Every year, I leave Denver's Great American Beer Festival with a few important takeaways. Even if I seem to forget those tendencies over the course of the year, they always seem to be the same recurring concepts.
Maybe it's all the samples, maybe it's all the mental data, but here are my takeaways from GABF 2018, even if those takeaways are kind of repeats from years past -- at least conceptually.
First of all, I'm always amazed at how big this event really is. This year, more than 800 breweries poured in excess of 4,000 different beers. Even better, GABF isn't confined to the halls of the Colorado Convention Center. All across metro Denver, bars and brewpubs have special releases, they host tap takeovers, and generally embrace the spirit of the event.
Second, you've gotta be quick. Every year there are a handful of breweries that gain cult popularity only to be overrun the next year. As an example, last year I spent a lot of time sampling the beers from Portland, Oregon's Great Notion Brewing, only to find I was too late this year. They had already given out their Thursday allotments by the time I made it to their booth.
Third, trends stick. Sours and gose styles were once again enormously popular inside the convention hall. This year, though, brewers seem to be getting even more creative with the styles. From Weldwerks' (Greely, CO) Spaghetti Gose to Stealth Mode from Aneheim's Bottle Logic Brewing, there were a ton of interesting flavors. Stealth Mode, a Berliner Weisse style brewed with tart blueberries was one of my favorites of the night, as it also had a peculiar saltiness that made it, at the very least, the most unique beer I tried all night.
Finally, there are always a list of breweries I'd love to see at GABF, but they just never seem to make it. While Creature Comforts (Athens, GA) had a few beers in a special independent section mixed with other breweries, they would be an amazing addition to the GABF lineup. Same with Tree House Brewing Company from Charlton, MA. There are apparently many reasons some of these popular and prolific breweries do not attend, but for whatever reason, I'd sure love to see them in the future.
On a side note, this year they rearranged the event so breweries were grouped alphabetically instead of by region. To the organizers, please bring back the regions! In previous years, going to California or heading over to the Southeast was an adventure we all enjoyed. It was also easier to conceptualize after a few too many samples for those of us who think of beer in geographical terms.
See you in 2019!