It's like one big sloppy family reunion
There's an incredible feeling of camaraderie around Denver during the festival. Sure, it helps that everyone has an elevated blood alcohol level for three days straight, but brewers are a delightful lot of people, and they really seem to like one another.
You'll see them greet one another like people at a family reunion. And it's not just the brewers -- everyone attending is a huge beer fan, and some have traveled a long way to be there. I'm not a hippie (full disclosure: I have attended more than five Phish shows), but there's something about being in a place where everyone there wants to be there. It's a place you want to hang out in. If you're not in a good mood when you get there, you'll surely be in one when you leave.
The city of Denver basically turns into one big party
GABF is open for 4.5 hours each day for three straight days. The city of Denver, however, is drinking craft beer the entire week, and for nearly 24 hours a day. Even breweries that aren't going to be at the fest are throwing parties all over the city -- this year, 3 Floyds is pouring four of its beers at a Denver brewery. Tap takeovers are the rule, not the exception. Beer-pairing dinners abound.
Your calendar will be full the entire time you're there
Here is but a small sampling of what you can do in the Mile High city that week: play in a ping-pong tourney with brewers, catch a punk/metal show for charity, and hit up a Sierra Nevada tap takeover. The city has even branded the week of GABF Denver Beer Fest. Hell, even if you get shut out of the fest because tickets sell out so quickly, it's worth it to fly to Denver and see if you can drink the town dry.
You've probably never had food and beer pairings this good
I'll admit that the dining options in the Colorado Convention Center are fairly basic. People wear pretzel necklaces and snack on those in between sampling beers.
But if you've got the cash (and you're fast enough), buy a ticket to Paired. Please note: you have to also get a ticket to GABF -- this is like an extra-special event inside the very special event. It's super low-key, and held in the back of the convention hall where some of Colorado and the nation's best chefs pair rare beers from select breweries with their food. This year there's some ridiculously good-sounding pairings, like Lost Abbey beer with Philly chef Marc Vetri's cuisine, NOLA Brewing with seafood expert Francisco Millan's eats from Boston's Row 34, and Chicago's Haymarket beer paired with dishes from one of Denver's best chefs in Frank Bonanno.
Or, you know, you can buy a hot dog in the main hall, too. Either way, the beer's going to be fantastic.
It's not all about the beer
And while, sure, GABF is about the beer, it's about a lot more than that. It's about a few days of nonstop (responsible) drinking with people who love craft beer as much as you do. It's about making new friends from across the country, some of whom make the beer you have in your fridge. It's about… you know what? You're just going to have to come visit and see what it's all about.
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