There isn’t as much buzz this year around the Great American Beer Festival, which takes place at the Colorado Convention Center on Sept. 21-23, as usual. The annual event — considered to be the largest commercial beer fest in the United States — has had trouble generating momentum since taking two years off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while there are usually dozens, even hundreds, of events at metro Denver breweries, bars and restaurants during the week of the fest, 2023 isn’t seeing nearly as many. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of rare, special or fun beers to drink. Here are 10 of the best tappings or events, along with some other suggestions if you can’t make it to those.
Cerebral Brewing/Bottle Logic Live Blending Session
Wednesday, Sept. 20. From hazy IPAs to wild ales and from lagers to barrel-aged stouts, Cerebral Brewing is one of Denver’s most serious and most formidable multi-style craft breweries. Today, Cerebral will team up with its longtime friends at California’s famed Bottle Logic Brewing on a public blending session that will allow guests “the opportunity to see the creative process of crafting a barrel-aged stout.” Taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cerebral’s new Aurora Arts taproom, the event offers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on during blending. You can taste alongside the brewers, ask questions, and learn about their approach. Tickets are $50 and also include two 8-ounce pours of barrel-aged beers. Can’t make it? Cerebral has several other events this week, including a lager party called Anti GABF GABF Club, featuring lagers from Cohesion Beer Co. in Denver, as well as other breweries across the country, like Cloudburst, Halfway Crooks, Pinthouse, Russian River and King State.
Cerebral, 9990 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; cerebralbrewing.com
Hops & Pie GABF Kickoff
Wednesday, Sept. 20. As always, Hops & Pie is a must-hit destination during GABF week, hosting multiple events and tap takeovers. There will be more beer (an additional 20 taps were temporarily added) and more space this year, though, as the north Denver spot now has a 3,000-square-foot patio. Today’s kickoff, starting at 11 a.m., features a lengthy beer list, the likes of which isn’t often seen around here. It includes beers from Hill Farmstead, Radiant Beer Co., Parish Brewing, The Alchemist, Bearded Iris and many more. Can’t make it? Hops & Pie also hosts a Weldwerks and Casey Brewing tap takeover on Thursday and a selection of Colorado’s best West Coast-style IPA makers on Saturday.
Hops & Pie, 3920 Tennyson St., Denver; hopsandpie.com
Cannonball Creek Brewing Strat Party
Thursday, Sept. 21. Golden’s Cannonball Creek always has a little extra somethin’ going on during GABF week, in part because the 10-year-old brewery wins medals by the handful and in part because other brewers love to hang out there. This year, Cannonball will tap two new beers, both made with Strata hops: Strat Boy West Coast Pilsner and Project Alpha IPA (with Strata). In addition, Strata beers will be available from Burgeon Beer, Craft Coast Beer & Tacos, Rip Beer, Heritage Barbecue and Beer Co., Amalgam Brewing, Comrade Brewing, Joyride Brewing and Westbound & Down Brewing. There will also be live music and food from 6 to 10 p.m. Can’t make it? Cannonball, Comrade, Westbound and Joyride are teaming up at other locations around town, with events at Hops & Pie, Westbound’s Denver location downtown and elsewhere.
Cannonball Creek, 393 N. Washington Ave., Golden; cannonballcreekbrewing.com
Lager Party at First Draft Taproom & Kitchen
Thursday, Sept. 21. Look to the lighter side of life with First Draft’s annual Lager Party featuring beers distributed in Colorado by Crooked Stave Artisans. Some of the beers on tap include Maine Beer Co. Percy Pilsner; Lawson’s Finest Liquids Scrag Mountain Pils; Bearded Iris Pep Talk Pils; Live Oak Brewing Oaktoberfest; pFriem West Coast Pilsner; and many more. Can’t make it? California’s Beachwood Brewing will have reps in the house at Walter’s 303 in Uptown, pouring beers like 28 Haze Later, Safari Hat, Mega Melrose and Amalgamator.
First Draft, 1309 26th St., Denver; firstdraftdenver.com
Left Hand Brewing 30th Anniversary
Thursday, Sept. 21. Left Hand Brewing toasts three decades of beer making with a beer release at its River North Art District location. At 4 p.m., the brewery will release bottles of its 30th anniversary beer, a 14.7% ABV barrel-aged stout. But the brewery will also have five of its original and mostly discontinued beers from the old days on draft. There will also be specialty flights so you can taste all of the brews that make up 30 years of Left Hand. Can’t make it? Left Hand will also have most of these beers on at its other taproom in Longmont during the week.
Left Hand Brewing, 4180 Wynkoop St., Denver; lefthandbrewing.com
Iron Maidens at TRVE Brewing
Friday, Sept. 22. TRVE Brewing brings back its own slate of GABF events this year, including the annual Iron Maidens tapping, which celebrates woman-owned and female-led breweries across the country. This year’s lineup includes Trillium Brewing, Monkish Brewing, King Canary Brewing, Atrevida Beer Co. and Keeping Together Beer. “Join us outside in the Dumpster Garden, behind the TRVE Brewing taproom where draft beer, food, and the spirit of the Iron Maidens can be found,” the brewery said. Can’t make it? TRVE will also feature some stellar out-of-state breweries pouring lagers at its Bottom Feeders party on Saturday.
TRVE Brewing, 227 Broadway #101, Denver; trvebrewing.com
New Terrain Brewing/Vail Brewing GABF Tapshare
Friday, Sept. 22. In almost any other state, both New Terrain Brewing and Vail Brewing would be at the top of every beer tourist’s must-visit list. But in Colorado, where there are dozens and dozens of world-class breweries, they are often overlooked. You can try both when New Terrain hosts its friends at Vail Brewing for a tapshare. There will also be live music tonight from Sqwerv. Can’t make it? Finn’s Manor on Larimer Street typically has a wide variety of special and rare beers from around the country and even the world on tap during GABF week. This year will be no exception. Check the bar’s Facebook page for details.
New Terrain Brewing, 16401 Table Mountain Pkwy., Golden; newterrainbrewing.com
River North Brewery Watch Party and Bottle Release
Saturday, Sept. 23. River North Brewery is opening its Blake Street taproom early so it can livestream the Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony starting at 10 a.m. In addition, Moya’s Tacos will have breakfast tacos, and River North will be taping its brand new Ex-Honey Double Barrel Aged Hello Darkness Imperial Porter and its Double Barrel Aged Dark Sorceress Imperial Porter. Bottles will be available later in the day. Can’t make it? Check out the Congress Park taproom in central Denver, which has been tapping beer goodies all week, or Ephemeral Rotating Taproom, which is featuring Russian River beers.
River North Brewery, 3400 Blake St., Denver; rivernorthbrewery.com
Great Mexican Beer Fiesta
Saturday, Sept. 23. The Great Mexican Beer Fiesta, hosted annually by Cerveceria Colorado and Denver Beer Co., returns this year from noon to 8 p.m. to celebrate collaboration in craft beer with Mexican craft breweries. This year’s street fiesta will include live entertainment by Hugo’s Lucha Libre, DJ Miggy, SIEMBRA and ArtistiCO Dance Co. There will also be food trucks and a vendor market. Some of the collaborative beers on tap include Mariachi Mash Witbier made with Compañía Cervecera Hércules; and Fumarolas Smoked Lager with agave syrup, made with Cervecería Escollo; and Tamarind Mango Gose, made with Cervecería Itañeñe. Can’t make it? Hit up Jake’s Brew Bar in Littleton, which is hosting a GABF tap takeover with rare beers.
1635 Platte St., Denver; cerveceriacolorado.com
Ratio Beerworks GABF Karaoke Party
Saturday, Sept. 23. End the week in sloppy style with Ratio Beerworks’ 7th annual karaoke throwdown, a tradition that often attracts out-of-tune brewers from around the county. The party starts at 8 p.m. and runs late; anyone who sings gets one free beer (first come, first serve for signups). The Wort Wrangler, who is emceeing the evening is encouraging ’90s songs. “If you’ve been to this party before, you know it’s one the most epic ways to end your week in Colorado,” the brewery said. Can’t make it? Go home and drink some water.
Ratio Beerworks, 2920 Larimer St., Denver; ratiobeerworks.com
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