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.

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