Beer Vacation: The Great American Beer Festival, Denver Colorado

Beer Vacation: The Great American Beer Festival, Denver Colorado

Think you know beer?  Well if you've never heard of the Great American Beer Festival, think again.  If you have heard of it, but haven't made the trip to beer mecca yet, well then shame on you.  Use this teaser to get psyched and plan your September bro brouhaha.  Or should we say – brew-haha?  No, we shouldn't.

By Xandy Bustamante

While bachelor parties and guys weekends typically revolve around a trip to Vegas or a golf weekend at a world-class course, I suggest that next time you and your friends go outside the realm of normality and go for something a little frothier. After all to find out that “what money you had in Vegas, stayed in Vegas” or a round at Pebble Beach simply affirmed your friends' intuitions that you still shoot over 110, can get a bit redundant.

So instead of pulling a typical guys weekend, go on an outing that doesn't revolve around blind luck and snake eyes or seeing how many balls you can lose in the rough, go on a Beer Vacation, because after all you really play golf and go to Vegas to drink beer anyways.

I have provided four glorious weekends that will make you and your buddies' trips legendary around the office, and that will even make the annoying scratch golfer in accounting jealous. While these may not be the only beer vacations in the world I can tell you that they are four of the best, and you will be guaranteed to have the man date of a life time on any of these adventures.

In part one (of four) we will explore the grand daddy of all American Beer festivals…

Great American Beer Festival

Denver, Colorado. Sept. 24-26, 2009.

Commonly refereed to as the GABF, this festival is a salute to the over 1,400 breweries in the United States. While you will be able to find everything from PBR to Bud Light, the real highlight of this trip are the 2,000+ Craft Beers available at the festival. Last year over 1,200 beers were tapped making it the largest variety of Beers available at one location in the world. With 4 days of drinking and over 40,000 people in attendance the GABF is best described as a the most sophisticated frat party you have ever been to.

To give you an idea of what you are up against if you felt the need to try every beer; you would have to consume just over 30 12 ounce beers in 5 hours at all four sessions. Oh, and by the way, the beers Alcohol By Volume ranges from 3% to over 12% so you better start training now.

The Festival starts Thursday September 24th this year and runs through Saturday night. The best thing about the festival is that besides the 4 sessions of unlimited pours for around $50 a session (or $230 dollars for tickets to all four sessions, if your friends are man enough) there are literally hundreds of other smaller beer events across the Denver area being thrown in celebration of all that is beer. To simplify things I will recommend 3 stops outside the Hall of Beerdom that is the GABF that you should see to make the weekend a complete extravaganza of beer and good times.


Make sure to stop off at Falling Rock Tavern on the day of the first session, a 15 minute walk from the GABF at the Denver Convention Center. This is ground zero for GABF as all the brewers, judges, and beer geeks can be found hanging out here and pre-gaming before the festival starts. In fact Falling Rock even has a countdown clock to the GABF down to the last second.

So while arriving early will get you a good seat and a chance to rub elbows with the brewing elite, do keep in mind that you have a long night of beer ahead of you and try to keep the pandemonium to a minimum as you still have to try and drink a couple thousand beers that night.


Another great stop for you and your buddies is a quick drive to Golden, Colorado, home of the largest brewery in the world: Coors Brewing Company. This will give you a chance to learn a little bit more about how your favorite beverage is made as the tour takes you through all the stages of beer making from malting grain to the impressive bottling room where you can watch them pump out cases of Keystone Light at a rate that boggles the mind. Oh, did I mention that the tour is also completely free and includes free samples of some of the fine products made by Coors?

Photo by Deege
Photo by Deege

And try not to stare too much at the young Co-ed's that come up to work from the University of Colorado at Boulder who are serving you your drinks in the tasting room, after all you can probably see them at the festival later that night.


As Saturday will truly test you and your friend's beer drinking skills with two sessions of drinking, and what can only be described as the potential for a blurry night, what better way to spend it then a quick late night trip to the nearby Illegal Pete's for a late night burrito at a place with over 7 beers on tap. A local favorite, this is great way to cure that hangover before it even starts.

So instead of choosing a typical Guys weekend go for something out of the ordinary, after all how much better can life get than unlimited beer, good friends, and nice scenery (both of the female and natural variety).

Need more information to plan your trip? check out these sites…

Denver not exotic enough for you and your friend's bachelor party? After all you only get married once, maybe twice.

Next week…

A Trappist Road Trip: Belgium and the Netherlands.
What can be better than taking a beer road trip across Europe with your buddies?

Seattle’s Beer Blogger grew up in Santa Rosa, CA surrounded by such great breweries as Sierra Nevada and Russian River Brewing. Thanks to a father’s love (of good beer that is) he realized at an early age that beer is too precious a thing to be pumped out of factories reminiscent of Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle.’ Studying, working, and drinking in the Beer Mecca of Boulder, Colorado for 5 years affirmed his belief that craft beer is really the drink of the Gods. Xandy has now moved on to another famous beer region, the Pacific Northwest, and has started to explore what the regions festivals, micro-breweries, and brewpubs have to offer. Check out his blog at