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Beer Lover's Guide To The Great American Beer Festival

Hosted in Denver, Colorado, the Great American Beer Festival offers both public tasting opportunities and a private judging event. Expanding to include nearly 750 different breweries, this festival is just getting bigger, better and beerier. Festival attendees will have plenty of opportunity to sample new brews, learn from the experts and experience unique beer pairing presentations. This year's festival will be held Sept. 24-26 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Learning The History

Do not hesitate to purchase your tickets; in 2014 the festival sold out in 32 minutes during the public ticket sale. That is a huge difference from 2007, when it took the festival up to the week of the event to sell out. Why does this event have such a huge demand? Here are some tidbits about the festival's history that might offer some insight.

Back in 1982, the festival was held at the Harvest Hotel in Boulder and hosted 22 breweries, offering the 800 attendees 40 different beer choices. The festival was moved to Denver in 1984, where the popularity of the event continued to grow. By the time the 10th festival was held, more than 150 breweries were participating, serving 500 different beers to approximately 7,000 attendees. It has only grown from there.

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Exploring The Festival

The most common way to navigate through the festival is to do it by region. The festival is divided into eight U.S. regions, making it possible to taste all of the beers from a particular region or state in the same area of the festival. Regions of the Hall include Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Rocky Mountain, New England, Pacific, Pacific Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. Those who don't want to look like a rookie should take some time to look at the festival's layout and map out the areas they want to explore.

Another popular way to navigate through the festival is to go by tasting style. For example, those who are fans of dark ales should make a list of breweries serving up this type of brew. Then, when at the festival, they can go from one dark ale station to another comparing and contrasting their samples.

Those looking to avoid the crowds should start at the far end away from the entrance and work their way back toward the entrance. This is because most people will go to the first available brewery and work their way toward the far end. Doing this will give you smaller lines to start with and fewer crowds to battle in the beginning of the event.

The Great American Beer Festival App is also a great way to help navigate the festival. This app is available for Apple and Android devices and serves as a lifesaver when needing help exploring the festival. This app allows attendees to search through the brewery list, make a list of their favorites, check off breweries as they visit them and take notes on their beer-tasting experiences.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Making The Most It

While sampling the different beers, festival attendees are given one ounce samples to try. Because of the popularity of this event, it is recommended that those wanting to have samples of their favorite beers go to those booths first, before the popular beers run out. Create a list using the map, or mark your favorites on your app to ensure you can experience the beers you want.

When walking around, look for breweries with the longest line. Though it may take time to wait for your sample, there is a reason why so many are lining up to give that brewery a try. Also, select beers that are not in your region or those that you might not have access to back home.

With more than 2,000 different beers from the more than 750 top breweries participating in the Great American Beer Festival, it might be possible to sample nearly every style of beer offered at the event. Though making your way across the country sampling various beers from coast to coast is one way to experience the festival, participating in some of the special sessions offers insight to beer making and other tasting experiences.

Special session available at the Beer & Food Pavilion include cookout tips, beer and chocolate paring, beer and food paring tips and tips on how to make beer part of your food. These special sessions are perfect for those looking to take their beer experiences to the next level.

Attending The Connoisseur Session

The Saturday Afternoon Connoisseur Session has been made a members-only session. This is just one of the many perks members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association receive during the Great American Beer Festival. Only those who are members will be invited to purchase tickets for this exclusive session.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Being A Designated Driver

Designated driver tickets are available for all sessions of the Great American Beer Festival. These tickets are offered at a reduced rate of $25 each. Designated drivers are able to attend all beer and food seminars, or they can relax in the Designated Driver Lounge. Free, non-alcoholic sodas are available for all designated drivers. Just keep in mind when selecting a designated driver that all attendees must be 21 years of age or older with a valid photo Id to enter the festival.

Related: Top Breweries Across The Nation

Getting To The Festival

There are many different transportation options available for those attending the Great American Beer Festival. Everything from driving to public transportation to walking are convenient ways to make it to and from the festival. Those wanting to come in by train can take the RTD, which offers a light rail train that stops right in front of the Colorado Convention Center.

Taking public transportation makes it possible to avoid the heavy traffic that is expected from the estimated 60,000 people who will be making their way to the center during the festival. Taxis are also available to area hotels throughout the Denver area. Those staying in a nearby hotel can also walk to the festival, however, walking back to the hotel after a long day of beer drinking might not be the best option.

This year's Great American Beer Festival is sold out, but those wanting to get ahead of the game should mark their calendars for the 2016 festival, which will be held on Oct. 6-8. Mark your calendars now so you don't miss out!

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at

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