Turns out, the convention itself is only a small part of the weekend. The city is buzzing not only with intoxication, but with an influx of visitors and with events happening across all neighborhoods the entire week leading up to the festival weekend. Think tap takeovers at bars, shuttle tours of local microbreweries, farm to table beer-pairing dinners, special release events, free concerts, and even brewery sponsored day excursions. For example, Oskar Blues, the first craft brewer to put its beer in cans, put on three consecutive days of excursions that not only introduced visitors to its beers and brewery, but also entertained them with pig roasts and live music.
Although there were breweries from 48 of the 50 states (nothing from Iowa and Mississippi), one of our favorite parts was discovering the breweries that have popped up around the Mile High City. In total, Denver has about a hundred breweries to explore, which means that there are plenty of taprooms to taste, including those in the developing River North (RiNo) neighborhood. Once an industrial area, small batch breweries have begun moving into abandoned buildings and warehouses, places like Our Mutual Friend, Crooked Stave (sour beers), and Black Shirt Brewery, the latter of which only produces beers that are red in color (seriously).
So when GABF sells out in ten minutes next year and ticket prices once again go up, fear not. The best part of the festival for us was found outside of the convention hall walls, and you should start planning to be a part of it.
[Photos: Denver Post/Jaunted]