It has been a really busy month in a variety of ways, but as promised, here are some thoughts about my GABF experience. The 2005 Great American Beer Festival was quite an experience – a lot of people, a LOT of beer, a trip back to some old haunts and an interesting time all around.
The event itself ran from Thursday through Saturday – my brother and I had tickets for the Friday evening session and both Saturday sessions. We blew into town on Thursday since Hooters Air stopped flying to Denver on Friday. In hindsight, that was probably a good idea. After everything, I can’t think of flying in on Friday and then going to the GABF right after touching down. So, once we landed at DIA, we shuttled onto the hotel where we were staying – only a few blocks away from the event. After getting settled in, the two of us, headed over to the Colorado Convention Center to check out the activity. It looked busy at the time – about 30 minutes before the doors opened. Then we headed off to see some of the sights.
Off to the Auraria Campus to see my old alma mater – Metro State. The campus sure has changed in all of these years. Where streets used to be, there are now pedestrian plazas and green space. Overall, the changes look like an improvement to the campus but they may leave all of the new students with a poor understanding about why the team mascot is the roadrunner. Hehehe.
And then we headed over to the new Student Center – the old Tivoli Brewery building. I remember this from when I was a student – spending some money in the shops, a rare lunch att he Rattlesnake Club at someone else’s expense, and quite a few lunches at the Boiler Room – mmmm, the beef burritos and Simpatico beer – throwing peanut shells on the ground and watching whatever was on the big screen.
After that, we cruised across downtown and went to dinner at the Wynkoop brewery. Got some food and a free pint of beer via our GABF ticket stubs. That made Thursday a pretty full day – so we headed back to the hotel to unpack, unwind and rest up for Friday.
Friday started early since we wanted to hit the streets, rent a car and head up to see the old sights and some friends in the Longmont area. So once we had a free buffet breakfast at the hotel (not very good – kept burping the eggs) we worked our way across downtown over the the Avis rental office. No problem renting a car, but the people at Avis weren’t exactly trying harder this time. They rented us a car in Colorado equipped with Texas plates. Now for those of you who have spent anytime in CO, you know that might lead to a problem
Luckily for us, the trip up to Longmont was uneventful, but the amount of development up that way is insane. Areas that were farmland or otherwise unused are now being developed for residential or commercial buildings. This isn’t the town of approx. 50,000 people I used to live in. Since we were into town early, we stopped by the local library – now 2 floors! – and checked our email and hit the cans.
Now relieved, we rode around town, checking things out and stopping by the old homestead. Some changes there too – a bunch of old evergreens were removed and a circle drive has been converted into a flower garden area. The old place looks nice excpet for the car frame to the west fo the garage. The basketball backboard doesn’t look like it’s been changed since we left. Headed down Francis St. to my old high school and the store I used to work at – still looks pretty familiar.
We stopped by my friend’s house and sat down for a really nice visit. Caught up on things with them, found out about some people around town that I used to know and heard about the latest developments in the area. It was really cool to connect back up with some people from “back in the day.”
Not sure what Friday afternoon traffic into Denver was like, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time. Well, we got back into Denver for the GABF event with plenty of time. Once we dropped off the car, we had a late lunch and then hit the convention center. The lines didn’t seem that bad and once in, it didn’t seem all that full. A disappointment was finding that we only received plastic glasses. We’ve been spoiled by the Great Taste of the Midwest events, cuz we always get glass there, never plastic. Anyway, there was lots of beer (over 1600 samples) and lots of people. Admittedly, I tried a little too much beer that night and was feeling pretty buzzed. I took some pics (as evidenced in my Great American Beer Festival section) and we met Charlie Papazian. We used his books to start our brewing adventures, so that was quite an honor! before we knew it, the evening session was over and we headed back to the hotel to mellow out and get ready for Saturday.
Saturday morning started with breakfast at McD’s and then just bumming around downtown. We had two missions – check email at the Denver Public Library and get some souveniers for family. In the process, we walked through city park and saw the homeless people/drunks waking up and starting their day, spent some time looking around the capitol and waiting for DPL and the shops to open. Not having been in Denver for a while, I forgot that downtown doesn’t open until about 10 AM on Saturdays. We did find a few places that opened at 9:30, so the gift buying commenced. Shortly after 10 AM, we were at DPL checking our email. Then we finished shopping and grabbed lunch at Arby’s – we were ready for the first of the Saturday sessions.
Much busier than Friday evening’s session, the Saturday afternoon session was special. This is the session when the judging takes place – also actual brewers are in attendance, not just volunteers. Another perk from this session is that the sample glass was made of real glass – a cool keepsake! Anyway, we sampled and talked with some brewers. Some regional favorites were there – New Glarus, Capital Brewing, Goose Island – and they were fairly busy too. Both New Glarus and Capital Brewing had medal winners at the 2005 event – you can check out all of the 2005 medal winners. This was the best session in my estimation. The hall wasn’t too crowded, the people who were there really appreciated the beers, you got to talk to the actual brewmasters and the excitement of the judging was cool. This is a session that I’d attend again! Once the session was over, CB and I headed back to the hotel for a quick rest up.
Man, I thought the lines for the Friday session were long, the Saturday session was huge! Right from the get go, I realized that this session would be different from all of the others. There were just a great gob of people and there were a lot of groups of younger people. As we entered, we acquired another plastic glass and headed into the drinking floor. Since this was the last session of the event we determined to taste only the medal winning beers or beers that we really liked from before. This turned out to be a good thing cuz it was like frat night at the event. Booths that didn’t have a lot of traffic before – Bud, Miller and Coors to name a few – were heavily trafficked. These people weren’t beer lovers at all – they just wanted to drink their fill. The hall was PACKED this night and it was made even worse with all of these people trying to socialize in the middle of the aisles. You could tell by their attitudes and the atmosphere that this was a different crowd than the others. We hung out until we had enough and then worked our way back over to Wynkoop’s to have another free pint.
After that, we got things straighened out for our return trip – we had to be at DIA early in the morning for the retun flight to return to our families and to work.
Anyway, I am glad I got the opportunity to go this year and it’s something that I would like to do again. I would even think about becoming a volunteer at the event in the future. Good beer, haunting old places from my past and some really great weather made this an extremely enjoyable extended weekend.