Photo © Brewers Association
  • Photo © Brewers Association

Today through Saturday, September 24-27, more than 800 breweries from around the US will make their annual descent upon Denver for the 34th annual Great American Beer Festival. And 32 of them will be from Oregon. Actually, I like to think 28 are from Oregon but brewing companies such as Barley Brown’s (Baker City), Breakside (Portland), and Deschutes (Bend) field more than one booth because companies are allowed to do so for each physical brewery they operate. McMenamins can do that, too, but they don’t. First time Oregonians at the festivities are Yachats Brewing from Yachats, Plank Town Brewing from Springfield, Ex Novo Brewing from Portland, and Portlandersby way of Ohio, Fat Head's.

Collectively they’ll be defending the 22 medals that Oregon earned last year, with the record holder being Barley Brown’s Brew Pub/Barley Brown’s Beer, winners of four such medals, including golds for Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA and Hand Truck Pale Ale. Also keeping their fingers and mash paddles crossed for a repeat is Breakside, who took home one of the most illustrious pieces of hardware: gold for their American-style IPA, which is the most competitive (most entered) category.

But believe you me, GABF is only minutely about the competition. The main attraction is the entire Colorado Convention Center floor, where those aforementioned 800-plus breweries will be pouring roughly 3,500 different beers. Those samples are strictly limited to one-ounce pours. Think attendees are getting stiffed at just an ounce? There are 3,500 beers! If you were to sample each one, you’d drink 220 pints. In other words, if you’re attending, choose wisely. If you’re not attending, fear not, you’ll be able to find most of the medalists on draft at a taproom near you starting in October.