Shut out of the GABF? Try the Denver Beer Fest
In the expanding universe of native suds, the Great American Beer Festival is the epicenter around which everything else circles.
This year’s festival, Sept. 29- Oct. 1, features 2,378 beers from 466 U.S. breweries. That’s the upside. The downside: Only 49,000 aficionados of the brewer’s art will be able to cram into the Colorado Convention Center for the GABF’s four sessions. This year’s festival, the 30th, sold out months ago one week after tickets went on sale.
And while the GABF brings hundreds of beers together in one grand setting, only a small portion of them are produced locally.
What’s a devotee, shut out of beer nirvana, to do?
Relax, have a beer. The third annual Denver Beer Fest, beginning
Friday, is the perfect run-up to the heady days of the GABF. While the Great American is all about the rise and fruits of the country’s craft beer industry, the Denver Beer Fest is a celebration of the brewer’s art in Colorado, where there are now an estimated 130 breweries, big and small. The number grows almost daily.
With the eyes, and taste buds, of the beer world focused on the GABF, the DBF is locals’ chance to prove that the words “the Napa Valley of beer,” encompassing Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, are more than a Colorado tourism slogan.
There are 150 events over nine days, including tours, tastings of rare beers, beer-fueled dinners, pub crawls and beer games.
“It really allows us to showcase our wares to people coming in, literally, from all over the world,” said Steve Kurowski, spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild, a co-sponsor of the event along with Westword and Visit Denver. “This is where the beer world is for a good week. We’re on a showcase like no other city. Not only the people (at the festival) but the media as well. To tell people in other states, other countries about what’s going on in Colorado beer.”
Rich Grant, communications director for Visit Denver (once known as the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau) and a man who loves beer, Civil War re-enactments and trains, said, “A lot people are coming here; there are a lot of events. But the GABF sessions are only four hours. What do you do the rest of the time?”
(The rest of the time could be devoted, for example, to one of the Denver Beer Fest events listed on Page 1D.)
The growth of the Great American Beer Festival, which began in Boulder in 1982 when 800 beer-loving hardies gathered at the Harvest House to sample examples from a mere 22 breweries, is reflected in the proliferation of U.S. breweries. At last count, there were 1,790 operating breweries, and craft beer sold grew 14 percent in the first half of this year, despite the flagging economy.
In addition to the thousands of visitors who flock to the GABF, Grant said, there are 400 members of the national beer press drawn to the largest gathering of beers in one place. “In the old days, it was all about American beers,” Grant noted. “We want it to focus on Colorado and Denver.”
Dick Kreck’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send mail to him c/o The Denver Post, 101 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 600, Denver, CO 80202.
Beer here! And here, and here
Here’s a small sampling of Denver Beer Fest events.For a full listing, visit denverbeerfest.com.
The Great COtenders, a gathering of 20 Colorado breweries pouring 50 beers at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Purchase tickets for the fundraiser for Colorado Brewers Guild at the door.
Butterflies Beer, a tasting of the best beers from O’Dell Brewery in Fort Collins, set among free-range Lepidoptera at the Butterfly Pavilion, 6252 W. 104th Ave., Westminster. 6 p.m., Tuesday. Reservations (adults only), 303-469-5441.
Beer for Breakfast: Capitol Hill Mansion Bed Breakfast, 1207 Pennsylvania St., serving Wynkoop’s Rail Yard Ale from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. daily during the beer fest.
Tastings Tassels features beers, brats and burlesque at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, on the 16th Street Mall at 1601 Arapahoe St. In the spotlight are burlesque queens and beers from Avery Brewery in Boulder. 7 p.m. Tuesday. Reservations, 303-293-0075.
Pints for Prostates, a.k.a. Rare Beer Tasting III, brings together 20 rare and exotic craft beers to raise funds in the fight against prostate cancer. Pints is sold out.
For a little international flavor, there’s the 42nd annual Oktoberfest, featuring the German counterparts of many Colorado brews, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday on Larimer Street between 20th and 22nd streets. Admission is free.
Tours of the Coors Brewery in Golden will wind up with free samples of a beer made just for the DBF by AC Golden, the beer giant’s craft-beer wing. Tours daily from Friday through Oct. 1.
Colorado brewers Oskar Blues, Avery, Great Divide, Dry Dock, Bristol, Left Hand, Crazy Mountain, Odell, New Belgium, Ska, Up- slope, Funk Werks and Breckenridge show off their special brews, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Rackhouse Pub, 208 S. Kalamath St. Tickets, $35.
The Beer Olympics pits teams of beer lovers competing head-to- head in beer games, including beer pong, spooning and flip cup, with an obstacle course thrown in. 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Coyote Ugly Saloon, 500 16th St., Suite 350.
Not to forget that Denver’s two great beer watering holes, Falling Rock in LoDo and Yard House on the 16th Street Mall, will be homes-away-from-home for brewers and GABF attendees.