Colorado is home to the Great American Beer Festival, one of the largest and most respected festivals of its kind. Think of it as the Academy Awards for the beer industry. For years now beer lovers — also known as cerevisaphiles, beer geeks and beer snobs — from around the globe flock here each fall for the GABF.
The first one was held in 1982 in Boulder, where 22 mostly local breweries participated. Now, GABF hosts around 470 breweries from virtually every corner of the globe. And, the festival has grown so big — an estimated 50,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event — that it is now held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. If you’re a small brewer there’s no better place to show off your beer. If it wins a medal at this prestigious festival expect to brew up a lot more because a cult following will develop quickly.
This year’s GABF runs from Thursday, Sept. 16, through Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. Over 2,800 beers will be available for tasting. If you can’t find a beer you like here, chances are you don’t like beer at all.
The Thursday and Friday sessions are open to the public and run from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday will have two sessions. The first runs from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open only to members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association. It’s also the session in which the awards are handed out. The second session is open to the public and runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. This may be the most fun session since the winners (and even the losers) get to let loose and celebrate.
Tickets are $55 per person, per day. The price includes a festival program, commemorative tasting cup and unlimited one-ounce samples of beer. Or be the designated driver for $20 a ticket, and get a festival program, a special gift from the GABF and unlimated sodas in the Designated Drivers Lounge.
If you can’t get a ticket, the Brewing Network plans to podcast every session live from the convention floor. Additionally, TBN will be streaming live video throughout the week, including the awards ceremony on Saturday. So grab a craft beer, tune your web browser to The Brewing Network, and watch it all unfold from the comfy confines of your home. I guarantee the lines will be shorter.
If you’re wondering why Colorado is home to one of the biggest beer fests in the world, it’s because it’s considered the “Napa Valley of the Beer World.” The “Centennial State” became the No. 1 beer producing state in the country by brewing some 23 million barrels of beer in one year, compared to California’s 22 million.
In addition to the behemoth that is the Coors Brewing Co. in Golden and the goliath that is the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Fort Collins, there are more than 100 smaller craft breweries scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains (three of the biggest are New Belgium, Breckenridge and Bristol) brewing up a multitude of beers with virtually everything you can think of.
Americans spent approximately $97 billion purchasing beer in 2007. According to a study done by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the beer industry pumps approximately $12 billion a year into Colorado’s economy. It provides nearly 68,000 jobs and contributes roughly $3 billion in wages and more than $1.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Needless to say, beer plays a vital role in the state’s economic health. So day in and day out, Colorado proves that it indeed is the “Napa Valley of the Beer World.”
If You Go
When not imbibing great Colorado craft brews, Eli Shayotovich is writing about them somewhere on the Interweb. Eli is the Southern Colorado Beer Examiner for Examiner.com, writes “The Beer Bucket List” for MOJO 135, and blogs about beer at Confessions of a Beer Geek (www.ConfessionsofaBeerGeek.com).
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.