Your Great American Beer Festival survival guide

How to attend the Great American Beer Festival in Denver like a pro.

The 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver (Daniel Spiess/Flickr)

The 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver (Daniel Spiess/Flickr)

The 35th annual Great American Beer Festival kicks off Thursday in Denver.

The event attracts hundreds of beer aficionados from around the country. Below are some tips on how you can join them in celebrating beer —yes, even though tickets are sold out — without getting sloppy.


➤ Tickets to all four sessions this year sold out in just over an hour, but that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. The secondary market rule of thumb for this and any event is that the closer to the start, the more it becomes a buyer’s market. Tickets can usually be had on the street outside for face value or even below. The usual cautions apply.

➤ Eat a good, carb-laden early dinner before heading into the festival. There is no shortage of fast-casual restaurants in the vicinity of the convention center. You may go into the hall with the intention of eating dinner, only to find yourself quickly distracted by the siren call of 800 breweries.  

➤ Don’t drain the entire 1 ounce pour unless the beer floors you. This is is critical. The festival is not about getting trashed. It’s about trying as many great beers as you can responsibly and reasonably. Pour it out, rinse and repeat. Just don’t do it in front of the brewer. That’s poor form.   

➤ Take a break at some point and check out the non-drinking activities. The BA has assembled a top-notch series of panels in the Brewers Studio Pavilion, covering subjects such as the evolution of the IPA, the spontaneous fermentation craze, session beers and more. The Sustainability Pavilion provides a peek into the industry’s efforts in — you guessed it — sustainability, along with giving a platform for environment-minded groups. Finally, if that sounds too serious, let yourself go at the Silent Disco. Grab some headphones and join the mosh pit with beer lovers all listening to different tunes.

➤ Don’t roar when someone drops their glass. Just don’t.

➤ Talk up the brewers. GABF organizers have impressed upon brewers the importance of hanging out at their booths. Seek them out. This is why they’re here.

➤ For perspective, revisit that swill you drank in college. The big breweries pour here, too. These guys are known to experiment, too, so see if they’ve brought anything intriguing.

➤ Don’t get sloppy at the end. Don’t start wandering aimlessly and drinking too much as last call approaches.

➤ Here’s your most important GABF tip: Do. Not. Drive. Don’t even bring your car keys. Take a cab, Uber, Lyft, public transportation, or have a designated driver or friend get you home safely. Even if you think you are fine, you aren’t. Do all of us a favor and let someone else get you home.