — there aren’t any for how to tackle your third or fifth or tenth or twentieth. That's why this list is indispensable! And also a little tongue-in-cheek (since lists were so much cooler back in the old days).

Whatever. Go to the fest, check your cynicism at the door of the Colorado Convention Center and join me on  this tour showing how even the jaded can regain some of their enthusiasm and enjoy GABF again.

click to enlarge Mix this with some water and get your hydration going. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Mix this with some water and get your hydration going.
Danielle Lirette
Drink Water
Just kidding — you already knew that. That’s the first item on most first-timers' lists, but really, you only have to have been hung over once in your life to realize that it’s important to drink water when you're pounding beers. So here’s the real tip: Use the pitchers of water at the booths to rinse your glass and then pound that mixture of backwash and agua. It will gross a few people out and keep you feeling edgy and hydrated.

Sit Down
For Christ’s sake, you’re not a spring chicken anymore. The Brewers Association, the event's organizer, thankfully added a plethora of tables and chairs when they expanded their square footage a couple of years ago, and it was one of the best improvements they've made to the fest. But don’t sit for too long. You are shark. Sharks keep moving or they die.

click to enlarge Be careful of guys in onesies. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Be careful of guys in onesies.
Danielle Lirette
Drinking Happens
Accept the fact that everyone is going to be drunk, including you. Sorry, that is just what happens. Yes, you are going to get blindsided by two drunken assholes in inflatable beer hats. Yes, a cute girl is going to cut in line. Yes, there will be people yelling and dropping their cups and generally acting like idiots. Have you been to a Rockies game recently? Same deal. So understand it, accept it and move on.

Go to the Seminars
Some are kind of boring and most hard to hear because of the constant dull roar of the crowd. Also, it’s not easy to sit in class while people are raging around you and drinking up all the rare beers. But you should still sit there and get educated. It will be cool, and after about fifteen minutes, you will regain your desire to walk around the fest.

Embrace the Pretzel Necklace
Are you too cool for pretzel necklaces? Me, too. Um, except for last year. When a friend made me put one on, I huffed and I puffed and rolled my eyes. And then I ate some pretzels. They really are delicious with beer. So, just in case you want to pretend you're hitting your first GABF, here are two ways to up your pretzel game: Quickly order the bandolier in the picture above, because it's the baddest-ass pretzel accessory I've ever seen, or head to Strange Craft Beer Company before the GABF session on Thursday, October 5, when the brewery will tap a salty pretzel beer and host a pretzel-necklace-making seminar.

Buck the Trends
If you can’t stand waiting in lines, then don’t! Go to some other brewery’s table — some place you’ve never heard of. Maybe the beer will suck. Maybe it will be great. Who knows?

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes