GABF: What’s Your Plan of Attack?

September 30,2011 by 15 Comments

Last year was my first Great American Beer Festival. What’s the most important thing I learned? Get yourself a strategy.

I THOUGHT I had a strategy last year – “Yea I’ll check out Dogfish, maybe see what Pizza Port is serving, yada yada yada….”

Didn’t work. After a few beers and being caught up in the excitement, my plan went down the shitter and I was playing GABF whack a mole.

This year will be different.

With 460 breweries pouring 2,400 beers, how do you decide which beers to drink? You need a hit list.

My Beer Hit List

You might choose your hit list by other reasons, but most of mine fall into one of these three categories:

  1. Breweries: I’ll visit these tables not so much for any specific beer, but more for the brewery. These are usually the more well known craft breweries.
  2. Specific Beers: These are beers that I’ve heard of and really want to try. The brewery and the rest of the lineup isn’t as important as this one beer.
  3. Beer Styles: One of my favorite things about GABF is the chance to try new or unusual styles. If I learn that these are being poured, I will seek them out.
So what’s my plan? Here’s what I’ve got so far:
  1. Breweries
    1. New Glarus
    2. Cigar City
    3. Dogfish Head
    4. Ommegang
    5. Heretic
    6. Odell
    7. Terrapin Beer Co.
  2. Specific Beers
    1. Deschutes Black Butte  XXIII
    2. The Legend of the Liquid Brain
    3. The Bruery Oude Tart
    4. Allagash Coolship Returnum
    5. Founders All Day IPA
    6. Sun King Osiris Pale Ale
    7. Troegs Flying Mouflan
    8. Pizza Port Doheny Double IPA
  3. Beer Styles
    1. Portsmouth Brewing Gose
    2. Portsmouth Brewing Fruit Gruit
    3. Devil’s Backbone Baltic Coffee
    4. The Bruery Hottenroth
    5. Black Market Brewing Rye IPA
    6. Willoughby Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter
    7. Odd Side Ales Peanut Butter Cup Stout (Ok so I love peanut butter)

Saturday is the big test. Will I stick to my game plan, or fail miserably? Either way it’s going to be fun to try.

About Billy Broas

He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

15 responses to “GABF: What’s Your Plan of Attack?”

  1. Sheppy says:

    Hey Billy …

    Make sure you hit New Glarus early. They ration their beers and always seem to shut down early.

    Last night, I knew I wanted to attend the “Celebrating 30 Years of the GABF” at 6:30.

    I had a specific list of breweries and beers. I knew from last year that New Glarus runs out early every night, so I stopped by them first thing. My plan was to get some of the breweries on my list knocked out before the presentation and some after. But, I ended up getting all but a couple before.

    After that, I just went with the flow.

    You should try to check out the 1982 pavilion. The pro-am booth is fun too.

    Tonight, I decided to target sour beers. I opened the list of beers and did a ctrl-F for sour and then one for flanders and got a pretty good list.

    I have not decided on my Saturday strategy yet. We’ll have to see how I feel.

    Anyway … have fun tonight. Maybe I’ll see you.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Good reminder on the Pro-am – I want to check that out. Yea I hear the New Glarus line gets nuts, and having tried a couple of their beers I see why. Great stuff.

      This just in – I’m now going Saturday night as well. I’m both excited and concerned for my liver. At least I won’t be in a mad rush and can get to some tables later. Sunday is going to hurt though.

      Hope I bump into ya.

      • Sheppy says:

        What about the afternoon session?

        I won’t be going tonight. Last year, 4 sessions were too much and Saturday was my least favorite, so that is the one I dropped this year.

  2. Joe Nagy says:

    Don’t miss Short’s! They are on full on take over mode in Michigan and have some amazing brews.

  3. Adam says:

    As an Indianapolis native now living in Florida, I’m glad to see Sun King and Cigar City on your list. Cigar City is about all we have in the way of quality craft beer here in the Sunshine State, and they don’t make a bad beer. Try them all!

    • Sheppy says:

      Cigar City had a huge line too. You’ll want to hit that one early too. So many breweries … so little time.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Cigar City had an incredible beer at the Rare Beer Tasting today. They have a big fan in Denver.

    • Parker says:

      I live about a quarter mile from Cigar City. Drinking a White Oak Aged Jai Alai right now, and also grabbed a quart growler of their Big Apple IPA (man, I hope they decide to make that one a regular) and a quart growler of the standard Jai Alai from the taproom. Love that place.

  4. Forrest says:

    You make the Whack-a-mole technique sound so negative! That is my current plan of attack.

  5. Stan says:


    You listed Odell Brewing as a Brewery you were going to hit up during the GABF. What beers did you try from them? They were in Couer d ‘Alene, ID this spring for the Brewfest, and I thought their 90 Shilling was solid. Thoughts?

    • Billy Broas says:

      You know I actually didn’t visit Odell’s table. They had a long line and everything they were pouring I could get pretty easily some other time. I make it pretty well known that they’re one of my favorite breweries though. 90 shilling is fantastic, as is their IPA. When the volunteers were told to pick a brewery at the rare beer tasting I ran to their table where sure enough, Doug Odell was standing.

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