The Great American Beer Festival is almost upon us. Since it’s my first time, I thought it would be a good idea to check in with a veteran, Jeremy Danner, the Ambassador Brewer at Boulevard Brewing Company*, before heading to Denver.
Beer Brain: What is the most important piece of advice you can give a newbie such as myself heading to GABF for the first time?
Jeremy Danner: You’re not going to get to try every beer you want to. Some breweries will run out of super-special beers before you get to their table or you’ll forget to head to a certain brewery before the end of the night. Just accept that from the beginning, and you’ll avoid being disappointed.
BB: Any insider tips that will make my GABF experience better?
JD: Talk to the folks who are there representing their breweries. Everyone is super nice and they really want to talk to people about their beer. Away from the festival, keep your eyes open for cool events happening at restaurants and bars. Tons of special beers are tapped all over town and you can often get a full pour of a rare beer you’d have to wait in a long line for during the fest.
BB: Any strategy to tackling the multitudes of breweries and samples to make sure I get to try as much as possible?
JD: Plan your attack. Whether there are certain breweries, specific beers, or styles you want to try, make a list of what you absolutely don’t want to miss and map out your route. And if you think that a certain brewery is going to be super popular, hit their table up first as breweries will ration certain beers to make sure they’re able to pour some during each session.
BB: How about a strategy to make sure I don’t pass out in the first 30 minutes?
JD: Don’t pre-game the festival with too much beer or booze. Yes, the sample size seems small, but I don’t think anyone has left the Great American Beer Festival thinking, “Man, I really didn’t get enough beer.” Eat a good meal and maybe have a beer with it, but don’t show up to the fest buzzed.
BB: And how about the pretzel necklace? I’ve been told it is an absolute necessity and I’ve been told I will look like a douchebag. Thoughts?
JD: I’m not a fan of the pretzel necklace. Yes, the necklace reminds you that it’s important to eat during the fest, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to wear food around your neck. I wear a small backpack to beer festivals and usually have some granola bars, beef jerky, and some Gatorade stashed in it.
BB: And would it be acceptable to make a sausage necklace, but instead of yarn use string cheese and carry around a squirt gun filled with mustard and tuck a little kraut in my pocket? I’m asking for a friend.
JD: Tell your friend that a next level move like that would garner my respect. I’ve seen dudes with sandwiches rigged up to their necklaces, but the condiment squirt gun is just plain inspired.
BB: Any amazing breweries you would recommend I check out?
JD: I’ve enjoyed the sours I’ve had from Alamanac, Wicked Weed, and The Rare Barrel. Also check out the Colorado breweries at the festival. Lots of times, people skip breweries that are easily accessible like New Belgium and Odell, but the Colorado guys really throw down and bring fancy beers to GABF. In addition to those few, here are some others to definitely add to your list: Russian River, Firestone Walker, Blind Tiger, Allagash, Modern Times, Alesmith, Cigar City, Liquid Bread, and New Glarus.
BB: Will you hold my hair when I’m puking at the end of the night?
JD: You know it, man. I might even rub your back.
*Full disclosure: I give tours at Boulevard Brewing Company from time to time. But I work there because I love the beer.
The Great American Beer Festival is in Denver from Oct.2-4.