Known as a top-tier beer festival and competition of the nation, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) held in Denver, Colorado attracts brewers and beer fanatics from all over the world. Since 1982, the festival has been growing in popularity in sync with the rise in enthusiasm for America's craft beer scene. There's no better place to hold this celebration of bubbly than in the center of the country and America's top producing beer state–Colorado.
The Colorado Convention Center welcomes over 60,000 attendees at this unique event. As a public tasting festival, guests can sample craft beers in one-ounce portions. With over 4,000 beers to sample, you're sure to find a few new favorites. Over 800 breweries participate in the festival and enter their beers in categories like Juicy/Hazy IPA's or classic American Pale Ales. Beyond access to tastings, the Great American Beer Fest offers educational and experiential talks for brewers and beer enthusiasts.
Perhaps the largest draw for attendees and brewers alike is the beer competition. Blind tastings by a professional panel define the top three beers that best represent their applicable style in over 100 categories. Five different judging sessions define the nation’s best lagers, amber ales, porters, blonde ales, and more.
This four-day event in the fall is a must-visit mecca for beer enthusiasts, at-home brewers, and aspiring craft breweries. Revel in the buzzing atmosphere of the world of craft beer at this well-attended and highly anticipated yearly event. Top off your trip by camping with a view of the Rockies nearby the venue.
Public tickets to the Great American Beer Festival typically go on sale at the end of July. An individual ticket includes a festival program, commemorative tasting cup, and unlimited one-ounce samples of more than 4,000 beers. Tickets are sold by the individual day. Historically, an all-day pass has been around $90. Always check the GABF website for updated yearly ticket prices.
If you are looking for discounted tickets and access to private sessions, you may want to consider a membership to the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) or Brewers Association (BA). Members of these organization receive discounted tickets and earlier purchase opportunities than the public.
The GABF has been known to sell out in the past. In 2014, the event sold out in a little over 4 hours, so purchasing tickets early is highly recommended. All tickets are purchased through AXS, an online ticket purchasing site with access available via the event website.
The Colorado Convention Center in Denver is home to the The Great American Beer Festival. By road, the best way to drive into Denver is I-70, coming from the east or west, or I-25 coming from the north or south. Driving in downtown Denver may take some patience in a big rig. For those driving large buses or towing fifth-wheels, you may want to park outside of the city and use a commuter vehicle or public transportation to navigate the congested downtown area if possible.
A parking garage provides access to the Colorado Convention Center for visitors and guests attending events in the downtown area; consider your vehicle's dimensions if choosing this option. In the case of the Great American Beer Festival, aim to arrive early to avoid event traffic and long lines. Depending on how long you choose to park in the garage, parking rates can range anywhere from $15-$25 for day parking. Downtown Denver also offers parking in various places by the day. Remember to check the length and height of your rig when choosing parking in the area, especially for the garages.
As a progressive metropolis, Denver has excellent public transit. The Denver Light (light-rail) is very convenient, stopping right in front of the Colorado Convention Center. Use bus and light rail to navigate the city with their convenient trip planner online.
If coming from Boulder, CO, take the Flatiron Flyer from Downtown Boulder Station to Union Station. From there, hop on the Mallride or walk to the Convention Center.
As a tourist destination, you will find several major rideshares active in the city. Often these rideshare companies sponsor the Great American Beer Festival and may provide beneficial options for attendees. Check GABF's website closer to the event for discount codes for select rideshare apps.
Though the Great American Beer Festival does not offer RV accommodations in downtown Denver, campgrounds are aplenty just outside of Denver, within a short drive or rideshare trip.
The Greater Denver and Boulder area both offer highly-visited destinations for campers. Campgrounds can be found as close as a 30-minute drive from the Denver Convention Center. To the west of Denver is the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest, home to a variety of campgrounds featuring attractions like rock-climbing, hiking, and mountain biking.
GABF can draw over 62,000 people over the course of its three-day festival run. As a result, downtown parking can be difficult. Additionally, while imbibing alcohol at this boozy event, use public transportation or a designated driver for the safety of yourself and others.
Options for getting around the city are as follows: (1) The Regional Transportation District bus stops a few blocks from the Convention Center, and the buses run late into the night. (2) Denver’s Light Rail is a convenient option. There is ample parking at the Cinderella City Station (located at the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and Hampden Avenue). The Light Rail stops directly in front of the Convention Center. (3) Denver B-Cycle offers short term bike share rentals at dozens of stations around the city, including one right by the Colorado Convention Center. Still, drinking and riding a bicycle can be hazardous, so cycle responsibly.
Denver’s high altitude can mean erratic weather. Averages for October can reach the upper 60s during the day, but drop as low as the 30s at night. Wear sufficient layers as the convention center may also have unpredictable temperatures. Wear comfortable walking shoes for navigating the convention center floor.
While exploring the great outdoors of Colorado, wear hiking boots for the dry, rocky terrain. Bring headwear and a down coat as the temperature drops at night. Always have chapstick and moisturizer on hand as Colorado’s notoriously dry air can be a shock to those coming from more humid climates.
GABF accepts cash and major credit cards but offers an onsite ATM in the lobby of the Colorado Convention Center. The convention center allows empty, clear, reusable, plastic water bottles that fit their regulations but does not allow any glass containers.
Wear your walking shoes as you will be on your feet all day wandering the large Denver Convention Center. However, various pavilions offer rest and respite from the chaos. Check out Oskar Blues Silent Disco tent, or head over to “The Backyard,” for fun and games like karaoke and corn hole.
The Great American Beer Festival is accessible for guests with disabilities. Guests with disabilities go through the same security measures as other guests, but can request assistance and utilize the elevators to ease the entry process.
Cooking under the stars is one of the greatest pleasures and meditations while camping. Always check with your campground before booking to be sure fires are allowed and fire-rings are provided at the site if you desire to cook by fire. Due to Colorado’s dry climate, fire rules may vary from campground to campground and depending on the season.
Denver and Boulder offer a wide variety of cuisines. As a foodie destination, you’ll find everything from high-end Michelin starred restaurants, to every-day cafés, diners, and local mom-n-pop eateries. If you are camping remotely, like in the National Forest, dining and grocery options are limited. So stock up on snacks and food before heading out of town.
Denver’s infamous food truck vendors will be selling their delights alongside other concessions. The Great American Beer Festival offers complimentary water stations for all attendees. Keep in mind there is no re-entry to the event, so any dining for the day must be done at the festival.
All attendees, including ticket holders, brewers, and media, will be asked to go through a walk-through metal detector. The Great American Beer Festival seeks to provide an ongoing approach to balancing safety and fun. Please check the GABF website prior to attending the festival to identify items that are strictly prohibited.
The GABF takes place between late September and early October. Fall temperatures have often kicked in and may reach the upper 60s during the day, and can drop into the 30s at night. Layer up and check daily weather forecasts for specific storms or fronts that may inhibit road travel.
As a major metropolis, Denver is home to several reputable hospitals. Call 911 in the event of a health emergency and indicate you are attending the GABF at the Denver Convention Center. Watch your consumption of alcohol over the course of the day and remember to hydrate at the complimentary water stations. Keep food in your stomach and designate someone in your party as the designated driver.