The Hoppiest Place on Earth

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The excitement is almost palpable as I gear up for Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, trading in Miami’s heat and humidity for cool breezes and mountain views. This will be my second time experiencing the event and last year I enjoyed myself thoroughly on a number of levels. The beer, the people, industry insight, beer, food, and did I mention the beer? With the 36th annual edition right around the corner, I’m taking a quick look back at my first trip out and sharing some of what I’m looking forward to trying this time around.

Last year was a whirlwind adventure, a brewtiful blur with moments that stand out more sharply than other misty memories here and there. As a first-timer, there’s a lot to take in: 780 exhibiting breweries and over 3,000 different beers to taste, so it can definitely be overwhelming. We went in with only a loosely formed plan and some “must visit” breweries on our list, but other than that, we took the festival in stride.

After some prep under my belt and last year’s experiences, here are some tips I’m going to try and keep in mind:

-Work geographically as much as possible. There are always those “celeb” breweries that you have to hit for timed releases and make the exception to this rule, but for the most part, you should try and divide the massive floor-plan up and conquer it one region at a time. This will help you strategically drink and feel less pressure to try everything at every stop.

-Stick to the 1 oz. pours marked off on your sample glass, except for very selective “must-splurges.” Especially when coming from the lowlands of Florida, the altitude has its effects. Also, it’s important to stay hydrated, drink the water used to rinse out your glass after every sample.

-Accept that you’re not going to get to try every brewery and be OK with that. There are thousands of beers being poured, you’re going to get to try tons of great beer, regardless.

-Maintain your composure and drink responsibly. Make sure to balance food with the samples, not only in the pairing sense. Don’t be the person that ends up escorted out by security because you’ve overdone it; something I witnessed personally on day two, last year.

Other highlights from the year before included seeing our South Florida and Tampa area breweries shining, with some garnering crazy lines from people who have never had the chance to visit in person. Some Florida breweries even placed competitively at the end of the festival last year, though none from Miami proper, Coppertail Brewing and Red Cypress took home medals and made us proud to drink in the South.

Now that I know my way around a little better, I hope to begin this beerventure and keep you in the loop of the great things to come.