Five GABF Lines Worth the Wait

There is one thing that is consistent about GABF: lines. Well, that, and there’s a lot of beer. But this article is about lines. You deal with them all week, to some degree. Lines to get into Falling Rock, Great Divide, Euclid Hall  and just about everywhere else within a three mile radius that has a drop of beer to pour. Don’t forget lines at the restrooms at any of those places too. As far as that is concerned, if you run into me in a bathroom line and I have a pained look and a tear in my eye, help a fellow out, will you?

At the festival itself, you can’t avoid them. The line to get in is long. Really long. Hell, even the AHA members-only line can be daunting. Get there early! Once inside, you will find some more lines. These lines are different though. You can see the payoff from the end of these lines. A lot of brewery booths will have no lines, of course. But, there are some producers that bring a limited amount of sneaky beers that we have heard about only by eavesdropping on Chris Black’s conversations with what looks to me a small Belgian dwarf. The wait at these booths is justified in that the beers are usually stellar (or weird enough to warrant conversation) and the brewers are releasing a small amount, so if you wait until the end of the night you might miss it.

GABF Crowd '04

GABF Crowd '04 by jeffpickthall on Flickr

I have thought back on my years of going to GABF and come up with a few places that there will be a line, without question, and I conjecture a bit on who I think might pull a bit of a wait. Remember, your milage may vary slightly. These are my clouded memories of six years of GABF’s Thursday night session. Other session days and the fickleness of beer trends may cause different results this year

1. Lost Abbey
There has been a line at Lost Abbey since before they were Lost Abbey. Going back to the Pizza Port days, Tomme Arthur has drawn a crowd of rabid followers, myself included, that will sprint from the door to their line. Highlights usually include Cuvee de Tomme, Red Poppy, and oh dear… Duck Duck Gooze. Availability has increased of course but this is still a hot spot.


2. Russian River
Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo have been among the top rock stars of the craft beer world and they aren’t going anywhere. Again, Russian River Brewing Co beer is much more available than it used to be, but their line is consistently among the longest at GABF. Vinnie can coax bacteria into doing some amazing things and those offerings are generally worth the price of admission. Whether you choose the hop crushed beers or the funky barrel aged stuff, you will be happy you stood around.


3. Dogfish Head
Here is another rock star mention. Dogfish Head has always had a big following, but since Sam went TV star, there are many more ladies in his line. Dogfish usually has one of the more raucous booths. Over the years, they have done different themes and amazing hourly releases and generally just tossed a good time. And fellows, remember those ladies that are there to see Sam. Do them a favor and save your beer farts until you walk by the Pabst booth.


4. New Glarus
New Glarus is one of those booths that I still try and get to early. Since I cannot get it in Colorado, I always need to give in to my kid-in-a-candy-store impulses and go grab a sample of Wisconsin Belgian Red or anything else they might be showcasing. It annoys my wife but she understands that GABF is my birthday, Christmas and Arbor Day all wrapped up in one drunken package.


5. Jolly Pumpkin
This is one where you can anticipate a line as well. I think as long as the sour/barrel aging trend continues they will have enough fans to rush them as the doors open. I know you can buy their stuff here in town, but La Roja and its kin are excellent beers that stand out from the crowd. Go ahead and wait.


So those are the lines that I have seen consistently over the years. I realize that they are some big names. I suppose that is why they have the line. Since five seems like a small number, I am going to add a few others on that you can probably expect a longer than normal wait.

The Bruery: They have been gaining cred like mad lately and I have waited before so you probably will this year again too. When you hear hushed whispers of “Black Tuesday”, move, and move quickly.

Sam Adams (Long Shot Contest): Sam Adams releases the beers from their Long Shot contest at GABF. This is a pretty fun area to be during that time. I also have it on authority that Utopia is poured at their booth. Never experienced it myself. (Honestly, I’m not a big enough fan of Utopia to warrant waiting again.)

Heretic Brewing Co: I think it is safe to assume that there will be a bit of a line at Jamil Zainasheff’s new outfit. If you don’t know who Jamil is, well, you are probably not a homebrewer. The fanboys will be excited to see it, for sure. Ladies, remember that beer fart comment earlier? Avoid this line as obsessive homebrew nerds are not known for their charms.

Surly: This line ebbs and flows but you will usually find me here making my own line. So far they are not on the list. That kind of sucks. I hope they make it out.

One last one. This is a memorial mention. I miss the old days of the Bull And Bush booth. It was nuts. They did rad hourly releases with megaphones and awesome fanfare. The way I hear it, a few years ago, they were told, by GABF administration, to tone it down. Lame. If I had one GABF wish it would be that they went back to their old ways.

Alright, see you at the fest!

About Chris Washenberger

What is my favorite drink? Huh... That is a tough one. What do you have? That is probably it.

  • Beer Geek

    I hate lines more than anything, and personally, I can not even justify standing in line, even for Russian River, while there are undiscovered and amazing brewers serving beers elsewhere.

    I used to suggest to friends and family, headed to gabf, to visit these, but I felt bad that I was wasting their time in line. Instead I now suggest that they check out brewers that I know won’t have the horrendous lines, but maybe they are the next Sam or Vinnie. I’d like to know if perhaps you will be doing a post on those small up and comers, too? The lines are bad for the high demand areas, Dogfish, Lost Abbey, the bathroom, and russian river, but there are over 300 other brewers that make the best beer in the world, so why waste time not experiencing them, right?

    Here’s what I’m suggesting my pals check out this year that I am sure won’t have half mile lines.
    Alpine (CA)
    Brewers Art (MD)
    Cambridge (MA)
    Drakes (CA)
    EPIC (UT)
    Ithaca (NY)
    Swamp Head (FL)
    Triple Rock (CA)
    Upright (OR)
    Weyerbacher (PA)
    Lumberyard (AZ)
    Live Oak (TX)
    Ladyface Ale Companie (CA)

    • Chris (DHBC)

      At this point, I tend toward avoiding the big names as well. I chose the ones I did based on the beers that I have had at these tables before and if you have never had their beers, you should hit them, regardless of the lines. I think your list is pretty good – it has a few I know and a few that I am going to have to try this year.

    • ericmsteen

      I think Upright will only be in judging unfortunately. 🙁

  • Jason

    One more to consider: Shorts Brewing (MI) went into last year’s GABF with lots of hype around their stouts (they won for their Key Lime Stout in the end). Sure enough the lines followed and they tapped out every night.

  • Jeff

    Last year Sam Adams poured Utopia at the begging of the Thursday session and the Saturday night session. There wasn’t really a line either time.

  • jlo

    Here are a few more…
    Allagash – Right up there with Lost Abbey and RR
    Cigar City – Check out the Jai Lai, hopefully the barrel version and the co-lab with The Bruery – Maron Acidifie
    New Holland – Rock Solid Across the Board
    Bison Brew – All Organic
    21st Amendment – Watermelon Wheat
    Pagosa Springs Brew Co – Hit the Coconut Porter
    Heavy Seas – Look for the barrel aged stuff
    Terrapin – Look for the colabs

    • Erik

      +1 for Cigar City, whose line will likely be ridiculous again this year and completely worth it.

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  • ericmsteen

    Also, Heretic in California

  • Dave Butler

    For those who have never tried beers from these top 5 it is well worth the wait, however, if you’ve had them previously you might wish to skip the lines and try other breweries. The session is too short to wait 20 minutes in line for just 1oz of a good beer. Plenty of shorter lines with beers you’ll enjoy just as much.