GABF: The Checklist

Typical booth at the Great American Beer Festival.

Typical Booth at GABF, by @deege on Flickr

I woke up on Monday and jumped outta bed.  Like a kid on Christmas morning, I was stoked for Great American Beer Festival (GABF) week.  And it’s not because of the beer, which it’s great, truly.  Don’t get me wrong, this is about beer.  And that’s just it.  Friends are coming from across the country in the name of beer.  Movers and shakers of the industry all unite with lovers and fans of beer.  There’s beer tours, rare beer tastings, brunches, mingling sessions, midnight breakfasts, and so many other things to celebrate the existence of beer.  How awesome.

The first GABF’s admission was a pie.  And it’s changed from that.  This year, GABF sold out in record time.  If you’re still looking for GABF tickets, it’s not too late. We’re giving one away for Thursday night! There are a few floating around at Craigslist (the going value appears to be around $75-$100).

This year marks the 30th year for GABF and according to the GABF website, 2,375 beers will be in the festival hall, serving over 36,000 gallons of beer, representing 466 US breweries.  That’ s a lot of beer.

I have a checklist for GABF.  I’m one of those gals with a list and, dammit, I need to check each box off.

Days before GABF:

Gets lots of sleep.  Drink lots of water.  Some prefer to continue to drink to make sure the liver is set to go.  Some prefer to cold-turkey it.  It’s your call–you know your tolerance more than anyone else.  I know that I’m going to be at the BJCP session on Tuesday, and the Ignite Denver: GABF on Wednesday, so… I won’t be able to just drink water.

4 hours before GABF:

Eat a big meal.  Preferably Italian food with carbs.  It’s like planning for a soccer game, but back when I was in shape for running around the field.  If not noodles, then certainly a steak.  A big, juicy steak with a salad to make me feel better about the calories I’m about consume.  During this meal, I will NOT drink beer.  I will drink water.  And I will piss like a racehorse.

3.9 hours before GABF:

I’ve made some gorgeous pretzel necklaces.  The bigger, the better.  I may look silly while riding on the lightrail with this huge clump of fried bread around my neck, but I will LOVE myself later.  And my friends will, too, as they might have forgotten their pretzel necklace.  There will be vampire moves towards my neck, but it’s alright.  All in the name of friends.

3.5 hours before GABF:

Take a cat nap.  Because I’ll need it.  GABF isn’t just about the events within the Convention Center, but also about the events that are outside of the blue bear’s house.  When the event starts to close down, other events start popping up and some go until the sun rises…

2 hours before GABF:

Lightrail/Cab/ask my aunt’s friend’s coworker’s daughter for a ride down to the Convention Center.

1 hour before GABF:

Sometimes I like to get there early, and sometimes I like to get there late.  Some folks will wait the whole entire damn day.  That’s fine.  That’s their call.

Waiting in the line

As you wait in line, enjoy it.  It’s fun to look at the costumes, the behavior, the giddy emotion you can feel among everyone, and chat with the folks next to you in line.  Don’t get impatient; there’s plenty of beer in the hall for you and your cronies.  The first year I went, I met someone from South Carolina.  Last year, a guy from Alaska flew in.  It’s amazing to have everyone in one place to celebrate beer.

Entering the gate and in the event hall

Ok, awesome, you’re finally out of the line and approaching the gate.  Have your ID ready, get excited, don’t bitch, and have fun.  As you slide up the escalator to enter the beer hall, grasp your plastic sampler cup and grab a map.  Take a breath, get oriented with the space.  Use your tasting glass wisely.  Don’t be rude to the volunteers if some of the pours are short.  They’re there for beer, too.  And don’t drop your cup.  You’ll notice the folks around you will erupt in roars.  While I sincerely dislike this practice, it happens.

Finding the lines worth waiting

Here at Denver off the Wagon put together a list of breweries with lines worth waiting for.  We also have a list of all GABF events.  If you can, plan out the areas you’d like to hit before getting to the hall— it’ll add to your experience.

Support the locals

The local establishments are all gearing up for GABF.  Check out these places for their own fun taste of beer heaven:

A few things to remember:

  • Don’t drop your glass.
  • Drink Water
  • Don’t puke
  • Pace yourself.  It’s ok to take a break from beer.
  • Look up from your phone
  • Peruse the galleries
  • Meet strangers
  • Enjoy beer like a champ and don’t be a Thunderhonky
  • Don’t be a jerk/nasty person
  • Don’t drive
  • Have fun!
And please check back with Denver off the Wagon for all GABF-related debauchery.  Cheers!

About Jess Hunter

Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at

  • Fletch

    Love the list. Posting to Facebook.