If you've been to the Great American Beer Festival before, then you know the drill: Wait, with bated breath, in a line that wraps around the Colorado Convention Center, get inside, get your tasting glass, take a deep breath and hit the tasting tables -- hundreds upon hundreds of them. In fact, there are so many that even experienced GABF-goers can be overwhelmed. But there's no need to panic.
Here are a few tips on what to do at the biggest beer festival in the world. And what not to do.
What to do: All of the booths are stocked with volunteers, who may or may not know much about the beers. So look for brewery representatives at the booths (they'll be wearing passes that identify them as such), in particular at the tables that aren't very crowded. You might discover an amazing beer and get to chat to someone from out of state -- or Colorado -- with an interesting story to tell.
What not to do: Try to hog the attention of a brewery rep or owner at a booth that has a line of twenty, thirty, fifty people behind you. They would all like a sample, too, please. Oh, and don't slam the sample and hand the glass back, repeatedly. That makes you an asshole for a variety of reasons.
What to do: Have a plan of some sort. Some people like to spend the evening sampling just one style of beer: IPAs or oatmeal stouts, for instance. Others seek out specific states or regions of the country or just famous breweries making famous beers. Come up with your own plan (the new GABF app will help). You will no doubt violate this plan constantly, as your eyes and thirsts wander, but at least it will give you goals and something to refocus on periodically.
What not to do: Wander aimlessly. You will end up drunk and confused. We speak from experience.What to do:
Dance at the silent disco. This is actually way more fun than it looks. And it burns off some beer calories if you do it right.
What not to do: Worry that people will think you are an idiot for dancing at the silent disco. They are the ones who can't hear the music.
What to do: Leave a little early and try to hit one of the amazing venues around town that will be hosting after-parties with plenty of celebrity firepower. Euclid Hall, Falling Rock, Freshcraft, Star Bar and many others are hosting events that start at 10 p.m.; the earlier you get there, the happier you will be.
What not to do: Head to Falling Rock at 10:30 p.m. and expect to get right in. You will be very sad.
What to do: Let out a roar when someone drops a cup and it rattles on the hard floor. Yes, this gets old -- fast. But it's still kind of funny and unique to GABF.
What not to do: Drop your glass on purpose. And for the love of God, if you drop your cup in the restroom, go get another one.
What to do: Hit some up-and-coming breweries. Here are ten (non-Colorado) breweries that are gaining great reputations around the country but may not have long lines: Austin Beerworks, Cambridge Brewing, Church Beer Works, Drake's, Golden Road, La Cumbre, Ladyface, Nodding Head, Revolution Brewing and Wicked Weed. There are plenty of other up-and-comers, like Cigar City and DESTIHL, but the lines will be very long.
What not to do: Stand in line if you want to, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to wait for thirty minutes in line at Dogfish Head or Lost Abbey when you can get 90 percent of their beers on liquor-store shelves in Denver. Or do. It's up to you.
What to do: Try out one of the other activities offered by the Boulder-based Brewers Association -- like the Brewers Studio, You Be the Judge and the Beer and Food Pavilion -- but sign up for your ticket early. These fill up fast.
What not to do: Cut the cheese. Or rather, cut in line at the American Cheese Society table. It is long, but please be patient.
What to do: If you see Brewers Association founder and homebrewing demigod Charlie Papazian, you can politely ask to take your picture with him. Try not to slur inordinately -- although a little slurring is to be expected.
What not to do: Put Charlie Papazian into a headlock and force him to take an iPhone #selfie with you. Or throw up on his shoes.
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