Hours later I started writing this while down in the media room on the floor below the convention hall. Even here behind closed doors the dull roar of the crowd above can still be heard, pulsating and droning on. Plainly put, the Great American Beer Festival is simply, "Beer as Spectacle."
Merriam-Webster defines spectacle as:
"something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining; especially : an eye-catching or dramatic public display"This is what GABF is for craft beer, a dramatic public display on what craft beer is, was, and what it can be. The love of beer here both by brewers and participants is infectious. The mad scramble from one station to another, the deep conversations, and the celebration of a good thing.
This year there were 570 plus breweries and brewpubs on the floor with over 2700 beers being poured. For shear size alone this is intimidating. My original plan was quickly dashed to pieces and I just rambled through the lanes tasting known entities in my first session. Big hits of the Friday evening session were Stone, Cigar City, Russian River, Dogfish Head, and Bear Republic. The lines for them were long but moving quickly. A majority of the stations I passed had minimal or no wait though and an attendee could quickly bounce among them tasting what they liked. With a one ounce taster you could easily try a lot of things without losing your senses.
I wouldn't go so far to say fortunes are won or lost here, but medaling here will make a difference. Fortune is won by almost every brewery or brewpub who is participating. The exposure to tens of thousands craft beer fanatics is priceless for these breweries, putting unknowns on the radar, and reconfirming the stature of others. For many of the attendees here this may be the greatest beer experience they have ever had. It is very cool to be part of this.
Stay tuned for more updates!