Friday, October 7, 2022

2022 GABF Thoughts, Part 1

Aaannnddd we're back! Not sure about you, but after two years of virtual fests and wearing a mask while walking outside in an empty neighbrhood, I was beyond ready to go grab a beer with thousands of my closest friends. But first...the metal detectors. A sign of the times that has affected large public gatherings of all interests, the detectors were a necessary annoyance that had me this close to missing the bagpipers who march into the Colorado Concention Center and signify the official start of the Great American Beer Festival. But the 20 minute wait in the security line was entertaining, with someone remarking, "Hey, if I squint, I think I'm waiting in the TSA line at DIA!" (that was me), and also, "Damn it, I knew we should have paid for Pre-Check!" (also me). So I may have been the only one entertained, but we were all in pretty good spirits as we finally entered the festival floor with one minute to spare before the start of the fest.

The festival floor looked different this year than in previous years for a few reasons. First, construction at the Colorado Convention Center forced the BA to reduce the floor space from what was almost 600,000 sq. ft down to under 400,000, resulting in 300 fewer breweries to try. I didn't notice a big difference in festival space or breweries to try, though there were some noticeable absences from the good old pre-buyout days with Stone, Bell's, and New Belgium non-existent. Some breweries beers were being poured from cans and bottles at a special "Wish We Were Here" booth. It did take me a few minutes to realize that I didn't have navigate breweries by region; instead, the booths were set up in alphabetical order. The BA, always keeping us on our toes. Wait until they add Cold IPA as an awards category to join India Pale Lager and Other Hoppy Lager!

Seasoned vets know to go into the fest with a plan, though vets of my reading know that my plan usually goes out the window the second after I try my first sample. This year, I had a general list of breweries to try but I didn't have a particular brewery on the list to try first. A common, and wise, strategy is to go for that first sample at a brewery that will quickly accrue a line and get out of there fast rather than spend the first 10 minutes of the fest in line. I did no such thing, instead stopping at the first booth I saw that was on my list to try, Fritz Family Brewers. All the buzz surrounding this lager producer was merited! And as I noted in my brewery roundup, lagers were everywhere at GABF. Yes, most everyone had an IPA, but the variety of lagers should keep hop haters off ledges for the time being.

By the time I was able to check out 903 Brewers, there were about 903 people in their line that stretched almost to the bathrooms. That's a change from previous years, where bathroom lines stretched almost to the brewers' booths. It's hard to say whether the line for 903 was the longest of the fest. WeldWerks may take that overall title, as their booth had two lines in the front and one on the side for patrons, and a very thoughtful one for industry people. Honorable mention for longest line goes to the Los Dos Potrillos food truck. GABF once again brought back the food trucks, which is great because we've all become accustomed to food truck prices from having them outside breweries. And it certainly beats wasting hours trying to mastermind a way to sneak into the Paired event every year. Back to lines for a sec, I'm still not sure why one brewery I observed that didn't have a crazy line had four beers kicked by 6:30. Was it poor planning, or was the plan to bring a few cans, "sell" out, and then hit the fest like everyone else?

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