Beers & Cheers: A Tribute to the Great American Beer Festival
To sip, or to chug? That is the question.
Or at least the question that divides attendees at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival, a three-day beer extravaganza hosted annually by the Brewers’ Association (a trade group of over 7,200 American brewers, suppliers, and distributers) in Denver Colorado. Over the course of three days, more than 60,000 beer lovers were offered samples of over 4,000 beers, while 7,923 beer entries slugged it out for gold, silver, and bronze in 102 “beer-style” judging categories.
As you might expect from a beer festival, the atmosphere is a unique mix of laid-back fun and simmering excitement as brewers offer up their latest batches for the kind of judging that can make or break a start-up brewery. Clearly, this is an event to remember (or forget, depending on your baseline alcohol consumption/tolerance). But for those of you who are new to the experience, we’re here to offer useful tips and facts and to answer your most pressing Beer Festival question—the first being: “So how do you dress for an event like this?”
Beer & Men’s Fashion:
While most participants are dressed in Colorado beer-chic (wrinkled t-shirt, jeans, and sturdy, crowd-proof shoes), the more fashion-conscious attendees will take this opportunity to showcase their beer-witty t-shirt slogans.
Having said that, the most experienced attendees will also accessorize with a customized beer-snack necklace, which serves the double function of fashion-statement and alcohol-offset. (The trick is to get that magically tasteful balance of salty, sweet, and savory…) And if the food-necklace trips your sanitation radar, remember that alcohol kills germs. (Convenient, eh?)
And it is also worth noting that the occasional geographically-challenged attendees will go full-on-Octoberfest with the lederhosen look. (Caution: this costume may be less impressive to the female attendees than the beer might lead you to believe.)
Judging the Best:
The beer judging at the GABF is done as a blind taste-test, by small panels of industry experts who judge beer in five three-hour sessions over the course of three days. (For health and safety reasons, as well as to ensure that the last rounds of judging aren’t excessively jolly/impaired, roughly 300 judges share the responsibility for tasting the nearly 8,000 entries.) Note: like the rest of the attendees, the judges tend to adopt the eminently comfortable scruffy-informal fashion style that seems natural after your hundred-something-eth beer sample.
The traditional categories include best Ales, Stouts, Pilsners, and American-Style Wheat Beers, but there are now awards offered in flavor categories for Chocolate Beer, Coffee Beer, Chili Beer, Herb & Spice Beers, and the inevitable fall Pumpkin Spice Beers.
Philosophical Question: In your opinion, is a Coffee Beer—presumably making you both alert and mellow at the same time—pure genius or weirdly self-defeating?
And as a shout-out for those celiac sufferers who don’t choose to brave the wheat-laden atmosphere, we should mention that the gold, silver, and bronze in Gluten-Free Beers went to: Puckerberry (High Hops Brewery; Windsor, CO), Aurochs Blonde Ale (Aurochs Brewing Co.; Emsworth, PA), and Dark Ale (Ground Breaker Brewing; Portland, OR). Cheers!
DIY Beer Festival:
But for those of you who don’t live Denver-adjacent, or can’t spare the time/cash to attend, despair not! The Brewer’s Association also sponsors the American Homebrewers Association, which encourages its members to brew for themselves.
And, of course, nothing prevents you from hosting your own personal beer festival. (You don’t even have to be good at the brewing, because you can either throw a Beer-B-Q party to celebrate the new batch, or to commiserate over a batch gone horribly awry.)
Before you get too crazy, though…remember that beer-making kits (which vary widely in both price and quality), will almost certainly cost more than buying a few cases of award-winning beers. If you aced your high school Chem class, this may be the perfect adventure for you. But if meticulous attention to measurement, timing and detail isn’t your strong suit…try not to poison too many of your neighbors.
In any event, we hope that you enjoy the transition to fall, and that your beer intake is as safe as it is amusing and delicious.
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