Two volunteers stand together for a photo holding pitchers of beer

Beyond Great Beer

There’s nothing else like it. The Great American Beer Festival, celebrating its 40th year October 6-8 next door at the Colorado Convention Center, expects 40,000 beer aficionados at the festival, the largest ticketed beer event in the country.Promo poster for the 40th Annual Great American Beer Festival

My, how you’ve grown.

Charlie Papazian, regarded as “the father of craft beer” in America and retired president of the Brewers Association, founded the festival in the garden of a hotel in Boulder in 1982. Only 20 breweries poured 47 beers for the small turnout. This year’s event will have 500 breweries showing off 1,500 beers in a hundred styles. Attendance is limited to 40,000 instead of the usual 60,000 because the convention center is undergoing expansion.

Two photos from the Great American Beer Festival of patrons enjoying beer

Photo courtesy of the Great American Beer Festival

Papazian, whose book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the bible of beer lovers, reminisced in a 2016 article in 5280 magazine, “What hasn’t changed is the spirit of adventure that the festival presents to the people who come. We move the culture of the beer festival along with the culture of beer in America. We always try to make the event fresh while still focusing on the beers.”

Two volunteers stand together for a photo holding pitchers of beer

Photo courtesy of the Great American Beer Festival

Take a breather from the hubbub of the festival because there are plenty of other sudsy opportunities in town and the state. Any visit to Denver’s other beer oases must begin with a visit to Wynkoop Brewing Co., across the street from Denver Union Station within walking distance of the convention center in what is popularly known as LoDo. The city’s first brewpub (1988) was founded by partners John Hickenlooper (one-time Denver mayor, Colorado governor and now US senator), Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler and Russell Scherer in the J.S. Brown Building, built at 1634 Wynkoop St. in 1899 that once served as a wholesale grocery outlet. It was Hickenlooper who anointed Colorado “the Napa Valley of beer.”

Hundreds of people mill about the Great American Beer Festival

Photo courtesy of the Great American Beer Festival

No resting. Denver Beer Week, sponsored Visit Denver and produced by the Brewers Association, runs from September 30 through October 8 and is a guide to 100 beery events. There are numerous guided beer tours, too, including the LoDo Craft Beer Tour Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the two-and-half-hour walking Denver Microbeer Tour, the Rino Beer and Graffiti Walking Tour, and, for the adventurous and more mobile, the Half Day Rocky Mountain Escape of mountain breweries. Plus, there are 92 breweries in Denver and more than 400 in Colorado just waiting for you.

If you want to pass off your beer “research” in a more artistic way, take in Arte de Lúpulo, a Hop Art exhibit by Christie Tirado who depicts a rarely talked about part of the brewing business through art — the migrant workers who pick the hops in Yakima Valley. Arte de Lúpulo is on display at Dry Dock North, 2801 Tower Road, through Oct. 13.

Bottoms up.

Dick Kreck was a columnist and editor at The Denver Post for 38 years and also wrote Mr. Beer, a monthly column for The Post.

The Great American Beer Festival
October 6-8 • Colorado Convention Center
5:30-10pm each day with members-only session from 12-4pm on Saturday