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by Mike Laur, Rick Mazzola, Carol White
October 18, 2012
The 2012 Great American Beer Festival provided yet another suds extravaganza for the masses. 49,000 attendees, including ticket-holders, brewers, judges, journalists, and volunteers, wondered in glee and bewilderment amongst a selection of over 2700 beers at the Denver Convention Center. That's more than 36,000 gallons of beer provided by 578 U.S. breweries.

Tickets Anyone?

Obtaining a ticket for the festival this year proved significantly more difficult and evasive than in years past. All tickets, for all four sessions, sold-out in 45 minutes! Last year the bright-eyed, hop-savoring beer aficionado could lollygag before committing to the largest beer festival in the world, as availability lingered for nearly a week. This year one was lucky to finish a pint of Hog Heaven before encountering the dreaded "sold-out" disclaimer at the Ticketmaster website.

Led by frustration and dismay, many wondered why tickets vaporized so quickly this year. Ticketmaster apparently bungled the initial, member-only pre-sale, inadvertently allowing not just members, but the entire world to buy tickets. Luckily, not many tickets sold to non-members, or so they say. Then, two days later, tickets vanished in less than an hour.

Many annual attendees, anticipating little trouble with ticket acquisition, were flabbergasted when sales ended with such rapidity. Their bags packed in vain, their airline tickets expensive and non-refundable, those denied tickets began to wonder how such a debacle could occur. Many blamed Ticketmaster, especially when clusters of tickets began to appear on ebay and craigslist. "Scalpers", they decried. The Brewers Association denied such claims, instead attributing the drastically condensed buying period to demand. Regardless, some, perhaps many, steadfast beer geeks either didn't get tickets, or didn't get tickets for the session they desired.

Outside the Hall

Unfathomable amounts of beer flowed both inside the convention hall and out. Quite literally, having a ticket to the festival was only the beginning.

In conjunction with the GABF, Denver and surrounding areas hosted a vast array of beer drinking jamborees. Falling Rock Taphouse poured rare and vintage beers, Oskar Blues hauled people northward in their unmistakable beer bus, and the Cheeky Monk offered a sobering, morning after beer breakfast.

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Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado Impressions

Rick

Not quite as rambunctious as in years past, but still a madhouse. Beer everywhere. A consistent rumbling of echoing crowd noise that began with each session and didn't subside until the last, giddy attendees disappeared into the Denver streets. An unreal gathering of the some of the best beer in the States. Timed releases of rare beer - Black Tuesday anyone? Conversations with brewers about canning and barrel-aged beer.

Big and surreal. Unequivocally the best way to sample and compare beer from around the nation.

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Carol

Noise, madness, BEER, crazy costumes, BEER, happy people, BEER, HUGE crowds, BEER, favorite breweries, BEER, unique & rare beers, brewery friends winning medals, BEER, lots of fermented farting...and oh yeah, BEER!

I've been to lots of beer festivals, but GABF takes the cake. There is a level of pure excitement walking into that convention hall for the first session, seeing all the displays, the end-caps with some of the most famous breweries in the country, and the rows and rows of taps that will soon be flowing, pouring more beer than it would be possible to taste.

This was my 5th GABF, and I still feel that way when I walk through the doors for the first time. It's fun to look around before the hall is filled with beer drinker's, to check out the breweries you know that you want to visit, and perhaps have a chance to see or chat with one of the superstars of the craft brewing world. It also makes me feel lucky to be working in the craft beer industry, in what truly must be the golden age of craft beer.

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Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
The Funkwerks crew - Jean Parker Renga, Brad Lincoln, & Laura Szumilas - winners of two golds and the Small Brewery, Brewer of the Year award.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
One of many witty, suds-related shirts on display at the GABF.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Mike Bristol yuks-it-up with happy patrons imbibing Bristol beer.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Jon Carlson of the Colorado Brewers Guild speaks to a packed crowd at Falling Rock Taphouse. The Guild held a benefit at the popular bar.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Standing room only for the Colorado Brewers Guild benefit at Falling Rock Taphouse.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Shelley and Carol unwind after a long session.
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