By most accounts, the 2015 Great American Beer Festival was one of the best in recent memory: The Brewers Association, which hosts the fest every year, was finally able to make some changes that resulted in a less stressful experience for participating breweries and a more pleasant experience for the public.
This year’s fest, which takes place October 6 through October 8 at the Colorado Convention Center, looks to be just as smooth, although it still won’t be easy to get tickets, which go on sale to members of the BA and the American Homebrewers Association at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, August 2, and to the general public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3.
General admission tickets will once again cost $85, although there will be slight increase for tickets to Paired, the more intimate food-and-beer pairing party held in a private room next to the main festival. (For detailed ticket information and tips on how to buy tickets at Ticketmaster, go to the Great American Beer Festival website.)
But you’ll be getting more for your money at this, the 35th anniversary of the largest commercial beer festival in the world. The BA expects to have around 800 breweries serving 3,800 beers, up from 750 breweries last year. Many more will enter their beers into judging competitions.
The increase won’t cramp the festival, however: The BA was able to add 90,000 additional square feet of space in 2015, where it installed the roomier Meet-the-Brewer Hall — and some tables and chairs where you could actually sit! — featuring about one hundred booths staffed entirely by brewery employees, rather than volunteers. The change made a big difference and will continue this year.
“We had good feedback from last year. There were wider aisles and carpeting that gave the area a good flow. It also gave people a chance to take a breath,” says BA spokeswoman Barbara Fusco.
GABF will also bring back the Beer Geeks — helpful volunteers who can direct people to certain beers, styles and breweries — and a second entrance, on the Welton Street side of the convention center, which helps to decrease the rush to get in.
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And that second entrance will have a big additional perk this year: During each evening session, two “rock-star” craft brewers — including Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker, Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing — will walk down the line of attendees waiting to get in about a half hour before the start and pluck one group for a special, private tasting tour of festival. The opportunity is called the Golden Ticket.
“Each brewer will use their own criteria — the chosen posse might be rocking their GABF pride, some brewery apparel, or costumes that can’t be beat,” according to the Brewers Association.
Another minor tweak on the inside: a new games area dedicated to “food, seating, a variety of games, additional bathrooms and other surprises [that] are in store for attendees.”
For the most part, though, this milestone year for GABF will do what it always does, which is to provide beer drinkers with an opportunity to learn about new beers and beer styles from around Colorado and the rest of the country while getting a little drunk with their friends and having fun. “At the ripe old age of 35, it is always a balancing act," Fusco says. “We don’t want to compromise what people love about it.”