The 10 Commandments of the Great American Beer Festival

GABF That’s it! It is here! Over the next three days upwards of 49,000 people will be attending the almighty Great American Beer Festival. Since its inception 31 years ago, GABF now spans generations of beer lovers from around the country. Whether this is new territory for you or your wise enough to know better, let these GABF 10 Commandments keep you on your mission.

1. Thou shall wait in line – Before you’re unleashed onto the 3,000-plus beers, you may want to bring some entertainment (e.g. a fully-charged smartphone). Or for the easily amused, this is when the people-watching is just getting started. Some of you slackers will even take this time to plan your GABF bucket list. … We don’t have to tell you to get there early (do we?).

2. Thou shall wear comfortable shoes – Ladies, this is mainly for you. Not only will you be standing – a lot – you’ll also trek a mile or two while circling the Colorado Convention Center several times. Yes, there will be those girls wearing impossibly high heels, screaming “GABF-virgin” to all. Don’t be like them. Or your friends will ditch you at the kiddie DD table.

Great American Beer Festival

3. Thou shall eat & hydrate – Another one that goes without saying. Start off with a solid base to absorb those frothy suds. Carbs are encouraged! Be careful though, you don’t want to get too full. Get down to the convention center early, hang out on the steps and order a pizza from Anthony’s (yes, it’s happened before!). And drinking water is just common sense, whether you’re from Colorado or live at sea level. Grab some agua at one of the water stations, which are usually near the island endcaps.

4. That shall not break the seal (for as long as possible) – So you’ve followed steps one through three. Good start. Do you really want to spend a half-hour in the bathroom line? After just waiting over an hour to finally possess that wimpy plastic cup? At some point, yes, you will have to relieve yourself, but you may as well prolong it for as much as you can.

5. Thou shall be open-minded – Try new things. Sure, it’s fun to drink what you know and love, but don’t do yourself a disservice. You didn’t spend $75 to chug as much as possible in four-and-a-half hours, did you? Remember, part of the experience is variety. Don’t cheat yourself by neglecting your taste buds’ sense of adventure. And hey, if your glass is empty and there’s no line – take a chance on a random brewery. There’s always a swill bucket if you’re not a fan.

Great American Beer Festival

6. Thou shall seek out the unknown – Many brewers plan on bringing bombers in addition to kegs. Don’t be afraid to tell the brewers and volunteers how much you like a beer – they may be inclined to tell you about a special uncorking of brews they brought to GABF but did not enter into the competition. This year Brewery Ommegang is offering Thursday attendees a sneak peek of their third Game of Thrones beer at 7 p.m. (everyone else will have to wait until next spring for it be released to the masses). Several brewers participated in this trend last year, including Allagash Brewing who brought bombers of their Dubbel Ale and paired it with chocolate cookies featured in James Simpkin’s Allagash: The Cookbook to promote his book signing at their booth. So, speak up and get the scoop!

7. Thou shall be social – Rub elbows with your fellow beer brethren. Go beyond your circle of friends and strike a conversation with that guy scribbling unruly rants or that lady snapping photos of every single beer she’s tried. Talk to people in line next to you (you must be waiting for a good beer – there, something in common!). People like to share their opinions when prompted, so ask about favorite or memorable beers while you’re at it. And be willing to dish it back: Take the time to remember what impresses you and share what you like (plus, you’re more likely to remember what you drank).

8. Thou shall educate yourself – GABF’s main purpose is to educate the public. So take advantage! Beer geeks are at your disposal. Ask questions to the brewers, their reps and the volunteers. Attend a seminar, a book signing or another side event at GABF. Head over to the Homebrewer Marketplace and find a hobby you never knew you enjoyed (other than drinking).

Great American Beer Festival

9. Thou shall not “be that guy” – Be respectful – you’ve got a whole night to drink. Griping about getting only a one-ounce pour is senseless when you are in a room with over 600 breweries. The cup-drop would be appropriate to mention here as well. It is funny the first night, for the first five minutes, for the first time … but slapping someone’s cup is just plain douchebaggery.

10. Thou shall plan for the after party – Even if you ignore everything else on this list, you’ll regret not having some ideas in mind for you and your beer-crazed cohorts. It is Denver Beer Week after all, so check out this list of boozey events to continue the fun. Hopefully by now, you’ve made hotel arrangements or plans to get home or to get somewhere to crash at the end of the night.

What GABF commandments would you add or amend?

About Lindsey Dulin


After discovering real beer since her FSU tailgate days, Lindsey Dulin is making up for lost time. She’s now an avid homebrewer and is ceaselessly finding reasons to celebrate the ordinary with a pint. In between beer sessions, Lindsey specializes in digital marketing communications and new media for SMBs. In her spare time she coordinates and participates in multiple volunteer programs and has been a veteran bartender and server for over 10 years. Contact her at lindseyrdulin@gmail.com.