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What Puts the “Great” In The Great American Beer Festival? by Ginger Johnson

Ginger Johnson with a Wyoming Beer contingent at the Media Luncheon
Ginger Johnson with a Wyoming Beer contingent at the Media Luncheon

Ginger Johnson with a Wyoming Beer contingent at the Media Luncheon

If you’ve ever attended the annual Great American Beer Festival, aka GABF, you’ll know it’s one of a kind. As one of the thee biggest ticketed beer events in North America, it’s chock full of beer, people and celebration.

What most guests don’t see is the background year round work that goes into the successful and safe execution of the event. Events take waaaaaay more work than almost everyone realizes. Having been a vendor and presenter in various capacities at dozens (if not hundreds) of fests over the years, I can tell you I put the organizers who do it well and right on a well-deserved pedestal! The cool thing is that those who are really good at it, like Nancy Johnson of the Brewers Association and Chris Crabb, Oregon Brewers Fest, are humble, real and not out to shine the light on themselves. Pints up to them, I say!

Having just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the GABF here’s a bit of info to share and build understanding of what a giant event requires:

Nancy Johnson on stage at the GABF

Nancy Johnson on stage at the GABF


  1. Over 49,000+ festivalgoers attended this year’s event means planning for all contingencies and situations.
  2. The myriad outfits and garb donned by attendees, both guests and volunteers, is a really fun aspect of the event for me. The ubiquitous Beer Tee Shirt is truly everywhere – here’s another article on the tee to enjoy.
  3. Brewers Association Staff, Armies of volunteers in various “squadrons”, ZeroHero & other sustainability crew, guests, vendors, suppliers, Convention center staff, security…it’s incredible to think about how many people put forth efforts to make this event a resounding success.


  1. With over 3500 beers available at the GABF, it’s a huge feat to simply:
  2. Get all the beer to the distributor to legally and properly get it to the festival.
  3. Get the beer then to the right booths (as well as sort it out for judging!).
  4. Make sure kegs are steadily supplied and empties removed throughout the multi-day event.
  5. Beer needs to be kept cold. I’m guessing we’d have another 14’er in the equivalent of ice required to treat the GABF beers with full chilled respect. Kudos to those beer sherpas who bringing beer on and off the fest floor during the event amidst the throngs of flavor lovers.


  1. Denver is Mile High and an easy place to dehydrate. The numerous and clearly marked water stations at the GABF provide the necessary liquid to stay on top of your game. A good rule of fest: drink one glass of water for every glass of beer.
  2. The Colorado Convention Center is big. And next year’s fest is adding – get this – 90,000 more square feet! I’ll have to see it to really understand it….and just know that the dynamism the beer industry is experiencing right now creates unique challenges for the organizers. They’re up for the task, no doubt.

If you’ve attended the GABF before, give us your comments here. If you haven’t, put it on your To-Do list. The GABF and BA as well as the City of Denver and Visit Denver roll out the beer carpet. Come enjoy the tasty hospitality – Cheers!

Till the next glass ~


Go Here: The Great American Beer Festival happens event fall. 2015 dates will be Septembeer 24 – 26, so get it on your calendar now. Wear comfy shoes, bring a refillable water bottle, and a posse of friends to take it all in. be sure to visit the Pro-Am (homebrewing) area to sample more remarkable beer.

Try This: When you are planning your GABF trip, review the program (available online in advance, in person during the event) and take in some of the tasty education offered. The Beer & Food Pavilion hosts engaging speakers, Farm to Table is an exercise in deliciousness pairing beer and food in a separate area (slightly quieter too!), and the Silent Disco is a must-do!

If you have questions about the beer industry, food pairings, speaking engagements and events, you can find Ginger at or



About Basil & Salt Magazine (820 Articles)
Basil & Salt Magazine is filled with recipes, cocktails, wine, beer and travel recommendations, focusing on the enjoyment of the gourmet lifestyle. Our first issue will print and be distributed in September of this year. ~Please join us and poke the 'subscribe' button on the menu to receive exclusive content found only on our printed pages.

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