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10 Things We Learned at the Great American Beer Festival

Austin Beerworks Booth

Erika BoldenAustin Beerworks Booth

From facial hair to unicorns, from disco to politics, an initial visit to the Great American Beer Festival turns out to have been an educational one. There was some of the best beer we'd had, probably ever -- the beer that emerged from the nooks and crannies of the nation -- but that was to be expected. It was the other surprising secrets of the GABF that made the experience such a memorable one. Turn the page for 10 things we learned at the GABF.

Facial Hair Consultation Booth

Erika BoldenFacial Hair Consultation Booth

10. GABF was a great place to get pampered:

Not only did they offer free massage chairs, but there was a booth on the exterior of the event space devoted entirely to facial hair grooming and complimentary consultation -- complete with two barber chairs with kindly attendants. In line was an assortment of whiskers that could have doubled as a casting call for Fiddler on the Roof -- the proprietors had an astute understanding of their target demographic.

9. The Founding Father of beer geekery is very much a greying geek:

Charlie Papazian, hero of homebrewing and the reason why you're drinking good beer in America, actually sounds like a college student in adult clothing. Excited, a little nervous, and with a high-pitched voice that does not reflect the gravitas of his influence on the beer world, he speaks of being captivated by beer as though he just drank his first one. It's enough to inspire even the most cynical functioning alcoholic.

8. Gas clouds: an unfortunate reality:

There was a noticeable pattern when groups of people quickly fled pinpointed locations for reasons of olfactory infractions. This was due to a population that gravitated heavily toward diets of meat and carbohydrates -- or alternatively, the still fiber-rich, flatulence-inducing vegan lifestyle. Beware.

Silent Disco at GABF

Erika BoldenSilent Disco at GABF

7. There's this thing called the Silent Disco:

The Silent Disco is surprisingly self-explanatory. Corral a bunch of twentysomethings who haven't updated their tapered cargo pants since the mid-90s, and try not to laugh as they shake their booties in the absence of music. Except that the music isn't absent to them -- they're all wearing headphones synchronized by a deejay. On second thought, go ahead and laugh.

6. Where there's a beer, there's a bro:

In spite of the high ticket price and exponential nerd factor -- not to mention travel costs for all those not residing in Denver -- you were still likely to overhear some version of: "Hey man, we're gonna get so trashed tonight." Followed by resounding high-fives.

5. Farm to Table Pavilion was where the grown-ups went:

To ticketholders for the Pavilion, the rest of the festival hall was just the kids' table. Here we found a dozen or so booths featuring samples of local chefs' elegant preparations paired with local beers. There was ample seating, acceptable music -- and a welcome absence of the shoulder-to-shoulder frenzy that characterized the Russian River booth.

Austin Beerwork's Headbutt

Erika BoldenAustin Beerwork's Headbutt

4. It's all in the name:

There's more creativity to a beer than the recipe or execution itself. Names such as the following are imaginative enough to make you chortle long after you've finished drinking them: Flying Headbutt (Austin Beerworks), Skid Mark (Pizza Port Ocean Beach), TPS Report (Trinity Brewing Co.), Your Favorite Foreign Movie (DC Brau Brewing Co.), German Sparkle Party (10 Barrel Brewing Co.), and Heini's Hooch (The Church Brew Works).

3. Oddities abound:

Brewers milking unicorns, imposing coats of armor and accepting an award dressed as a character from Planet of the Apes were par for the course. The only reasonable conclusion was that attendees of GABF overlap with those who frequent Comic-Con. Did we mention the fleet of bagpipers who paraded in a continuous circuit of the festival floor?

2. The Governor of Colorado ... 2016?

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has had a huge influence on making his state such a great one for beer. A champion of small businesses, this brewer and first-generation beer geek is also a politician. Go figure. He charms an audience not with silver fox talking points nor an obtuse agenda, but with sincerity, integrity and an undeniable dork factor that we would maybe love to see in the 2016 Presidential election.

Bathroom Line at GABF

Erika BoldenBathroom Line at GABF

1. Beer festivals are great places to be a woman:

There are few well-attended festivals in the world where the line for the women's bathroom is non-existent and the men queue up by the dozens. To any single ladies hoping to update their relationship status -- if you haven't already expanded your palate to include beer, do so now. Tell your friends you're in it to meet new people, sure, but secretly do it for the beer.

More fun at the GABF:

Golden Road Unveils Burning Bush + Debuts at the GABF

GABF Fresh From the Floor: L.A. Brewers and Friends + a Beer Slideshow


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