Where the Story Is – GABF 2015/Denver-Bound

I could write from the sidelines. People do it all the time. So much of the web content that we read is from researchers who read articles about said topic, then just regurgitate the information in a different way. These sites just want your attention. They want your clicks. You have read a travel article about Nashville written by a guy who’s never left Bangladesh. (Yes you have). But if you really want to write – meaning, that’s where your passion is – living it, breathing it, failing and succeeding with it, and then trying to communicate it to other people using just these words – you can’t write from the sidelines. If you’re a writer, you need to go where the story is.

I’m a craft beer writer. The story is in Denver.

Cue the suitcase bumping down the attic stairs.

This year, GABF is the largest it’s ever been. They’ve added 90,000 square feet of festival space to their already overwhelmingly humongous hall in the Colorado Convention Center. I am shocked that there is another 90,000 square feet of space somewhere in that building. They are expecting to have over 3500 different beers served. That is the largest selection of American beers ever served in one place. Ever. And I intend on trying every single one of them. Every. Single. One. [Author’s Note: I do not intend on this at all.]

There is also a new section of the festival this year called Meet the Brewer. Here’s why this is important: when you walk around the hall at GABF, you notice straight away about a jillion people [may have overstated that number] wearing bright yellow shirts. These are the volunteers, the brave, hard-working beer lovers of Denver who have the unfortunate task of attending the largest beer festival in the country (for free). Ah, let’s take a minute and give thanks for their sacrifice. These volunteers staff many of the booths at GABF. They are the ones who actually pour the beer. This might be because the brewery employees are out sampling or perhaps the brewery couldn’t even afford to send staff to the event (they can just ship beer). So it’s a bit of a treat to stop at a booth that is staffed by an actual brewer or brewery staff. They are obviously much more passionate about their beer and can answer questions (important to beer journalists!). Mad props to the brewer who stood right in the aisle at the beginning of the event last year and literally flagged us down to taste his beer. Guess what? We did. And otherwise we probably would have just cruised right by. Here’s to you, Mr. In-the-Aisle-Flagger-Downer-Brewer.

Back to the new Meet the Brewer feature. This area will house about 100 or so booths that are completely staffed by brewery team members or the brewers themselves. No volunteer pourers. Some of my favorite local Denver breweries will be in Meet the Brewer (I know, it’s easy for them, they’re right there!). But I was excited to see some of our kinda-localish breweries on the list as well: Great Lakes, Southern Tier, and Weyerbacher staff will all be standing ready to meet attendees (and craft beer journalists who came all the way from Pittsburgh).

So myself and 60,000 other attendees (who sold the event out in an impressive 1 hour, 17 minutes this year) are headed a mile high to where the story is. Because I could read about it and try to regurgitate it, but it would be a disservice to us both. I need to be there. I need to hear the endless din of the massive hall. I need at least 20,000 people to scream “OH!!” when I drop my taster glass and the plastic bounces off the concrete floor and echos like a yodel in a cave. I need to sit in the auditorium when they announce the 2015 medal winners and scream like a nut job when they announce a Pittsburgh brewery. Then, I need to somehow take the intangibles of being there, the feeling of being surrounded by “my people,” and turn it into words, enough carefully selected words that, if only for a moment, I can transport you there too. Because I fancy myself a writer. And I’m going to where the story is.




Mars/Cranberry Craft Beer Tap Fest – Saturday, September 19, 2015

OK Cranberry people, spotlight’s on you. Get ready, because here comes the Mars/Cranberry Craft Beer Tap Fest.

Saturday, Sept, 19, 2015

1 – 4pm

Doublewide Grill, Mars, PA

There will be 60 beers, appetizers, and DJ ‪#‎phunkphonic‬ spinning.

Tickets cost $40 in advance and are available by stopping by the Doublewide Grill in Mars to buy them. They are limiting ticket sales to 300, but if there are any left, they will be $45 day-of.


Pittsburgh Real Ale Festival – Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ok, do yinz remember the thing with the Real Ale Fest? They were gonna do it, it’s an awesome idea, then it got cancelled, all that? No? Ok, me neither. Let’s just go get some real ale already cuz it’s on like Donkey Kong.


2015 REAL ALE FESTIVAL by Piper’s Pub


6PM – 10PM



Price will include 35 real ales (with a nice brewery list), food from Piper’s Pub (who fought long & hard to bring us this fest!), soccer matches with the Pub’s soccer team, shirt screening from Commonwealth Press, and local DJ spinning.

Oh wait, did someone ask what real ale is? OK, let’s do this. Have you ever had cask ale or a beer that was on cask? That was real ale. Technically, the final fermentation is done in the cask. So the beer kinda finishes up in the cask and also naturally carbonates (so no pumped-in carbonation here). The beer is served from that same cask in which it fermented and carbonated. It was also never filtered and never refrigerated like many beers are. Because of this, real ale can have many unique flavor and texture nuances that can’t be found in other commercial beers. (How totally Wikipedia did that sound?!)

$50 General Admission

Tickets available for purchase at Piper’s Pub (1828 East Carson St.)

or via Ticketmaster



British Beer College – Friday, September 11, 2015


You’ve probably heard about the Britsburgh Fest, right? It’s our first British festival right here in the Burgh! Fancy an ale, do ye? As part of the festivities, there’ll be a British Beer College. Here, attendees will learn what makes English beer different. Enjoy a taste test comparing English to American beers (2 samples of each, or 4 samples total). There will also be light English munchies.

Friday September 11, 2015

Doors open at 5:30, class begins at 6:15

Allegheny HYP Club, 619 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219-1855

Reservations can be made by calling 412-281-5858

$50 per person

This tutored tasting will be co- conducted by Tony Knipling (Cultural Trust Beer School, KQV radio, Nat. beer judge) and Ed Vidunas, Local American Anglofile, 28 time visitor to England, knows every good bar stool in Pgh.)


Brewing up a Cure – Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brewing up a Cure is a Pittsburgh based non-profit dedicated to raising money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis research. This year, they are again offering their awesome Brewing up a Cure event, and all the proceeds are benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

7pm-10pm  (VIP early-entrance session prior to the event from 6pm-7pm)

PPG Wintergarden, Downtown Pittsburgh


This event is different than a typical beer festival in that it will feature over 75 different homebrewed beers made by various Three Rivers Underground Brewers (TRUB) club members. These beers will be completely unique (which is the joy of homebrew!), crafted in extra small batches by local Pittsburgh homebrewing experts. There will also be awesome beers available from Dogfish Head, Stone Brewing, Erie Brewing, Lancaster and Pittsburgh’s own East End Brewing Company.

In addition to all of the great beer, there is a ton of great food from local eateries, great live music, and some fabulous auction items to bid on.

Tickets start at $50 and are available here.



Drunkin’ Punkin’ Pumpkin Beer Extravaganza – Saturday, October 3, 2015

If you love pumpkin beers, my friend, then this event is for you! Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub is once again bringing back their Drunkin’ Punkin’ event.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

3 sessions: 11:00- 2:00 | 3:00 – 6:00 | 7:00 – 10:00

Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub, 563 Greenfield Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15207

Tickets are $50 and include 5oz. samples of over 25 pumpkin beers, light snacks in your “Trick or Treat” bag, a coupon for $2 off a 32oz to go can and a souvenir glass.

Enter through Copper Kettle Brewing Company (right beside Hough’s).


North Country Brewing’s Halloween Bash – October 28, 2015

North Country Brewing Company’s Halloween Bash will be taking place on October 28th, 2015. Every year, the event is a major sell out! North Country makes their excellent Late Night Pumpkin Ale which is adored by all. Plus, is that an Embalmer logo I see on the bottom of their poster?? I haven’t even had that one, but I’ve heard it rated as the best IPA some of my hophead friends have ever had.

Tickets go on sale October 5th at the brewpub in Slippery Rock.

Release of Mexican Coffee from Brew Gentleman

Is anyone else ADDICTED to the Fall seasonal from Brew Gentleman, Mexican Coffee? Welp, good news, it’s coming back September 16th!
For those of you that may be unfamiliar with Mexican Coffee, it’s a 6.5% ABV oatmeal stout spiced with Mexican vanilla and cinnamon, and it’s been the single most requested beer they’ve made to date. It’s highly addictive. You’ve been warned.

Rhythm and Brews Festival – Saturday August 29, 2015


Well, this is shaping up to be a fun time! Rivertowne Brewing is putting on a Rhythm and Brews Festival. The live music is featuring Rusted Root! Plus several other bands. The idea of the founder was to have a great day of music and beer sampling in the great outdoors.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2pm – 9pm

Tall Trees Amphitheatre, Monroeville Community Park, Tillbrook Rd., Monroeville

The $50 general admission ticket includes a souvenir tumbler, unlimited Rivertowne samples, and two full-sized Rivertowne pours in the Beer Garden. Plus, two of the VIP breweries will be showcased each hour.  Food vendors will be available as well.

Here’s a list of the VIP breweries:

All Saints Brewing Company, Fat Head’s Brewery, Four Seasons Brewing Company, Helltown Brewing, Spoonwood Brewing Company, and of course Rivertowne.

VIP admission is $80 and includes the above, as well as VIP tent access between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, unlimited samples from VIP craft brewers, and light refreshments.

ADDED BONUS: If you purchase your ticket before this Sunday (Aug. 23) at midnight, you get a free festival t-shirt! While supplies last.

More info and tickets here