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If you love beer, then the Colorado Convention Center should be your go-to place in September 2018. With more than 3,800 beers and 800 breweries, the Great American Beer Festival welcomes thousands of thirsty beer fans.

In its 37th year, the Great American Beer Festival has grown significantly in size. Organized by the Brewers Association, the three-day annual event was launched in 1982. Taking place in Boulder at the Harvest House Hotel, the inaugural event welcomed 800 people and around 24 breweries.

Great American Beer Festival tickets for the 2017 sold out within four hours and saw the attendance of almost 60,000 beer lovers. It was a record year for the festival as it featured the biggest selection of more than 39,000 American beers. The three-day beer festival ended with much acclaim and soon after the 2018 dates were announced. Taking place from September 20-22, it will span over three evenings and one afternoon. From tasting sessions to presentations as well as the chance to rub shoulders with some of the leading brewers in the country, the Great American Beer Festival is an incredible experience.

The Great American Beer Festival – The Beginning

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has come a long way since its humble beginning in 1982. Capturing the tongues and the hearts of its patrons, the festival witnessed a massive increase, not just in attendance but also the breweries.

The seeds for this grand event were sown in 1979 when the then US President Jimmy Carter saved the craft beer. De-regulating the tightly controlled beer market, President Carter allowed the industry to grow and even permitted home brewing.

The craft beer movement started and it encouraged a local brewer Charlie Papazian to form the American Home Brewers Association, which is today called the Brewers Association. Brewpubs and microbrews were also introduced and soon started popping up all around the country.

The Great American Beer Festival started out as more of a celebration of the growth of the beer industry and the credit goes to Charlie Papazian. He later also penned a book “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing”.

Evolving more as a community than a craft beer industry, both the home brewers and professional brewers helped each other. Tapping into the belief that “life is good when shared together”, these brewers would often find inspiration by collaborating and presenting to the consumers ingenious beer styles.

The Great American Beer Festival – What To Expect

More than 800 brewers serving 3,900 plus styles of beers. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to remain sober, but according to the festival regulars, it comes naturally at the event.

Meet & Mingle – The festival not just got bigger in terms of the entries and attendance, but also expanded on its offerings. Following 2017’s layout, the 2018 three-day festival will increase the “Meet the Brewer” booths. Huge space is dedicated for the brewers who set up booths with their staff present. The attendees can engage in a conversation with the men and women behind their favorite beer and take pictures. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the passionate beer fans to talk shop with the craft brewing heroes.

Brewers From All Across the US Come & Pour – Many craft breweries are unable to market their product to different cities due to shipping costs and lack of facilities. GABF gives all these brewers the best chance to bring their beer on the biggest platform. There are several beer brands that are known for their delicious tastes, but are available only in limited areas. People wait in long queues to sample these not-so-easily available brands. 

Brewery of the Year – Little competition always adds excitement to an event. GABF ends its proceedings with the “Brewery of the Year” contest that started in 1987. Based on the brewery type, production volume and barrelage, a category is assigned to the breweries in which they compete. The contest is not just for the big companies, but there are awards for “Very Small Brewing Company of the Year”, “Small Brewing Company of the Year” and “Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year”. The brewpubs also follow the same format. The biggest award of the night is “Brewery Group of the Year”.

Industry professionals get to judge beer in all these categories, without knowing the brewery or brand name. It’s the responsibility of the GABF Judge Panel to determine three world class beers that best represent their category. The panel is kept fresh every year with the addition of at least 20 new judges.

The Beer & Food Pairing – The most common tip that the frequent attendees give to the newcomers is – come with full stomach and polish your beer intake with some snacks. In fact, people wear pretzels necklaces and nibble on them in-between their sampling session. American Cheese Society also participates in the festival and sets up a tasting area for the attendees to enjoy creamy and diverse cheeses.

If you’ve got extra cash then nab some tickets to the “Paired”, which is an extra special event inside the GABF. The Great American Beer Festival tickets have to be purchased separately. “Paired” is a low key event held behind the convention hall that invites top chefs from all over the country. They pair up their exotic cuisines with rare beers from select breweries.

Great American Beer Festival Ticket Prices

The Great American Beer Festival ticket prices may be a bit on the higher end for some, but look at the bright side – you’ll get to sample as many beers as you can. The ticket price also includes a tasting cup, free entertainment and entry into many seminars.

And the Great American Beer Festival is not all about beer. Acting as a cultural center, people from all across the country with varied backgrounds and traditions hang out together and have fun. It’s an incredible experience meeting the brewers whose beers are in your fridge all the time. You make new friends and often it has served as the common ground for family reunions. So yes, it’s definitely not all about the beer.

Come visit the 2018 festival and see what the event has to offer.

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