Great American Beer Festival Survival Guide

October 3, 2019

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The Great American Beer Festival is one of Denver’s best, booziest events. You can learn a lot, if you can manage to stay upright.

Shockingly, 4+ hours of sampling beers that range in ABV from the low 4s to the teens can make for a hazy experience.
To ensure you make the most of the entire festival, here's a handy little survival guide.

First, and most important rule: EAT! Treat this festival like a marathon. The day before your visit, eat. Carbo load if you gotta! These are the events a plate of pasta was made for.
The morning of your day at the festival, eat. That afternoon, have lunch like you’re never going to lunch again. 
However, two to three hours before the festival, take a food break. There’s going to be a lot of sampling happening, and you don’t want to feel barfy before you even walk through the Convention Center doors.

Rule 1.5: Bring snacks. You’ll see people walking around with pretzel necklaces. They planned ahead and mode those babies at home. You can too! Any why stop at pretzels? Candy necklaces are welcome, maybe a cheese necklace? I’d like to see someone wearing a lanyard made of shrimp (but I don’t want to hang out with that person, because they’ll be really smelly). Give yourself something to nibble on between booths, it’ll help keep your BAC at a manageable level.

Second: Download the GABF app, and make a rough plan. Do you want to sample in a spiral pattern? Alphabetically? By region? Are you tasting exclusively IPAs? There is no wrong way to GABF, but a man without a plan, may leave feeling like he missed half the festival. And he probably did, this thing is huge. Earmark the “must visit” breweries, and structure your day around those.

Third: Social media. You are going to want to take a LOT of photos. But the desire to snap a shot will be directly related to how many beers you’ve sampled, and that probably won’t make for the best photos. Have you heard of the “latergram?” There’s nothing wrong with sharing pics of your visit the morning after. Your editing skills, and your judgement, will be much sharper. Unless, of course, you like glassy-eyed photos of yourself with complete strangers. That’s an eight word summary of my entire Instagram page.

Fourth: Transportation. This is a beer tasting event, and beer has alcohol in it. Unless you are completely abstaining from beer samples (they do have discounted DD tickets and a DD Lounge!), let someone else do the driving. RTD’s light rail has a stop directly at the Convention Center, which is super convenient, because then you don’t have to drive, or pay for parking. Uber and Lyft are always available downtown, and taxis will be eager to drive you home. Figure out how you’re getting home before you even leave for the afternoon or evening. And if you’re super concerned about finding your way back, do what I did in college and write your address on your arm, that way you can show it to a driver, or a nice stranger, if words are failing you.

Fifth: HYDRATE! If you can, try to drink water throughout the festival. We’re at elevation, so you’re already losing the hydration battle just by being here. GABF has placed water stations all around the Convention Center, make good use of them!
Drink as much water as you can leading up to your festival visit, and really hit the H2O hard after. If you need a little assistance, drinks made for kids with the flu are a lifesaver. Some brands even make little packets that you can add to a can of seltzer! It’s refreshing, and replenishing. If you find yourself in a really bad place the next morning (we’ve all been there) don’t think you’re too good for an IV bar. They can be a little pricey, but I figure, you spend over $100 getting to your hangover, isn’t it worth at least the same amount to get over it? There are a bunch of IV bars around the city, and trust me, they work miracles.

Sixth: Remember why you’re here! GABF is the ultimate beer festival in the country, and brewers are proud to showcase what they’ve made. It’s not an opportunity to slam beers like you’re reliving your college years. Yes, there’s a lot of beer to drink. Yes, you will probably get a wee bit intoxicated. But let’s all behave like civilized grown ups, ok?