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Secrets of the Great American Beer Festival

Knowing is half the battle at the GABF
Knowing is half the battle at the GABF
Brewers Association

Being prepared is the first step to a good GABF.  The next step is to take full advantage of this premiere event by exploiting little-known secrets.

Secret #1 - Secret pours

The GABF is chock full of craft brewers who bring their best beers to be judged.  Some of these beers are rare enough that they don't put them on public display during the event and you have to ask for the beers by name or the brewers call for these special beers to pour at special times.  The only catch is that if you go to the Saturday evening session, a lot of these beers will probably be gone.

  • The Bruery - Black Tuesday.  They usually pour this mammoth 21% ABV beer once around 2 hours into the GABF.  Ask the nice volunteers at their booth when they'll be pouring it.
  • Boston Beer - Utopias: The good people who make Sam Adams have a tradition of pouring tasters of this 18% beer about an hour into the GABF.  Go find their booth and ask when it is.  Some people aren't fans, but it's worth a try!
  • Firestone Walker - Anniversary ales - You know it's a good beer when they contact a master vintner to blend all of your beers together into one awesome anniversary beer.  Ask the volunteers when this is getting poured.  This is a definite must.
  • Three Floyds - Dark Lord - Dark Lord is as dark and big as it sounds.  It pours like motor oil, and people love it.  They usually do a pouring on the hour.
  • Lost Abbey - Cuvee' de Tomme - This one is more based on rumor than experience, but I recently heard that they will be doing secret pours of this strong beer aged in brandy barrels sometime.
  • Dogfish Head - ??? - Dogfish always has some sort of strange, exotic beer behind the counter that you can ask for.

Secret #2 - Find a long line and get in it

I know it may seem ridiculous after spending time in the long line around the convention center, but the booths with the longer lines usually mean that they have good beer flowing out of the taps.  These are only some of the booths that typically have long lines associated with them and all of these have wonderful or at least new and exciting beers to try.

  • Russian River
  • Dogfish Head
  • Goose Island
  • AleSmith
  • Avery
  • Three Floyds
  • New Glarus

Secret #3 - Talk to the brewers

Some brewers won't be behind the table at their booths since they'll be schmoozing around - the GABF is the brewer equivalent of an industry convention.  However some places like Brooklyn Brewery and Dogfish Head will have their brewers doing some of the pouring along with the volunteers.  It might be chaotic, but they love to hear feedback from you and may reward your compliments or constructive criticism with schwag or a special pour.  Just look for the people wearing the special badges around their necks.

Regardless of secrets, the GABF is like a wonderland for adults.  Take it all in and think about how most of the world's problems could be solved if a little more beer was involved.


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