The 10 people you see waiting in line at GABF

Whether it’s to get into the Convention Center, to get a tasting cup, to get a beer, or to go to the restroom, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) experience is 90% waiting in line.  There’s no need to stand idly with crossed arms and an impatiently tapping foot; queue time is people-watching time.  For this GABF, when undergoing a moment of inactivity, take a look at your fellow line-mates and try to spot these ten archetypical attendees.

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

The Hold-Up

At the entrance to the Convention Center, he’s the guy who keeps his ID in his pocket until the check-in people explicitly ask for it.  In line for beer, she’s the lady who waits until she’s bellied-up to the booth to finally read the beer descriptions (she reads them thoroughly) and decides what she wants.  In the restroom, he’s the dude scanning for an open urinal when there are five perfectly fine and perfectly vacant stalls.

A touch of common sense and courtesy go a long way in preventing one from falling into The Hold-Up’s territory.  This isn’t the Great American Root Beer Festival, they serve actual alcohol so, obviously, they’re required to check driver’s licenses; have it out and ready, oriented for optimal viewing, and remove your hat or other identity-obscuring accoutrements before arriving at the front door.  If there’s a long wait for beer, sidle up to the table, read the tap list ahead of time, and then get in line; go into the situation knowing your options.  Furthermore, restroom waits are frequently comprised of 50 people with brimming bladders; every second counts so take a leak in any available (and socially acceptable) receptacle.

The Documentarian

With notepad full of tasting notes and a clunky Nikon swaying from her neck, The Documentarian isn’t letting a single occurrence go unreported.  Her lens captures beer, volunteers pouring beer, beer descriptions, any passerby holding a beer, funny beer signs, beer-related t-shirts, and anything else at GABF that pertains to beer i.e. everything.  Her hand, when not busy clicking away, is scribbling every thought and observation that crosses her mind.  No matter how much she drinks, thanks to her fastidious record-keeping, she’ll forget nothing.  Though you’ll likely be at least a little buzzed when you first meet her, refrain from embarrassing yourself in the presence of The Documentarian for your shame shall be immortalized in photographs, memo pads, and an eventual blog post.

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

The Hummingbird

He flits from booth to booth in a buzz of activity, imbibing as he simultaneously traverses the festival floor to his next destination.  The instant he’s finished his previous libation, he’s at the next brewery, thrusting his hand forward for another ounce of the sweet, sweet nectar that drives his frenetic pace.  In fact, it’s a bit contradictory to say The Hummingbird is someone seen while waiting in line because he’s never truly in a line.  He seeks open booths, the ones able to serve him within seconds so as to get a beer and immediately fly off.  He won’t taste of the crowded, popular breweries, never will Firestone Walker or Cigar City grace his lips, but he’ll soon be the expert on Big Jimmy’s Suds n’ Hogs Brewhaus & BBQ, Another Frickin’ Dog-Themed Brewing Co., and other obscure breweries of questionable quality.

The Hummingbird’s a trendsetter; he careens through the myriad small-time breweries, coming across several undesirable suds but also finding sparks of greatness in the unlikeliest of places.  He’ll find the next big beer craze from the ranks of the unknown so, if you see The Humminbird zipping by, get his attention and ask him his favorite brew of the night—the answer will be the best underrated beer you’ve ever drank.

The Patient One

The Patient One is The Hummingbird’s antithesis.  She knows what she wants and she’s willing to wait for it.  This is her only chance to taste, say, an experimental, Brett-infused, Chardonnay barrel-aged, imperial saison brewed with tears of a mermaid and hopped with Sorachi Ace from a brewery boasting a half-mile range of distribution.  And she’s going to drink it despite the mile-long line.  Her cup won’t be refilled often.  At the end of the night, she’ll drink a total of seven ounces of beer but they’ll be the most gratifying seven ounces of her life.

The Tag Team

A squad of two or more people using their time to maximum efficiency, The Tag Team rides a thin line bordering between permissible and irksome behavior.  As one person holds a place in line, the others fan out to nearby and unpopulated booths, refill their cups, and rejoin the wait.  After which, the original placeholder is free to break away and do the same.

Personally, I have no problem with the maneuver.  However, there’s a correct and incorrect way to pull it off.  First, ensure all trips away from the main line are brief; if somebody’s out longer than 30 seconds, they’ve been out too long.  Second, one must rejoin the queue before his or her group reaches the front.  Don’t miscalculate time and distance; if one returns to find the placeholder already served and walking away from the table, the only honorable action is to start again from the back.  Lastly, do not initiate the tag team process until at least one additional and unaffiliated person has joined the line.  Otherwise, those folks at the tail-end will assume line-jumping is afoot and react accordingly.  Let them see what’s going on so they realize you’re not cutting, you’re tag teaming.

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

The Über-Prepper

No aspect of GABF is overlooked by The Über-Prepper.  He’s wearing comfy, no-slip shoes for the often wet and slick floor, a moisture-wicking shirt to battle both sweat and spilt beer, and deep-pocketed cargo pants bursting with all the schwag he’s accumulated.  He’s got a list of must-hit breweries and a map of the festival outlining the most efficient routes.  He chugged two gallons of water before he arrived and, through years of observation, he knows the ebbs and flows of the crowd, allowing him to hit each brewery at the optimal time.  He’s wearing a pretzel necklace.  A soft pretzel necklace.  With a wheel of cheese and a medium-rare rib-eye hanging off it, too.  Potty break?  Not with his homemade system of funnels, rubber tubing, and collection tanks strapped to his ankle.  Don’t get in his way because The Über-Prepper has a plan and he’s sticking to the plan.

The Faux-Liner

Like the strigine eyespots of the Polyphemus moth or the benign scarlet king snake’s imitation of the deadly coral snake, The Faux-Liner is a master of mimicry.  He stands, peering over the tap handles, perusing the beer descriptions.  His hips are practically touching the table.  You stand behind him.  You wait.  And wait.  And wait.  You become flustered and tap him on the shoulder: “Um, excuse me?  Are you waiting in line?”  He replies: “Oh, no, I’m just standing here; you can go right up.”  Go stand somewhere else, then!  Stop pretending like you’re about to order something!

Unfortunately, Faux-Liners travel in packs.  The above hypothetical situation is a rarity at GABF as it’s usually ten dolts chatting it up, oblivious to the fact that others are having trouble ascertaining their motives and circumnavigating the human roadblock.  Oftentimes, one yammering mess of Faux-Liners overlaps another like a Venn diagram and, when that happens, you can throw any hope for order out with the spent grain.  Don’t be a Faux-Liner.  When you’re not waiting for a refill, treat the pathways of GABF like the game of Operation: stay away from the sides.

The Jackass

He likes to slap the empty (or not) tasting cup out of your hand so that it clanks around on the ground causing everybody in the immediate vicinity to turn, point, and release a prolonged, communal “Ohhhhhhh!”  That guy sucks.

Photo © Brewers Association

Photo © Brewers Association

The Out-of-Towner

America’s full of fantastic craft beer cities and, chances are, The Out-of-Towner lives in or near such a metropolis.  But she doesn’t live in Denver and, during GABF, she’s going to get her money’s worth!  Before she ever sets foot on the festival floor, she’ll have taken a bus tour of the Mile High City’s famous breweries, met locals who’ve escorted her to lesser-known local gems, and attended one or two satellite festivals—perhaps What the Funk!?, Fresh Hop Festival, or the quirky Zip and Sip, a combination zipline tour and beer tasting.

She’s certainly not going into GABF fresh, she’s abused her liver and deprived herself of sleep before the doors ever opened.  That’s excusable; she’s on vacation, after all.  Good on her for enjoying Denver to its fullest extent!  The Out-of-Towner can be identified by her labored, high-altitude breathing, her hackneyed jokes on legalized marijuana, and, because of her incredible enthusiasm for being in America’s premier beer city, an infectious excitement that spreads to everyone in line.  Even born-and-raised Denverites shed their jadedness when encountering the peppy nature of The Out-of-Towner.

The First-Timer

He’s heard tales of the legendary GABF but, until now, he’s never made the pilgrimage.  He’s a newbie, a greenhorn, unaccustomed to the traditions of the festival.  At the beginning of GABF, he’s the incredulous young man claiming, “One ounce pours?  That’s nothing!”  At the end of GABF, after he’s stood in several dozen queues, he’s the man-sized sack of potatoes being drug out of the convention center by more experienced festival-goers.  The First-Timer typically crashes hard; it’s all part of the learning process.  He’ll return next year a seasoned veteran.


These are the ten types of people I’ve seen in line at GABF.  That’s just one person’s perspective, though; I may have missed a few.  Who else have you seen at festivals past?  Add them to the comments and we’ll be on the look-out for them.

About Chris Bruns

Chris Bruns is a self-professed beer geek living in Denver. Chris spends much of his time brewing beer at home with friends and family, attempting to visit every brewery in Colorado, attending special beer events and festivals, purchasing and assessing the latest releases from local breweries, and blogging about his adventures in the world of craft beer. He is also the Denver Craft Beer Examiner on Contact Chris by e-mail at or through his blog at