Where can you find more beers on tap than anywhere else in the world? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s at the Great American Beer Festival, held every autumn in Denver, Colorado.
Now in its 29th year, the event attracts beer makers from across the USA, from the nation’s biggest breweries to small local microbreweries specializing in unique craft beers. It takes place in the Colorado Convention Center in the heart of downtown Denver.
The Great American Beer Festival 2018
Leading up to this year’s festival is the Denver Beer Fest, a 10-day, citywide celebration of beer-related events and activities. It sets the stage for the Great American Beer Festival, which begins on September 16 and lasts for three days.
This year 522 breweries from 48 states will compete for awards in brewing excellence, and 462 of them will be serving samples of their beers over the course of the festival. Some 49,000 people are expected to attend.
Craft Beer Tastings at the Great American Beer Festival
Visitors to the festival receive a commemorative tasting cup which allows you to sample as many beers as you like in one-ounce measures. There is a huge variety of beers on offer – some 2,238 and counting – including ales, stouts, porters, lagers, wheat beers, honey beers, fruit beers, pumpkin beer, field beer, wood- and barrel-aged beers, herb and spice beers and even chocolate beer.
The Festival hall is divided into eight regions representing breweries coast to coast. This makes it easy to focus on tasting craft beers from a particular area, or to compare how styles of beer vary from state to state.
Great American Beer Festival Events
In addition to the tastings, you can attend a variety of festival presentations. The Support Your Local Brewery Pavilion has interactive displays explaining the brewing process. The Short Pour Film Festival, a line-up of short films, animations, music videos and creative commercials on the subject of beer, will make its debut at the festival this year.
Other educational exhibits include the Brewer’s Studio Pavilion, where the brewers tell their own stories and relate their passion for the craft of making beer. The Brewers Publications Bookstore is another source of inspiration.
There’s a booth that lets you be the judge and evaluate a beer alongside professionally trained judges. Or join in the Silent Disco, a festival-goers’ favorite in which you dance to music only you can hear through wireless headphones.
Food and Beer Pairings at the Great American Beer Festival
Some of the most popular events at the festival involve food and beer pairings. Although wine and cheese is the combination that usually springs to mind, the American Cheese Society will give it a new twist by recommending cheeses that complement particular beers.
The festival program includes presentations by top chefs on street food and craft beer, suggestions for the best beers to accompany particular meals, and demonstrations on cooking with craft beers and pairing them with local ingredients.
Great American Beer Festival Awards
For brewers, the highlight is the Great American Beer Festival Awards. Beers will be judged in 79 different style categories this year, with the aim of awarding a gold, silver and bronze medal winner for each. These awards are an international symbol of brewing excellence.
This year nearly 3,600 beers are entered in the competition. The massive job of evaluating the brews falls to 150 judges from nine countries. Judging takes place over three days at the beginning of the festival, prior to the public sessions.
Attending the Great American Beer Festival
On each day of the festival, three evening sessions are open to the public from 5.30 to 10pm. In addition there is an afternoon session on Saturday which is only open to members of the American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association.