On September 29th through October 1st one of my favorite sources of information will take place for the 30th time – the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. Think of it like San Diego Comic-Con for beer drinkers, meaning there will be tons of people in one place because of a shared interest and they would have bought their tickets well, well in advance. Why? Well, because this year’s festival is already sold out, as there are a lot of people that want to enjoy samples of over 2,200 beers.
But, Jason, you are asking, why are you writing about it if it is already sold out?
Well, young padawan, because it is never too early to start thinking of next year. Also, if you really want to go, there are occasionally tickets available at this American Homebrewers Association classified ads site. (You can also find them through this scalping site: $199 for Thursday night; $175 for Friday night; or $378 for Saturday.)
So, what should you know about the festival and hanging out in Denver for next year, even if the dates aren’t announced yet? That’s what I’m here to tell you.
1. Try to catch a game at Coors Field.
This year, the last Colorado Rockies home game was September 21st. Since the festival starts September 29th, that’s not really feasible to catch a game and wait around a week for the festival. However, next year’s Rockies schedule has already been announced and as long as the festival is in September, there will be a Rockies home game within two days of a Thursday or Saturday festival date. I recommend getting to the game early to watch batting practice. I still remember the awe of watching a baseball dent an outfield scoreboard after traveling over 450 feet.
2. Head up to Aspen Colorado.
Someone really needs to find and return Mary Samsonite’s briefcase and it might as well be you. Plus, it’s fall, the aspens turn bright yellow and you can hike around the Maroon Bells. After working up an appetite, head into town for some wonderful cheap eats at The Big Wrap and then sit back in the shadow of Aspen Mountain and dream of coming back in a few months to lots and lots of powder.
3. If you want to save money, volunteer.
Of course, after your plane ticket, gas money for the drive to Aspen through the Glenwood Canyon, maybe a rafting trip, and tickets to a Rockies game, your wallet will have taken a big hit. To prepare for that, consider volunteering at the festival. Each evening session costs $60 for a total of $180 (or all-session packs for new members start at $240.) If you volunteer, you can get up to eight comp tickets to the festival if you work set-up and teardown shifts. I recommend these shifts since that way you are free to enjoy the festival without working – just make sure you’re ready to lift a lot. Because there is a high demand to serve as a volunteer, I’d recommend putting in your application now.
4. Join the American Homebrewers Association.
Of course, you may not get selected to be a volunteer. You may not purchase tickets before they sell out. So, maybe you should make sure you get to go for at least one afternoon and join the American Homebrewers Association. For the $38 in dues ($44 for people outside the U.S.), benefits include admission to the members only Saturday afternoon session of the festival, a subscription to “Zymurgy,” a homebrewing magazine, and pub discounts. (In California, the list of pubs that have a discount includes Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Lagunitas Brewing Co., Rock Bottom Brewing Co., and Stone Brewing Co.) With all the information and beer expertise you’ll receive, maybe you’ll start to brew your own beer, win the National Homebrew Competition, open your own restaurant and make a beer that you enter in the Great American Beer Festival. Then, you’ll have to tell all of your friends to come see you. Hopefully you’ll guide them back here to get advice on traveling to the festival. But, that’s a ways off. For now, let’s just say, see you next year.
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