GABF 2022: A guide to the best breweries and beers at the festival
The Great American Beer Festival returns Thursday, after a two-year hiatus, with much to prove in its 40th year.
State of the festival: Like any 40-year-old, it's time to re-evaluate priorities and choices. Organizers and fans are hoping to regain the lost mojo, but also wondering what's next.
- This year's festival is smaller, with 20,000 fewer tickets and 300 fewer breweries — yet it's still not sold out due to declining interest.
- Many of the nation's most sought-after breweries are not pouring at the event, opting instead for individual side programming that's cheaper to host.
Other GABF-week festivities, including the much-hyped Denver Rare Beer Tasting, are also seeing less interest.
- The pandemic broke the annual "habit," says Rick Lyke, Denver Rare Beer's organizer, adding that a tight economy makes it more expensive to get to Denver, let alone drink craft beer.
If you go: Our resident beer expert put together this mobile-ready guide to the best beers at GABF.
Here's a look at some of my favorite breweries and beers pouring at GABF — and those that get top ratings on the Untappd app.
- (Location is reference to booth and place number. Here's the map.)
The must-visit breweries: The first stop is always all-star Russian River (Booth 14, No. 21).
- Other first sips: Modern Times (11-11), Great Notion (8-8), Pure Project (14-6), WeldWerks (12-1), Fremont (7-16), MORE (11-17) and Three Floyds (17-17).
The best lagers and light beers: If you want to start light, or cleanse your palate, these folks make the best crispy sips:
- Live Oak's Oaktoberfest and Pilz (10-15)
- Austin Brewing Beer Garden's Rocket 100 (Heavy Medal Taproom)
- Port City Brewing's Optimal Wit (13-21)
- Beachwood Brewing's Pairs Well with Pizza (2-17)
- Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils (6-1)
- Russian River STS Pils (14-21)
- Cerveceria's ¡Venga! (4-21)
- Crooked Stave New Zealand Pilsner (5-22)
- Brieux Carre is bringing Crispy Boyz II Men and Marza, Marza, Marza! (4-3)
- Highland Park Brewry's Fill Pils (Heavy Medal Taproom)
The best IPAs: From clear but juicy to hazy and fruity, these places bring the hops:
- Pure Project's lineup (14-6)
- Night Shift Brewing's Fluffy and Whirlpool (12-7)
- Russian River's Mosaic Stack (14-21)
- Cannonball Creek's Trump Hands and Featherweight Pale (4-16)
- Abnormal Beer Co's TDH Player 2 Press Start (1-11)
- Maplewood Brewing's Double Charlatan and Moon Fruit (10-23)
- Belching Beaver's lineup (2-21)
- Dogfish Head's BBA 120-Minute IPA (5-1)
- Pizza Port's lineup (13-16)
- Societe's lineup (16-5)
- Wren House's Good Boy Wally and Spellbinder IPAs (19-12)
- Our Mutual Friend's lineup (13-3)
- Great Notion's Over Ripe (8-8)
- Destihl's Deadhead IPA (Heavy Medal Taproom)
- Peculiar Ales' DDH Hopportunity Knocks (13-8)
- Wayfinder Beer's cold IPAs (18-14)
The best saison and sour beers: These days, they come in all colors and flavors, from subtle saisons to fruit bombs. These breweries offer a nice mix:
- Allagash's Coolship Resurgam (1-15)
- Modern Times' New Atlantis White Sangria (11-11)
- Lost Abbey's Duck Duck Gooze 2022 (13-20)
- Blackberry Farm's Classic Saison (WWWH Taproom)
- Southern Grist Brewing's 100K Hill (WWWH Taproom)
- Great Notion's Blueberry Muffin Fruit in the Can (8-8)
The best dark beers: From decadent stouts to the right barleywine, drink these responsibly:
- Bottle Logic's Fundamental Observation (3-18)
- Fremont's Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star Coconut Cacao (7-16)
- MORE's Henna series stouts (11-17)
- WeldWerks Medianoche series (12-1)
- Firestone Walker's Parabola (6-1)
- Modern Times' Monsters' Park: Espresso Macaron (11-11)
- Beachwood Brewing's Mocha Machine (2-17)
- Old Hickory's Omega Point (WWWH Taproom)
- Sam Adams Utopias (16-1)
- Dogfish Head Wake Up World Wide Stout (5-1)
- Avery Brewing's 2018 edition of Rumpkin (2-9)
- DryDock's Hazelnut Bligh's Barleywine (7-13)
- Great Divide's Gingerbread Yeti Imperial Stout (7-1)
The latest trends: A number of breweries are focusing on non-alcoholic beers this year. Here's where you can give your liver a rest:
- Partake Brewing makes non-alcohol brews that range from gose to IPA. They're sponsoring the designated driver zone.
- Athletic Brewing's booth (2-7) will feature five non-alcohol beers and Denver's Gruvi is pouring five more. (8-11)
- Alesmith is bringing its N/A IPA to the "Wish We Were Here" taproom.
Off-the-beaten path: From under-the-radar-breweries to funky beer makers, these will keep you drinking:
- Alewife Brewing out of New York is one of the top newcomers on the scene. Go for the sour DIPA or Set and Setting DIPA. (1-13)
- North Carolina's Bhramari Brewing is bringing its imperial stout We're Already Dead. (3-2)
- Michigan's Short's Brewing (15-13) makes some funky beers and Une Annee (18-8) goes big with its stouts and IPAs.
- La Cumbre flies below the radar, but the entire lineup of beers is great. (9-11)
Pro tip: Drink water, lots of it. And dump what you don't like.
- And don't miss … a guide to GABF week events.
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