Exploring Denver and the Great American Beer Festival

The Colorado Tourism Board had scheduled Thursday as my free day to explore and I did just that, taking in as much of Denver as I could and spending some time at the biggest beer festival in the world.

It had been a total coincidence that I ended up in Denver (with an unscheduled day) at the start of the Great American Beer Festival. The truth is, everyone knows about all of the breweries in Colorado and I was there to write about the spirits. There was also one other little detail…. I don’t drink beer. It’s not that I haven’t tried. An unfortunate incident years ago left me unable to even let it get to my lips. I’m working on it (anyone know a good hypnotist?), but despite the fact that I’m not a brew fan, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to check out the Great American Beer Festival, dubbed by everyone I know as the greatest in the world.

Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the BrewersAssociation, took me around the convention center before the festival even started. I was amazed at all the distributors from around the country, and impressed with the emphasis on food, including: beer and cheese combos from the American Dairy Society; a Farm to Table Pavilion; and an area devoted to seminars on beer and food pairings. We walked around for a while and I promised her I would return in the evening and check out the open festival.

I had a few hours to kill before I was meeting Moose Koons at a party I had been invited to with a group of beer and spirits makers.  I thought it was about a half mile so I figured I’d check out Denver while I walked over there. A half mile turned into two miles, but I enjoyed the scenery on an unusually warm and sunny day for the fall. I also found a little solace after about a mile at My Favorite Muffin with a Cinnamon Cheesecake Muffin, basically my lunch since the time had passed as I walked.

I finally arrived at Amato’s Ale House, one of the locations belonging to the Breckenridge Brewing family. In addition to 40 beers on tap (available to servers in the kitchen and at all the bars), Amato’s also has Infinite Monkey Wine on tap and I enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc. I finished off with Moose’s Agave Silver (smooth and delicious) from his Peach Street Distillery, and hen took off for a last Great American Beer Festival run, this time happily getting a ride back.

It was quite a difference from the afternoon when there were no spectators, though I have to say it wasn’t overly crowded. The festival had 466 brewers with a total of 2,300 beers. This was certainly in contrast to the 20 exhibitors at the festival’s first event in 1982. The beers are grouped by geography, making them easy to find. I really enjoyed walking around and meeting some of the brewers, as well as talking to participants. I was probably (no, definitely) the only one there not drinking beer, but I was able to balance my camera and notepad better that way! I would also like to mention a few of the charitable events – Pints for Prostates and Beers for Boobs were the biggest ones.

I went back to my hotel and headed to bed for my last night in Colorado. It had been a great week, trying terrific spirits and eating wonderful food. I’m sure I will be back to taste some more.


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