Review: Great American Beer Fest doesn't live up to the hype

DENVER - I was beyond thrilled when I woke up to a text from a friend offering me tickets to the Great American Beer Fest for that night. I've never even tried to get tickets because everyone knows they sell out in minutes. But after going once, I don't think I'd bother.

Our tickets were for 5:30 p.m. Saturday and even though we meant to get there early, my husband and I got there at 5:45. As we pulled into the Convention Center light rail station I could see the line was about as long as two city blocks.

We joined the line and it moved at walking speed, which was surprising because it looked like people had camped along the route. From the trash it was clear many had resorted to crafting necklaces out of yarn and pretzels for sustenance.

Once we got in, I was blown away by the number of vendors and exhibitors. The crowds weren't as thick as I expected and people were enthusiastic but relaxed. There was a woman dressed as a hops fairy and a guy in a "Duff Brewery" shirt. I even found Waldo!  But I was looking for saisons and my husband wanted to find a good chile beer.

You could get a sample at most booths without a wait -- except the ones we really wanted to try. Over and over we heard, "We just ran out of that." More and more of the signs had popular selections scratched out. And many of the samples we tasted felt like the beer had been in a pitcher too long.

We tried several unusual brews. There was Watermelon Basil Wheat by Dad's and Dude's Brewery, Choc Lobster by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Red Rover Coffee Milk Stout from Throwback Brewery.  There were a large number of pumpkin and spiced ales and coffee- or espresso-flavored brews. And, the Seven Day Sour by Trinity -- which will probably stick with me for a week. 

We did find two chile beers we liked -- Patty's Chile from the Wynkoop and Jalepeno Cream Ale by Wasatch Beers. My search for a brewery that can make a better saison than Kevin Marley at the Denver Chophouse continues.

The creative labeling and marketing was one of the most interesting parts. The 'Office Space' themed line of malt beverages from Trinity Brewing -- including TPS Report Ale, Red Swingline IPA and Damn, it Feels Good to be a Gangsta Obscur Noir -- made me laugh (but didn't make me like malt liquor.) The art for Uinta Brewing's Cutthroat Pale Ale and Draught Works' Clothing Optional Pale Ale also deserve honorable mentions. And, of course, the geek in me loved Tap It Brewing Company's Pi Pale Gold (with 3.14% alcohol by volume.) But I'd seriously consider redecorating my house with the art from Gigantic Brewing Company. I love throwback comic-book feel of every single label!

In the end, I think we each had about a pint and a half of beer total and a little bit of a contact high from the pot smokers by the Porta Potties.  We also collected a bunch of bottle openers, plastic sunglasses, Mardi Gras beads and temporary mustache tattoos. It was entertaining to go once, but if I'm going to spend $75 I'd rather buy a round of pints for a group of friends at any of the breweries in Colorado.

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