On Scene: Beerfest in Denver
October 17, 2008
As far as I can tell, people do not go to the Great American Beer Festival to taste beer.
By default, when you drink countless one-ounce samples of brews originating from Hawaii to New England, you’re going to taste at least some of them. But, it seems, few people walk into the nation’s largest beer festival looking for a favorite new brand.
Walking into the festival’s final session Saturday, I could not have been less prepared. For some reason, I pictured a relatively small convention room with maybe 100 breweries pushing their best concoctions.
So, when I got off the train at the Denver Convention Center to find the building wrapped in throngs of people wearing “Beer Me” T-Shirts and sporting leis made of pretzels, I was surprised. And also poorly dressed for the weather, being so attached to wearing sandals for as long as my toes can stand it.
Being that the only other alcohol-oriented festival I’ve been to was this year’s Wine Festival at Steamboat, I didn’t have any comparison for thousands of people drinking thousands of beers on thousands of square feet of concrete, organized by geographic region.
You’d have to be there for all five sessions to stand any chance at tasting all the beers available, and you’d have to have incredible self-control to keep your senses keen the whole time. Having tickets to only one session and not possessing any more self-control than I had as a teenager, my efforts to sample new and different beers were restricted. Here is what I learned:
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1. If you go to the festival with someone from a different part of the country, try that person’s regional favorites. I did a lot of hyping for Atlanta’s Sweetwater Blue.
2. Brewery representatives from your home state probably will not be impressed that you are from that state.
3. Do not apply temporary tattoos of brewery logos with anything you find on a tasting table.
4. Pace yourself, and drink water.
5. Asking people to pose for pictures that you are not planning to be in yields mixed results.
6. Asking people to pose for pictures that you are not planning to be in is entertaining.
Aside from the small shock of being in a convention-center-sized bar atmosphere that held more people than the city of Steamboat Springs, my first trip to the Great American Beer Festival was a success.
Next year, I plan to wear shoes.
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