Another Great American Beer Festival is in the books, and as has been the case over the years with this site and our sister site, it is time to take a look back and reflect on some specific things I noticed during the event. Since deciding to change up the coverage this year by answering specific questions every day about my experience as opposed to a chronological format, I will keep that same format, albeit with different questions.
Did the extra 100,000-square-feet the GABF added to the festival really make that big of a difference?
In a word, yes. The hall felt less crowded overall compared to last year, as well as during the same Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon sessions—despite the slight increase in attendance numbers. It was obvious that there was more room to play with when it came to additions like the Jameson Caskmates Barrel-Aged Beer Garden—which was almost a world unto itself—and the Buffalo Wild Wings Sports Bar. While there were times that I had to dodge people in the lanes, there were many more times that I could have extended both of my arms out fully and not touched anyone.
What was the biggest overall change that you noticed compared the last year other than the aforementioned size increase?
Although there were (slightly) more people than ever, the lines were almost shockingly short, even for big ticket, highly hyped beers. In fact, while the longest line I stood in was Weldwerks Brewing Co., even such heavy hitters as Abnormal Beer Co.’s collaboration with J. Wakefield Brewing Co., Barrel-Aged All the Lights, took just a bit over seven minutes to get through. Two of the reasons this could be the case was that more breweries were serving their beers out of pitchers instead of draft lines and that there seemed to be more people behind most of the booths to help get people their beer.
How did the new alphabetical location system work out?
Last year’s system of putting breweries in regions—i.e. Northeast, South, etc.—had its detractors, so the GABF decided to try a new alphabetical system, which did make it much easier to find booths for me, although there were a few exceptions. For example, I had a hard time finding Offshoot Brewing Co.—it was nowhere near the O section—until I remembered it would probably be next to The Bruery in the B section, since they are basically one an the same.
What was a cool thing about the festival this year that people are not really talking about?
I was impressed with the fact that the Brewers Association managed to give each winner of Saturday’s competition a sticker that indicated the specific beer that received an award, thus making it easier for people to find—and ask for—those beers immediately after the ceremony was over.
Did the new addition of the Juicy or Hazy Ale category in the competition seem like a popular choice?
Well, there were 391 entries in that category—which was won by Alarmist Brewing’s Le Jus—so I would say the answer is yes.
What was the coolest addition to the festival that you noticed?
That would be the addition of the Jameson Caskmates Barrel-Aged Beer Garden, which turned out to be even more awesome than I thought it would be; it was extremely well laid out, it was easy to find and get pours of the beers you wanted, plus the Cooperage demonstration was fascinating, to say the least.
Having said the above, the Collaboration section—while also a good addition in terms of highlighting the specific beers—was nothing special about how it looked or where it was located. In fact, it was nothing more than a small separate section with different beers being poured.
How many physical breweries did you visit?
I stepped foot into three different breweries: Weldwerks Brewing Co., Wiley Roots Brewing and Casey Brewing and Blending.
Can you give us a total number and detailed list of beers that you sampled?
Your wish is my command!
- Casey Brewing and Blending — The Cut – Advanced Peach (9/21/17)
- Casey Brewing and Blending — Funky Blender Preserves – Raspberry
- Casey Brewing and Blending — Funky Blender Preserves: Cherry (Sour Danube 7/26/18)
- Casey Brewing and Blending — The Cut: Raspberry
- Casey Brewing and Blending — East Bank: Cherry
- Upslope Brewing Co. — Lee Hill Series Volume 14: Wild Christmas with Black Raspberries
- Upslope Brewing Co. — Lee Hill Series Volume 16: Tropical Fruit Sour Ale
- Upslope Brewing Co. — Upslope 2018 Experimental IPA
- Bell’s Brewery — Batch 9,000 Ale
- Three Floyds Brewing Co. — Munsterfest
- Three Floyds Brewing Co. — Alpha Klaus
- Wicked Weed Brewing — Garcon de Ferme
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Coconut Medianoche (2018)
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Blackberry Berliner
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Mexican Medianiche
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — 18 Month Medianoche
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Piña Colada Milkshake IPA
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — QDH Juicy Bits IPA
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Single Barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Medianoche Brewers Select
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — Sweet Disposition
- Weldwerks Brewing Co. — 2018 WeldWerks Invitational Festival Medianoche
- Perennial Artisan Ales — Barrel-Aged Vermilion
- Avery Brewing Co. — Scarlet Cucumis
- Avery Brewing Co. — Tweak
- Abnormal Beer Co./J. Wakefield Brewing — Barrel-Aged All The Lights
- Kane Brewing — Barrel-Aged Sunday Brunch
- Side Project Brewing — Deveration Blend #9
- Jester King Brewery — Atrial Rubicite
- Jester King Brewery — Aurastone
- Ozark Beer Co. — Bourbon Double Cream Stout (2017)
- Ozark Beer Co. — Bourbon Double Cream Stout (2018)
- Samuel Adams — Utopias Aged on Cherries
- Cerebral Brewing Co. — Barrel Aged Ancient Ruins – Rocky Road
- Forager Brewing Co. — Nillerzzzzz
- Forager Brewing Co. — Pudding Goggles
- Old Town Brewing — Mushroom Ale
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co. — Paravanilla
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co. — XVIII Anniversary Ale
- Melvin Brewing Co. — Orange IPA
- Chuckanut Brewery — Chuckanut Helles
- J Wakefield Brewing — Frida
- J Wakefield Brewing — Barrel-Aged Bout It
- Oskar Blues Brewery — Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy
- AleSmith Brewing — Mexican Speedway Stout
- Modern Times/J. Wakefield Brewing — Suggestion of Mass
- Modern Times Beer — Monsters’ Park Aged in Spanish Brandy Barrels
- Fremont Brewing Co. — Three Matts 2018
- Fremont Brewing Co. — Coconut Edition B-Bomb 2017
- Cigar City Brewing — Coconut Marshal Zhukov’s Russian Imperial Stout
- Double Oaked A Deal With The Devil
- Hill Farmstead Brewery — Aaron Batch 3
- New Glarus Brewing Co. — Serendipity
- River Horse Brewing — Craic (Jameson Caskmates)
- River Horse Brewing Co. — One Score and Two Years Ago (Jameson Caskmates)
- 8th Wonder — Imperial Rocket Fuel (Jameson Caskmates)
- Revolution Brewing — Jamo-Nilla (Jameson Caskmates)
- Parish Brewing Co. — Irish Coffee Stout (Jameson Caskmates)
- Great Divide Brewing Co. — The Smoothness (Jameson Caskmates)
- Cigar City Brewing — Beoir Le Caife (Jameson Caskmates)
- Fat Head’s Brewery — Wake the Dead (Jameson Caskmates)
- The Black Abbey Brewing Co. — Lorica (Jameson Caskmates)
- Bale Breaker Brewing Co. — Ossifier Stout (Jameson Caskmates)
- Rhinegeist Brewery — Feeling Good
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co./Creature Comforts Brewing Co. — Mother’s Milk
- Founders Brewing Co. — Canadian Breakfast Stout (2018)
- Dionysus Brewing Co. — Peach on Through
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. — Vintage Bigfoot
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. — Barrel-Aged Narwhal
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. — Denver Super Rare Barrel-Aged Narwhal
- Short’s Brewing Co. — Nitro Pistachio Cream Ale
- Deschutes Brewery — Black Butte Cubed
- Deschutes Brewery — The Abyss (2014)
- Deschutes Brewery — Pacific Wonderland Lager
- 3 Floyds Brewing — Dark Lord (2017)
- 3 Floyds Brewing — Dark Lord (2018)
Man, that is quite a few, how many steps did you take?
According to my phone—which, as you know, is super accurate—my total was 32,086 steps, or about 12 miles.
I missed some of the other recaps, are there links you can point me to?