The Great American Beer Festival was held over the weekend of Oct. 5-7, where more than 800 breweries from across the United States featured more than 3,800 beers for attendees to sample.
The festival featured panels about homebrewing, products for enjoying beer and brewing culture, Q&As with brewers and a Pro-Am competition in which amateur brewers had mass batches of their own creations made by local breweries. The GABF is also where awards are given to the best beers and breweries for each category of beer style.
GABF is insanely popular, and once again, the festival sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. Scalpers online and at the event were selling tickets for over $100. Unfortunately, a festival meant for beer aficionados turned into yet another overcrowded mosh pit filled with ignorant, drunken morons.
I’m a person who enjoys homebrewing and trying microbreweries’ experimental beers on a Saturday night rather than sucking down Coors after Coors.
So I get rather red-faced and angry by the now-usual crowd of fratties who take a valuable ticket to simply crowd in front of the Oskar Blues or New Belgium booth, or queue in front of Pabst Blue Ribbon to suck down water flavored beer one ounce at a time when they could sit at La Bohème and get the same crap-quality booze and entertainment for half the price.
Years ago, the purpose of GABF was to walk around and try beers from small breweries in states like Idaho or South Carolina, where your usual bar choice is Budweiser or Miller, that you will never get a chance to try again. Bigger breweries would introduce limited-run beers, such as Samuel Adams’ Utopia or Great Divide’s Chai Yeti. The Pro-Am gave visitors a chance to try some very interesting experimental beers made possible only by local Colorado breweries teaming up with very talented homebrewers. You would have a chance to meet and speak to some brewers, learning their secrets for how their pumpkin ale’s flavor is less cinnamon-tasting than Dry Dock’s poor yearly attempt.
Today’s GABF features mobs of adult children dressed as reindeer or boy scouts or some variation of beer-box superhero costumes. These people are adorned with pretzel necklaces, screaming every time a fellow attendee drops their plastic sampling cup and wasting valuable hours singing karaoke or throwing cornhole on a turf carpet.
These beer-blind morons briskly walk from booth-to-booth looking for freebies, such as a headband or a T-shirt, rather than trying samples from that Wisconsin brewery who most likely will be out of business or unable to come next year.
When the beeranderthals actually do decide to partake in the drink, you’d find that the main goal is to get as drunk as possible on one-ounce shots of beer. Brewers cater to this ‘party-bro’ audience, filling their menus with high alcohol content, barrel-aged anything, such as Deep Ellum Brewing’s ‘Barrel Crusher,’ which weighed in at 17 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). These regrettable attempts at beer make it feel like you’re tasting a shot of hard alcohol rather than a refined style of beer. The experimental stuff and the brewer interaction is still there, somewhat. I got a chance to talk to one of the brewers from Beachwood BBQ Brewing & Blendery, who explained how they blend flavors, wine yeast and barrel aging to bring a creative edge to some of their beers. Their Dia de los Mangos, a combination of chile and mango aged in a bourbon barrel, was one of my favorite beers of the festival.
Overall, though, the festival has become chaotic. The real purpose has been lost. I have to fight past lines in front of “Ass Clown Brewing,” where people are queuing simply for the name, in order to try the two beers brought by Lady Justice Brewing Company from Mountain View, Colorado, who donates all profits to organizations that promote opportunities for women and girls.
What I’m asking is, please, stop being a drooling beeranderthal if you come to this event. Get away from the Pabst Blue Ribbon, try some new and experimental stuff, learn about brewing and you too could become a beer snob like me.