Love it or hate it, it's one of the most distinctive sounds at the Great American Beer Festival: someone drops their tiny plastic tasting cup on the floor; it rattles around for a moment, catching the ears of festival-goers in the area, and everyone roars in unison, a giant "Ohhhhhhhh." The odd tradition causes plenty of red cheeks, and it has caught on at other beer festivals in Colorado, where you can sometimes hear a similar roar.
Those sounds could be different in 2019, though, when GABF returns to Denver for its 38th iteration from October 3 through 5. Instead of plastic, collectible glass tasting cups will be handed out to all general session ticket holders for their one-ounce pours. In previous years, glass was only handed out to people who bought tickets to PAIRED, a beer-and-food pairing event that takes place side by side with the festival, and to attendees at the Brewers Association/American Homebrewers Association members-only, Saturday afternoon session.
My first thought? Although drinking out of glass rather than plastic makes for a nicer experience when it comes to tasting beer, the staff at the Colorado Convention Center is going to need a lot of brooms and dust pans to clean up all the broken shards that could litter the floor of the massive hall.
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But festival organizers are have considered breakage and are hoping that the carnage won't be too bad. "We've used glassware in PAIRED with success and hope to see a similar outcome during the larger general sessions," says Ann Obenchain, a spokeswoman for the Brewers Association, which hosts GABF.
"The catalyst behind the shift is actually a green one. Earlier this year, we were advised that the venue would no longer be able to recycle the #6 hard-plastic cups," she continues. "After discussions regarding breakage and safety concerns, and our goals to reduce the festival’s environmental footprint when we can, it was decided to move to glassware at all sessions this year.
"Glass is the best way to enjoy beer, and we think our attendees will appreciate the change," she adds.
Of course, those glass tasters may end up in trash cans if people choose not to keep them as souvenirs, which might work against the green efforts of the festival. But Obenchain says "if someone does not want to keep their collectible glass, tables will be set at the main exits of the festival for attendees to leave their glasses and they will be recycled."