A few weeks ago, the category winners of the US half of the 2018 BrewDog Beer Geek Awards enjoyed one of their prizes – a trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.

Part of the lucky group was Bill Vanderburgh, writer and taproom veteran who won the US Beer Blogging Geek Award (and also the overall prize of America’s Biggest Beer Geek) for his epic travels on as he visits, records and evaluates every taproom and brewery in San Diego.

In something of a busman’s holiday (a phrase they may not have over there) we asked Bill to pen us a guest post on his trip to Denver. So he did! And as a bonus the imagery here is from Danielle Cockerell who won the US Beer Photographer Geek Award. Take it away, Bill!

If the huge pens had been full of cows, you would have said, "Woah, that's a lot of cows." Instead, the pens were crowded full of people – twice as many people as there would have been cows, in fact, since we have half as many legs (well, most of us).

That is your view as you enter the Great American Beer Festival: people, so many people, gathered into pens, excitedly awaiting the start of the event. By a lucky accident of timing were let in to a new pen just as it was opened, which meant we got to stand at the front. Our view was better, so we could scope out the floor of the convention hall as we waited and the alphabetically-arranged tables where 800 breweries were pouring.

Definitely don't pre-game GABF--there are 4,000 beers to try in four-and-a-half hours! Clearly, it isn't possible to try everything. Some people make a list of "must try" beers and map out a route. We decided to make a point of hitting a few specific places when we happened to see them, but otherwise we just wandered and let fate take us to the beer.

I liked that approach for two reasons. First, the "must try" places you might put on your list tend to have long lines, and standing in line is not how I enjoy spending my time. (Although, admittedly, lines do help you pace yourself.) Second, there is so much good beer being poured that you can find some pleasant surprises from small breweries you have never heard of.

I made a rule to try everything I could, and to not finish anything I didn't love. There are dump buckets and pitchers of water for rinsing your glass at every pour station.

After we had sampled 30 (or was it 60?) beers, we were pretty done with the whole scene. I started the night taking photos of the sign for each beer I tasted, but that didn't last long. I had decided before the event not to log my samples in Untappd or in the GABF app since I wanted to experience the event instead of spending the whole time with my nose in my phone.

We left a little bit before the end of the session and headed to a nearby bar, Stout Street Social. The food was decent and we got to try a local saison made by a brewer I follow on Instagram. Denver has a thriving craft beer scene, with many awesome beer bars and breweries. My favourite part of the whole event was running into people I know from the online beer community or chatting with other festival goers.

It is just good fun to spend time with other people who love craft beer.


Thanks to Bill for taking the time to transcribe his GABF visit and Danielle for taking the images – congratulations to all of our winners and thanks to everyone who entered the 2018 BrewDog Beer Geek Awards in Europe, the United States and beyond. The Beer Geek Awards will return in 2019. Stay tuned!

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