Written by Chris Furbacher – Grand Teton Brewing MidWest Sales Director
One can make the argument that September and October are the best two months of the year for beer. Breweries are releasing all kinds of new beers, Octoberfest celebrations take place throughout the world, and of course, The Great American Beer Festival comes to Denver. GABF is the largest gathering of all things beer in American History.
I arrived in Denver Monday morning around 7:00am. I had some events planned for the lead up to GABF. Driving around downtown Denver I noticed all the “Welcome to GABF” banners hanging outside restaurants. I could feel the buzz as 50,000 plus people began to descend into Colorado. It felt great to be in Denver early. Later in the day my fellow co-workers from Grand Teton Brewing arrived after a long day’s drive: Kathleen Hansen, Graphic Artist; Katie Taylor, Quality Control Specialist; and Brian La Meer, Logistics and Warehouse Manager. Along with my brother, Stephen, a mechanical engineer working in Denver, the five of us were ready and excited to begin our GABF experience and to represent Grand Teton Brewing in the best way possible.
The welcome reception on Wednesday offered us brewers a chance to connect in a small setting. I got a chance to see some old friends and make some new ones. It is fitting that the Welcome reception was at Wyncoop Brewery in downtown Denver. Wyncoop is one of the first brewpubs in Denver. It is very important to the area because the Governor of Colorado is one of Wyncoop’s co-founders.
The first beer session for GABF began on Thursday at 5:30 pm. The first thing I noticed as I walked into the convention hall was its unearthly size. Rows and rows of tables showcasing great beers from all over America. It was amazing to me that in a few hours upwards of 10,000 eager beer enthusiasts would pack the house. I had the opportunity to walk by every booth without anyone around and I made a couple of observations: great beer can come from anywhere, we have a ton of creative people in our industry with so many beer names and interesting styles, and lastly brewers went all out on the creative booths. The convention center was an amazing place.
On Saturday morning all the media, volunteers, Brewers Association staff, and brewery staff packed the Wells Fargo theatre for the GABF Awards Ceremony. There were thousands of beers judged in eighty five categories. Very tough competition. I could see the anticipation on everyone’s faces, including mine. The best part of the ceremony was watching the brewers support each other after each medal. We did not win any awards this year, which could be seen as a disappointment. However, I believe our brewery had something far more important than winning medals. We have great fan support. I talked with our great fans and met new ones, all telling us how terrific our beers taste and that they enjoy what we do. It is these friends who make our hard work all worthwhile.
Ultimately, the GABF was a success for Grand Teton Brewing and myself. I met people I now consider my friends. After spending a week in the craziness of the Great American Beer Festival. I look forward to participating for many years to come.
I would like to take a second to give a few shout outs: thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this week possible; to the Brewers Association for putting on this event; to Elite Brands of Colorado, our distributor, for making sure everything went smoothly outside GABF; to our Grand Teton brewers for brewing awesome beer; and to all the amazing beer enthusiasts who traveled from all over and had an incredible attitude all weekend. Last, I would like to congratulate our friend, Jeremy Tofte, of Thai Me Up Brewpub in Jackson Hole, WY, who took home three medals including two gold. GABF provided memories for Kathleen, Katie, Brian, Stephen and myself that will last well into 2013.