The Great American Beer Festival in Denver is no doubt a destination event. Tickets to the fest, which is billed each year as "largest collection of U.S. beer ever served," sell out in a matter of minutes, as beer drinkers from around the world hope to get a sample of more than 3,500 beers from hundreds of breweries nationwide.
Texas usually has a sizable showing of breweries — there were 48 this year — but it also boasts plenty of locals looking to get a taste. Here are some of the fun-loving festivalgoers we met who made the journey behind state lines for beer.
Brian Dwornik and Daniella Wassel
These Dallasites snagged tickets through Wassel's affiliation with the American Homebrewers Association and came with a plan. On the plane ride to Denver, they narrowed down their list of targeted breweries to make tasting beers "more manageable," in Wassell's words.
Years attended: 2
What stuck out this year? "I've noticed there's a lot of pumpkin, obviously because we're still in the fall, but more pumpkin than last year," said Wassel. "Also there's a lot of peanut butter chocolate. A lot of peanut butter chocolate this year, which everyone is doing a really good job at so I'm not complaining."
Top picks: "There are a lot of great goses," said Dwornick. "At Destihl [brewery], I had a great blueberry one."
"I like pumpkin so I really like the Good Gourd from Cigar City," added Wassel.
Houston-native and Austin resident Bill Brink began coming to Great American Beer Festival in 2000 to help his friend Chris Black, owner of Falling Rock Tap House, manage crowds at the bar.
Years attended: 16
Pro tips: "Do epic amounts of research in advance," Brink said. "People have no real appreciation for how vast it is ... it would take you a week to drink everything that's in there."
Why he keeps coming back: "Honestly, at this point, it's more about the people than the beer," Brink said. "Hugging people that you haven't seen in two or three years — nothing like it."
Mindy Kallmeyer, Tammy Volk, Kent Kallmeyer, and Becky Volk
The Kallmeyers, who live in Fort Worth, attended for the first time in 2014 and brought along sisters Tammy and Becky Volk. (Tammy is from St. Louis, but she's an honorary Texan by way of her sister, who lives in Fort Worth.) They came to rooting for their home brewery, Rahr and Sons Brewing Co., and to seek out beers that aren't available in North Texas.
Describe the fest in three adjectives: "Massive, unique and tasty," said Mindy.
Best pro tips: "We brought walkie-talkies because our cell reception/data, you could not use it. It zapped our battery down big time," said Mindy. "Also we're using the buddy system this time; never be without one or the other because you will get lost in there."
"If there's something you don't like, just get rid of it," said Tammy. "There's enough other stuff there that you don't need to drink what you don't like."
Matt Boyd and Craig Wellborn
These two Austin-based homebrewers not only celebrated their first Great American Beer Festival, but also their first trip to Colorado.
Years attended: 1
Beer drinking strategy: "If there's a long line, one person stay in line, the other go get beer," said Boyd.
One thing learned at GABF: "Apparently the big thing is pretzels necklaces," said Boyd. "That's a big thing I may do next time."