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GABF Day 1: What does a room with 3,900 beers in it actually look like?

What up! I’m Doug and I’m a contributing writer at Draught Lines Magazine. This year me and Ed Friedland headed out to the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. Every morning this weekend I’ll give a brief rundown of what’s going down in Denver, cheers!

GABF Day 1:

Our 8:25 AM flight out of Philly was a just a biiiiit too early to order a beer when they come around with the drink cart, plus I knew we had a long day ahead of us. This is my first GABF so I was pretty pumped when Ed and I landed in Denver. We hopped in an Uber, checked into our hotel and then headed out to some of Ed’s favorite Denver bars.

If you don’t know, Ed Friedland is a local legend in Philly’s craft beer scene and has been coming to the GABF since the 1980’s, so yeah he knows a thing or two about Denver bars and how to make the most of a beer festival with over 3,900 beers.

First stop was Freshcraft in LoDo. What I’m sure is a busy beer bar year-round was straight up packed for lunch. Brewers and beer geeks abound. We spotted Vinnie and Natalie of Russian River in the back, had a beer with the Neshaminy Creek crew at the bar, and wolfed down some food so we could hit the next spot.

From there we headed out past Union Station and Coors Field and made our way to Great Divide’s Denver Taproom. Philly was representing when we got there and had beers with the entire 2SP crew as well as Rich from Varga Bar, who said he’s been coming to GABF off and on for more than ten years.

We bounced back over to the hotel and got ready for that night’s evening session. I made my way over to the convention center, got my glass and walked in — and I know this sounds so stupid to say, but there is, like, an insane amount of beer at this thing. I was expecting it to be huge of course, but wrapping your head around a number like 3,900 beers isn’t the easiest thing to do. Honestly it’s completely overwhelming. For every brewery I recognized, there were ten or twenty I had never heard. And some of their beer was super good! Some of it less so…

You can probably guess the booths that were totally packed. Dogfish, Russian River, Oskar Blues. I spotted the Firestone Walker line, that stretched for what seemed like a hundred people long. I glanced over to see what they were pouring an immediately understood why: David Walker himself was pouring at the booth. So we jumped in line because how often are you gonna get Walker’s Reserve served to you by David Walker? After bumping into Tomme Arthur at The Lost Abbey booth (and trying the Cuvee de Tomme) I made it my new mission for the beer fest to track down Dale Katechis and crack a Dale’s Pale Ale to complete the brewery-founder-namesake-beer-trifecta. I’ll keep you updated.

We bounced around for the rest of the night trying over 70 different beers. Tough to remember them all of course but here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of my favorite beers from the first session:

Avance – Allagash Brewing
Walker’s Reserve Porter – Firestone Walker
Know Good IPA – Sierra Nevada
Kosmic Mother Funk – Sam Adams
Fancy Pats – Jessup Farm Barrel House
On the Shoulders of Giants – The Rare Barrel
One Million Tomorrows – Modern Times
Fuego – Tonewood Brewing

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for live updates on Day 2, and check back here tomorrow for a full rundown on the second session. Cheers!

Beers Checked In On Untappd: 77

Overheard at GABF: “This guy in the cheese line forgot to grab a plate, so he’s putting the cheese in his hat.” (I have a picture of this.)

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Draught Lines is a seasonal magazine dedicated to the craft beer experience.