Everything You Need to Know About GABF 2023 in Denver | Westword

The Ultimate Guide to the 2023 Great American Beer Festival

Tickets to this year's edition, which kicks off on September 21, are still available.
The fest is a must-visit for many beer fans.
The fest is a must-visit for many beer fans. Brewers Association
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The Great American Beer Festival is almost here and there are still tickets available. The annual event kicks off on Thursday, September 21, and runs through Saturday, September 23.

With four sessions of beer mayhem and over 1,000 beers from hundreds of breweries, expect to find something for everyone. New this year is the addition of non-beers, like ciders and seltzers. This is part of a concerted effort by the Brewers Association to recognize the wider range of choices that many of the country's over 9,000 breweries are offering as they transition from spaces that offer beer-only options to full fledged social gathering spaces.

Here are all the must-know details about GABF 2023:
click to enlarge crowds inside a convention center
The GABF footprint is one of the largest ever.
Danielle Lirette

Getting There
Public transportation is the best way to get to the festival, which takes place at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street. Multiple trains and light rail lines can get you right to the front doors. If your ride ends at Union Station, it's a fifteen- to twenty-minute stroll, and over half of that walk can be eliminated by utilizing the free 16th Street Mall shuttle.

If you have a designated driver or you are staying overnight downtown after the festival, there is a parking garage conveniently attached to the convention center, on the southwest side of the complex. There are a number of other parking options to consider as well, and the Downtown Denver Partnership has set up a resources page to navigate them.

Session 1: Thursday, September 21, from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Session 2: Friday, September 22, from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Session 3: Saturday, September 23, from noon to 4 p.m.
Session 4: Saturday, September 23, from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

When I began attending GABF in 2012, Session 3, the “members' session,” was the hot ticket because there were slightly fewer people and the medal ceremony finished at the very start of it, creating added excitement for those searching for the year's winners.

Now, the Saturday afternoon session is still a great choice, but my new favorite is the Thursday evening session. Fewer people seem to attend it, likely because Friday is a traditional work day. It’s the first session of the festival, so beer hasn’t run out anywhere, and most everybody is fresh going into three days of festivities.

You can also walk right up to most booths without having to wait in line. The Thursday night session is just an overall more casual affair. Of course, if you’re into a higher energy, party vibe, the Friday and Saturday night sessions will be the most boisterous of them all.

What else is going on?

While GABF is the star of the show, there are plenty of other events happening all over town.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus has become the go-to hangout for visiting industry members throughout the week, and there's no reason to think that will change anytime soon. Hogshead Brewery and Cohesion Brewing are two other popular stops. You'll also find plenty of visitors posting up at other local standouts, from Ratio Beerworks to Our Mutual Friend Brewing, River North Brewing and Burns Family Artisan Ales, among many others. Breweries in and around Denver proper, as well as some of the more destination-focused spots in the metro area, will see an increase in traffic.

Pints for Prostates holds its annual Rare Beers fest during GABF. This year, it will take place on Friday, September 22, from noon to 4 p.m. Expect some of the very best beers from top local and national breweries. This is always one of the premier events during GABF.

Visit Denver has a page set up for Denver Beer Week, with many places participating. The list has some dead weight on it, as is to be expected when plenty of non-beer places jump on board the GABF week train, but there are a lot of fun and interesting events in there as well. I'd urge anybody looking to do something outside of GABF to spend a few minutes going through the list and picking out some favorites.

Denver's top beer bars are usually filled with special releases and out-of-state beers that aren't found outside of GABF week. Take a look through our best beer bars list and then visit individual social media pages to see what's going on at places like Hops & Pie, Finn's Manor and more.

I usually go to GABF with the same half-dozen friends each year. Everyone has their own priorities, but I generally will drink nothing but sessionable lagers and lighter ales for the first hour, and then I'll get to hoppier and stronger beers. I do this so that I can still taste those lighter beers, as it doesn't really make sense to drink a 14 percent ABV stout and then try a Helles.

I've seen people take paths where they only try a certain style of beer, like IPA. You can actually achieve that at GABF, and big fans of one type of beer can build their own style-focused festival. One year, some friends only drank pumpkin beers. This was a mistake — they couldn't drink them for years afterward. (Perhaps it wasn't a mistake?)

Eating a solid meal before the festival is also a good idea. If you're a nibbler, wear one of those pretzel necklaces. Or if you're like an unnamed friend of mine, step it up with a pretzel/meat stick/Twinkie necklace.

It's best to go in with a plan to avoid just aimlessly wandering from booth to booth with thirty minutes left, pounding one-ounce samples — that's a surefire way to end up being one of the stumbling people struggling to navigate the sidewalk after the festival ends.

GABF will set up eight taprooms throughout the festival. Here's a rundown:

Collab Country + Pro-Am
This section will have collaboration beers between breweries, as well as home brewer-brewery collaborations. These are often fun beers of a high caliber, making it worth a stop.

Gluten-Free Garden
This one is self-explanatory. In a smart and convenient move, the fest will offer over two dozen gluten-free beers in one section, including five from local brewery Holidaily.

2023 Heavy Medal
This is a must-stop. Medal winners from past GABF and World Beer Cup awards are being poured in this section. Some of the top beers of the festival can be found here, so stick around and sample quite a few.

International Pavilion
At this new addition, international breweries will be highlighted in a partnership with Elite Brands, a sponsoring distributor. Sixteen beers will be poured from five breweries, with familiar imports like Schneider Weisse from Germany, a trio of well-known Belgian breweries in St. Bernardus, Duvel and Rodenbach, as well as a lesser-known fifth brewery, Einstök Ölgerð from Iceland.

National Black Brewers Association
This is another first, and a welcome one at that. Four Black-owned breweries from four different states are represented here, with twelve different beers being poured. The popular Black Is Beautiful collab beer has a second rendition that you can sample, too.

Non-Alcoholic Oasis

This should be a godsend for people who aren't drinking or just want to take a break from the alcohol while still sipping on something flavorful. It will include 32 offerings from a variety of both local and national breweries. From hop water to N/A IPAs, this section might be worth a look, even for those that are at the fest for alcohol. While N/A and hop water have largely been misses for me, the few that have been tasty have absolutely been worth the time to find, and they add a new dimension to beverage choices.

United in Beer

This is the spot where the State Guild representatives will be. It's a great way to learn more about breweries in a specific state, and there are usually some really fun collaboration brews.

Wish We Were Here
This is the only truly oddball one — it's described as being a place for breweries that wanted to attend but couldn't make it, so they sent their beer instead. As an attendee, this isn't much different from the booths where volunteers pour the beer and the brewery team isn't really hanging around. It basically seems like it will be a place where you're certain to not meet a brewer, owner or beertender. Still, it's worth checking to see if one of your can't-miss beers is being poured here.
click to enlarge Small sampler glass will golden beer inside.
The tradition of a roar from the crowd as a glass breaks is a consistent over the years.
Danielle Lirette
Brewery Quick Guide
Our Quick Guide is specifically curated for ease of use along any combination of three distinct tracks. Whether you’re looking for lagers, IPAs or stouts and barleywines, this list will allow you to easily find a recommended brewery for the style.

Since many beer lovers are familiar with the great breweries in and around Colorado, we’ve focused on out-of-state breweries, most of which you can’t otherwise find in Colorado outside of GABF.


Accomplice Beer
Cheyenne, Wyoming

Altstadt Brewery
Fredericksburg, Texas

Breakside Brewery
Portland, Oregon

Chuckanut Brewery
Bellingham, Washington

Figueroa Mountain Brewing
Buellton, California

Künstler Brewing
San Antonio, Texas

Live Oak Brewing
Del Valle, Texas

Real Ale Brewing
Blanco, Texas

Scorched Earth Brewing
Algonquin, Illinois

Seedz Brewery
Union Pier, Michigan

Templin Family Brewing
Salt Lake City, Utah

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing
Austin, Texas

Von Ebert Brewing
Portland, Oregon

Wayfinder Beer
Portland, Oregon


3 Floyds Brewing
Munster, Indiana

Belching Beaver Brewery
Oceanside, California

Boneyard Beer
Bend, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery - Portland Public House
Portland, Oregon

Dogfish Head
Milton, Delaware

Ecliptic Brewing
Portland, Oregon

Fat Head’s Brewery
Middleburg Heights, Ohio

Melvin Brewing
Jackson, Wyoming

Pizza Port (four booths)
Various Locations, California

Pure Project
Vista, California

Radiant Beer Co.
Anaheim, California

Russian River Brewing
Santa Rosa, California

Wren House Brewing
Phoenix, Arizona

Stouts and Barleywines

AleSmith Brewing
San Diego, California

Bottle Logic Brewing
Anaheim, California

Destihl Brewery
Normal, Illinois

Ex Novo Brewing
Corrales, New Mexico

Firestone Walker Brewing
Paso Robles, California

Fort George Brewery
Astoria, Oregon

Hoppin’ Frog Brewing
Akron, Ohio

Maplewood Brewing
Chicago, Illinois

Modern Times Beer
San Diego, California

More Brewing
Huntley, Illinois

Perennial Artisan Ales
St. Louis, Missouri

Prairie Artisan Ales
McAlester, Oklahoma

Reuben’s Brews
Seattle, Washington

Revolution Brewing
Chicago, Illinois

Rhinegeist Brewery
Cincinnati, Ohio

Sierra Nevada Brewing
Chico, California

Sun King Brewery
Indianapolis, Indiana

The Bruery
Placentia, California

The Lost Abbey
Vista, California
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