As some of you know, most every year Black Star sends a group of employees up to The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. We will be doing this again in September and I figured I would detail a bit of the experience in case anyone is interested.
On September 19th at 5am we will be loading up a Dodge Grand Caravan rental with 6 Black Star employees and their luggage. We then drive 15 hours, through mostly unscenic West Texas, and arrive at our AirBnB with enough time to drink a couple of beers and pass out in a somewhat tolerable sleeping configuration. The first session of the festival starts at 5pm so the early part of the day consists of checking in, grabbing badges/swag and setting up our booth to pour beer. When the session begins we have most of the crew at the booth to get a feel of how the pouring works. Luckily we are staffed with a couple of volunteers in case we want to roam around the festival ourselves and check out some of the 4000+ craft beers from around the country. After the first session is completed we go out and attend some of the industry parties (usually sponsored by different grain/hop/ingredient suppliers). Friday consists of two sessions; one at 12-4pm and one at 5:30-10pm where we pour and talk with people about our beers, rotating folks out periodically to keep things fresh. Saturday is the big day at the festival. While GABF is the largest beer festival in the country, it is also the largest and most prestigious beer competition and Saturday morning is when the awards ceremony is held. Imagine thousands of hungover brewers in an auditorium at 10am sitting down for 2 hours. To say the least, it’s rough.
Once the awards are given, all the brewers rush out to their respective booths to pour for the first of 2 Saturday sessions. The first session is by far the most exciting session of the festival, especially if you just won an award in the ceremony. Speaking of awards, we are entering 4 beers this year that we feel very confident about and are excited to see what the judges think. Our line up is Recalcitrant Dockhand, Island Baby, Roze Sap, and Waterloo. We put a lot of thought into these entries and think they fit into their respective categories pretty well. I digress. The last session of the festival starts at 5:30pm on Saturday and is usually one that is filled with last minute ticket buyers who want to drink as much beer as possible. Needless to say, we are usually pretty burnt out at this point. Once the session is over we pack up our booth and head back to the house to get ready to wake up refreshed and drive home in the morning, and definitely do not regretfully go out and party into the wee hours of the morning.
Sunday morning we wake up, load the van once again and head out on our 15 hour descent into Austin which is exponentially less fun and exciting than the drive up. We usually arrive around 3am, unload the van, go home, sleep for a few hours and go to work. Whew. Just typing that gives me anxiety but I wouldn’t want it any other way. This trip is usually a highlight of the year and is a lasting experience for everyone who has been. Stories of years past are brought up every month or so and we intend on adding to the repertoar this year.
I hope that gives some sort of insight into the madness of the GABF experience. We will be sure to give an update once we get back if it doesn’t make me twitch recalling it so soon.