The Great American Beer Festival may be turning 35 years old this year, but stands as proof that you're never too old to host a kegger. This kegger is just much bigger, and much, much better than those three-inch-head beers you shared in your friend Kevin's basement while listening to Phish. This sold-out festival spans a marathon of nearly 20 hours in total during four beer soaked days. It's packed into a 2,500 space, and plans to host 3,800 different types of brew. Needless to say, this festival is guaranteed better than Kevin's basement.
If you were one of the lucky few to get yourself a ticket during the thirty minutes before they sold out, you're now facing a whole new set of problems. To uber or not to uber? To show off your new youtube tutorial dance moves at the silent disco, or just hang back and keep it mild? To take it to the limit, or make an attempt at being responsible human adult?
While we can't make your decisions for you, we know that sampling 3,800 different beers is a difficult feat if you're trying to stay on your feet (just trying to have pun, here). Lucky for you, we've got a GABF prep list and survival guide to help you get your highest beer sampling score yet without making yourself into the village idiot. Here's a few ways to stave off that rising blood alcohol limit.
The Ultra5280 Team (Certified Veterans of the Great American Beer Fest and ex-Phish fans)
1. Carbo-load. We recommend pre-fest Fried chicken & potatoes from Welton Street Cafe on 26th and Welton. This Five-Points Southern comfort joint is a hidden food gem in Denver. Be forewarned, though, it's liable to have a line out the door at any given point, so go early. The menu warns of a 30 minute anything-fried-chicken wait time too, but thats because they fry it upon ordering. Nothing like fresh fried chicken before a good old fashioned beer binge, amiright?
If you don't have time to finally fufill your fried chicken dreams, there's always the trusted, quick and easy Illegal Pete's LoDo. Their burritos are specially designed to carry you through even the most sauced adventures and escapades. We recommend their pablano pesto, too. It's worth the add on. Trust us.
2. Charge your phones before hand, or invest in leashes to keep your pickled posse close. Rumor has it that the Colorado Convention Center has hit and miss phone service. If you're not willing to leash up, it's always a good idea to plan your meeting spots with friends before hand. That's probably the best option, in retrospect.
3. Plan for snacks, and drink water in between tastes. If you're reading this and also live in Colorado, you have a Camelback backpack. Fill it up with some electrolytes and stuff some snacks in that thang. You're good to go.
4. Do some research. While Denver is a craft hub, other areas like San Diego and North Carolina are known for unique brews. With thousands of award winning breweries from across the U.S., it's time to venture out of your beer zone. We recommend Oakshire Brewing coming to us from Eugene Oregon. Their small-batch brews are usually only distributed across the Pacific-Northwest, but we've heard that they're sure to satisfy.
6. Pregame with Breckenridge Brewery's free Pre-GABF tours. Breckenridge Brewery is running free buses from the Crowne Plaza Downtown (1450 Glenarm Place) Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (October 6-8) to their new Littleton brewery and back. Buses depart from the hotel at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm each of the three days. They’ll give complimentary tours of the brewery that include a pint with time to enjoy their Farm House and beer garden before you head back. The 10:00 group departs the brewery at 1:00 to head back to the hotel. The 12:00 group departs the brewery at 3:00 to head back downtown. Although there’s no cost, reservations are required! Go to breckbrew.com/about/tours to sign up. Once you’ve chosen the date, click on “GABF Complimentary Bus to the Brewery Tour” at 10:00 or 12:00.
Note: Breckenridge Brewery is also giving free 1-hour tours (without transportation) Thursday, 10/6, and Saturday, 10/8, at the following times: 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, and 5:00. Reservations are also required for these tours. Go to breckbrew.com/about/tours to sign up. Once you’ve chosen the date, click on “Complimentary Brewery Tour” at the desired time. Remember, they don’t provide transportation to these tours – you’re on your own for that, but they’ll take care of you once you’re there!
5. Prep your vocal chords, and get ready to shame the cup droppers. Due to the long-standing feud between glass breakers and those who keep their shit together, GABF will only be offering plastic tasting cups. This year we will not have to worry about stepping in broken glass and all. Still, no one likes beer-sticky hair or shoes. Don't be a cup dropper, and if you do, be prepared for some name calling (Spill Queen).
6. Have an exit plan. Don't want to be the loser that throws up and makes everyone walk around a house plant for the rest of the night. That being said. Pace yourselves! Old rhymes beer before liquor.. etc. Remember what you really learned in college: the boot and rally.
7. Start from the back to beat the line swarm. We heard from Left Hand Brewers themselves that the best way to get more beer in your belly is to start from the far right, avoiding the high traffics entrance row. This way, you'll know you never hit the same tent twice, and you'll save precious booze time.
8. Uber. Sorry for this sobering thought, but let's be real. No one wants to be a DD after scoring a ticket to this festival, and Uber is a great alternative. Do some networking and staff yourself an All-Star Uber crew, split the cost, and safely enjoy the festival. This way no one will bitterly be doing the taste and spit.
9. Have fun!