What's New and What to Do at the Great American Beer Festival 2016
Are you one of the lucky 60,000 people who scored a ticket to the Great American Beer Festival? Congratulations! This is the 35th anniversary of the festival, which runs from October 6-8. There will be over 800 breweries and 3,800 beers, the biggest festival yet. There’s a lot going on at the festival so you need to spend your time wisely. To help out, here is a list of what’s new at the festival along with old favorites that keep coming back.
The Golden Ticket – During each evening session, two rock-star brewers will pluck a lucky attendee and their friends from the queue in Hall A for a special, private tasting tour of GABF. This will happen 30 minutes before the doors open to the public. Each brewer gets use his or her own criteria. That could be folks who come in costume or people wearing their favorite brewery apparel or someone talking excitedly about attending the festival. It could be you. The chosen ones will receive an opportunity to talk and taste with the best in the craft brewing business before the festival session opens. Confirmed brewers include Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker, Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing.
The Backyard – After the line has moved inside from Hall A, the area will become the official backyard of the festival. Guests will find free lawn games like cornhole and KanJam and enjoy retro music from the 1980s, back when the festival was founded.
Meet the Brewer – Something the festival began last year is coming back in 2016. Roughly 30,000 square feet of hall space will be devoted to a section called Meet the Brewer. In this section brewery booths will be staffed entirely, exclusively, by the brewery’s employees so visitors can ask questions and learn about the beer by the people who make and serve it. This year 120 breweries will participate. Guests can find the section in Hall B.
Hangout Spots – Once again the festival will feature several spots where guests can take a break. The Brewpub Pavilion will feature 24 pubs representing all regions of the country serving both food and beer, making it a great place to refuel. Sponsored by TommyKnocker Brewery the Designated Driver Lounge offers the special people who get us home safe with a place to relax with a free chair massage and a chance to taste craft brewed sodas and root beers. Want to take a break from the beer, but also want to keep the party going? Hit the dance floor at the Silent Disco sponsored by Oskar Blues. Put on some headphones to hear what the DJ is putting down and shake your groove thang. The funny part is no one else in the hall can hear the music you are jamming to.
Beer & Food Pavilion – Sponsored by Red Robin, this sectioned off area serves to educate guests with seminars and demos by expert chefs and brewers on the art of beer and food pairings. Demos are first-come, first-served and fill up quickly. Check the website for the pavilion schedule so you don’t miss your favorite.
The Beer Geek Bookstore – This beer library has everything you ever wanted to know about beer from brewing, travel, cooking and much more. Authors will also be on hand for book signings. Check the website for the book signing schedule.
BeerX – For those who want to really geek out, BeerX: The CraftBeer.com Experience is the how guests can experience what it’s like to be a craft brewer. Meet the people behind the beers at the country’s leading breweries and meet some of the festival official judges and learn how they select the award-winning beers. New this year at Beer X is a mini-museum that takes a look back at 35 years of GABF. Check the website for the event schedule.
Brewers Studio Pavilion – At the Brewers Studio, attendees will get up close and personal with the interesting personalities and creative minds inside the brewing industry. Listen to their stories and learn about their beers. Schedule coming soon.
Support Your Local Brewery – At the Guilds Pavilion, brewer’s associations from 20 states will introduce visitors on the craft beer scene in their community. These booths will also have special beers from the home state that will not be available anywhere else in the convention center. Check the website for participating states.
Sustainability Pavilion – The brewing industry is in the fore-front of the sustainability movement and can educate you on what these places do to preserve the planet’s resources. Learn about water conservation, clean energy, recycling, car sharing and other ways business and citizens can be more aware of our energy choices.
American Cheese Society – What goes best with beer? Cheese! Once again the American Cheese Society will bring the best cheeses from around the country for you to try with your beer.
Paired – This event which also began last year is held in an intimate setting just off of the beer mail in the convention hall. Guests will be able to sample crafted dishes and beers from 21 chefs matched with 21 brewers for a total of 42 unique pairings. The beers featured at Paired will be special releases; beers only found at the Paired event and not served in the festival hall. The menu is available for viewing on the GABF website and a separate ticket is required to enter this event.
Don’t want to miss a thing? Download the My GABF app for a complete schedule of all the events and a festival map to help you find and rate beers. The four sessions of the Great American Beer Festival are Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7, from 5:30-10 PM, and Saturday, October 8, from 12-4 PM and 5:30-10 PM.
Photo © Brewers Association