GABF: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Okay, everyone and his/her mother has weighed in on the GABF and I doubt I’ve got anything original to offer — but, hey, that’s never stopped me. (For anything you could possibly want to know about this year’s festival, hop over to beerinator’s rss feed and have at it.)

So let’s start with the bad and the ugly: GABF is wall-to-wall humanity packed into a gigantic convention center (translation: a big concrete warehouse). Roughly ten to twelve thousand people at a time, all of them talking (or, more accurately, shouting because that’s the only way to carry on a conversation). Most of them drunk. It’s not the greatest place in the world to drink beer.

BUT: if you don’t mind crowds or noise and you like seeing people dressed in funny costumes and hats, well, hey, it’s fabulous.

So what’s good about GABF? Those same people, of course!

First and most important, the GABF is the result of the hard work and dedication of the folks at the Brewers Association, especially Cindy Jones and Julia Herz and their staff, all of whom manage to stay calm and cheerful amidst what is an astonishingly stressful situation.

I thank them for making it possible for me to participate in the festival.

Also good: those same loud (often drunk) festival-goers. Any writer will tell you that the second-best part of our job is talking to readers (the first-best, of course, being the creation of the books themselves). And any writer will tell you that we writers spend most of our time staring at the wall trying to figure out what to say next and we welcome the rare chance to get away from our desks and, ya know, actually TALK to people

. So I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk to the people who stopped by the festival bookstore to say hello. Many of you had already read the book, and for that I am grateful. And about sixty or so of you bought a copy while I was there. And for that I am also grateful (as is my bank account).

When I wasn’t at the GABF itself, I was at one of the many “media” events held at various locations chit-chatting with the beer people that I rarely see in person. I got a chance to talk to and drink beer with Bryce Eddings of beer.about.com and the chronically interesting Jay Brooks.

I also saw Rick Lyke, who has a bunch of GABF photos and reports up at his blog (and who looks and feels great after his encounter with prostate cancer earlier this year). He spent part of his time in Denver raising money for the cause at the festival’s Pints for Prostates booth).

It was a great pleasure to see two dear friends, Julie Johnson Bradford (who managed to avoid being decked by a drunk photographer) and Daniel Bradford of All About Beer magazine.

I also had a chance to spend time with two of my favorite beer people, the incomparable James Spencer and Andy Sparks of basicbrewing.com. As near as I can tell, they never turned off their camera and microphone and single-handedly recorded every damn moment of the four-day event and interviewed any and every beer person who would stand still — all of it fodder for their amazing “radio” web- and pod-casts.

I met Rick Sellers, from Pacific Brew News, who was there on behalf of Draft magazine and who has a ton of festival coverage at his blog

. I also met Brian Yaeger, whose new book, Red, White, and Brew, just came out. He’s on a cross-country road trip promoting the book (which is itself about his cross-country trip to explore American brewing.)

Thanks also to the great folks at Anheuser-Busch, especially Mike Bulthaus and Tom Shipley, who hosted A-B’s launch of Budweiser American Ale.

Last, but not least, one of the highlights of the GABF (at least for me) is the brunch hosted by Jim Koch of Samuel Adams Brewing and Boston Beer Company. Every year, BBC sponsors two homebrewing contests, one for BBC employees and one for anyone who wants to enter. Jim invites the finalists and the media to the brunch. We get to taste the contestants’ beer and watch as Jim announces the winners of each contest. It’s a lovely event (and the food is fabulous).

Anyway, you get the drift: GABF is less about the beer than it is about the people. I’m glad I went. Again, for photos and way better reporting than you’ll get from me, check out the rss feed at beerinator’s website.

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