Great American Beer Festival
The cause for this downsizing was simple: where the GABF had previously been held at Denver's cavernous Currigan Hall, it was now being held at the more intimate Colorado Convention Center. The reason for the venue change was due to a bond issue passed by the city of Denver that approved the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center and the eventual destruction of Currigan Hall. While a smaller amount of square footage reduced the number of possible attendees and breweries, the festival maintained its reputation as America's premiere beer tasting and competition.
"Moving to a new facility always offers a unique set of challenges, and we didn't escape without a few glitches," says Sharon Mowry, Festival Director. "We are already working on finding new and better ways to present the festival to the public and the breweries in 2001. This year's festival was a great success, and next year's promises to be even better."
As always, the festival offered attendees the unique opportunity to sample over 1,200 (down from 1,400+ last year) different beers poured by breweries from across the nation. The Festival also featured the GABF Professional Panel Blind Tasting, America's premiere competition for the professional brewing industry. Held since 1982, the GABF is presented by the Boulder, Colorado based Association of Brewers.
The beer sampling was done during four public tasting sessions held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m., with a special Connoisseur Tasting offered on Saturday afternoon from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Reflecting the event's popularity, two of the sessions sold out; the Friday night session by 7:30 p.m. and the Saturday night session by 6:30 p.m.
During each session, attendees experienced the quality and diversity of American beer by touring the Festival floor and partaking of one-ounce samples. Participating breweries were arranged by geographic region, allowing attendees to compare and contrast the various beer-style variations offered by different parts of the country. Amid the festive atmosphere, many attendees were seen discussing the attributes of the beer they were enjoying with the brewer who crafted it. The festival offered its traditional mix of fun, taste and education, encouraging attendees to focus on the quality of the beers they were enjoying rather than the quantity.
In addition to pouring beers for festival-goers, participating breweries also competed for prestigious GABF medals in the festival's Professional Panel Blind Tasting (PPBT) competition. During three days of judging, renowned beer critics from around the world evaluated this year's 1,839 entries in 55 categories and awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze medals to the beers that best represented the GABF beer style descriptions. Not only did the award winners have to be excellent beers, they had to meet the strict taste, aroma and appearance parameters set forth by the judging committee and the style guidelines. The awards, which symbolize excellence throughout the brewing world, were presented to winners during the Connoisseur session on Saturday afternoon. A complete list of the 2000 medal winners can be viewed at the following web site: www.gabf.org.
At its inception in 1982, the GABF was generally viewed as a festival for small craft brewers in the U.S., but it has since grown to include all American breweriesÑbig and small. Witness to this inclusiveness is a GABF sponsor list that counts Coors, Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Pabst among its biggest patrons. One of the best parts about being in Denver during the GABF is the opportunity to attend some of the many beer-related events that take place daily and nightly. A growing tradition at the annual gathering of America's beer industry in the Mile High City is the Real Beer Page "Stogies & Stout" smoker and tasting. Admission is free to brewers, vendors, media, and industry professionals and their guests and clients. Also hosted by RealBeer.com was an annual vertical tasting of world-class specialty beers this year with special guest, English beer authority and author Michael Jackson, who also presented his latest book for the first time to an American audience.
Next year, set aside the first weekend in October and make plans to be in Denver for Great American Beer Festival #20. The GABF is produced by Brewing Matters, a division of the Association of Brewers. For more information call (303) 447-0126.
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