Great American Beer Festival Through the Brewers’ Eyes

By Andy Sparhawk

As the name would suggest, the Great American Beer Festival is a vast event encompassing not just a venue or a city, but the entire craft beer collective. With so many brewers under one roof, there is bound to be a variety of perspectives and experiences from those involved. I set out on a hunt for a few brewer’s blogs that summed up the event and what it means to the craft beer industry.

A Great American Beer Weekend

Brewery: Grand Teton Brewing Company | Victor, Idaho
Blogger: Chris Furbacher | Grand Teton Brewing Midwest Sales Director

“The first thing I noticed as I walked into the convention hall was its unearthly size—rows and rows of tables showcasing great beers from all over America. It was amazing to me that in a few hours upwards of 10,000 eager beer enthusiasts would pack the house. I had the opportunity to walk by every booth without anyone around and I made a couple of observations: great beer can come from anywhere; we have a ton of creative people in our industry with so many beer names and interesting styles; and lastly brewers went all out on the creative booths. The convention center was an amazing place.” More>>

Craft Beer pouring

Bringing Home the Gold!!!

Brewery: Boulevard Brewing Company | Kansas City, Missouri

“…this year’s GABF saw its biggest panel of judges ever, with 185 beer experts—including our very own Neil Witte and Elizabeth Belden—who judged categories in which we didn’t have an entry. They spent three days determining winners, bestowing a total of 254 medals at an awards ceremony on Saturday in downtown Denver.”

“According to Neil, sampling more than 50 beers a day can be compared to a marathon. A typical judging day starts at 9 a.m. and wraps around 5 p.m. Judges taste three flights in the morning and another three [in the] afternoon, with each flight averaging nine beers (as few as six for a medal round or as many as 13 for early round judging). Each flight is a blind tasting, consisting of two-ounce pours of beers up for consideration. Witte says because the beer is consumed over an entire day, judges don’t get intoxicated, but rather very tired. He enjoys the process because he’s able to sit down with people with very trained palates, assessing beers with some of the most experienced people in the industry. More>>

Great American Beer Festival Judging

The Great American Beer Festival 2012

Brewery: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant | DE, NJ, PA
Blogger: Kevin Finn | 

“…the GABF is more than just medals, it is our celebration of being a part of something wonderful, the craft brewing industry. This year almost 80 people went to the GABF with Iron Hill and over 60 of them were employees and the rest where customers and friends of Iron Hill. Every year I get to walk the floor with one of our employees who have never attended the festival, and they are amazed at the variety and quality of beers there as well as how well our breweries are recognized throughout the craft brewing world.”

“For me, it is also a time to see friends in the industry. One of the things that makes the craft brewing world special is the camaraderie that is present with many of the brewers and breweries.” More>>

Hopworks Medals at the Great American Beer Festival

Brewery: Hopworks Urban Brewery | Portland, Oregon
Blogger: Bruce Kehe | Marketing Director

A sleepy Saturday morning for the HUB crew in Denver became a lot more festive when Hopworks Urban Brewery was announced as the Bronze Medal winner in the Kellerbier category. The Kellerbier is an unfiltered variation of HUB Organic Lager with a fuller body and some lemony characteristics provided by the unfiltered yeast. More>>

Andy SparhawkAndy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on