10 July 2008

Great American Beer Festival on the Cheap

For the uninitiated, Denver's Great American Beer Festival is the grand daddy of all beer festivals. As a craft beer fan, the trip to GABF is not unlike a pilgrimage to Mecca - except the beer in Mecca sucks.

Two knights - Mike and Gina - will be making a week-long voyage out to Colorado for the festival and other brew-type activities this year. Between booking event tickets for all sessions ($210 each, before Ticketmaster gets their grubby hands all over tickets) and a downtown Denver hotel, it adds up pretty quick.

But if you're looking to attend and can't stomach the cost, there's a cheaper option.
Hello Beer Geeks! I'm Chris Jacek, founder of the beer group on meetup.com. I'm organizing a trip to the Great American Beer Festival, and wanted to invite members of your group as well. I think I've put together a pretty good deal. Check it out, and see if you think anyone in your group would be interested in joining us. Anyone who's interested can email me.


Here's the info:


Okay everyone, THIS is it. You may have heard me mention the Great American Beer Festival, held every fall in Denver. This is the national beer festival, with over 400 breweries and over 1800 beers to enjoy in unlimited one-once samples. Ever since I moved away from Denver 8 years ago, I've wanted to take a group to the festival, because this is something that all beer lovers should experience.
So here's the deal. I've been scouring the net for good deals, and have put together a package that I am proud of. I used my knowledge of the event and area to plan a 4-day trip. It will be limited to 10 people, and a deposit will be required to RSVP. But I think the price is crazy-good. As you probably guessed, I am not making any profit off this trip (I wish we could say that about all the groups). It's a labor of love for me, spreading beer joy, and exposing people to an incredible event.

So here are the main details (lots more info below that):
4 days, 3 nights in Denver, Oct 9-12 (Thur-Sun).
Non-stop flights to and from Indy
Lodging near downtown - 15 minute walk to the festival (map)
2 per room, each person gets their own bed
Private chartered non-stop shuttle bus to and from the airport
All 4 sessions at the Great American Beer Festival (3 as volunteer pourers, which is a blast)
A private brewery tour bus, taking us to 4 brewery tours in Ft Collins, with beer and pizza included

TOTAL COST (everything above is included): $395 per person

Limited to the first 10 people to RSVP with a $50 deposit, balance due by August 4

As of 10:30 AM, 7/10/08, there are 6 spots still available

I am going to encourage everyone to volunteer for the "Brew Crew." Basically, you volunteer to pour one-once samples during the sessions. The good part is, you are allowed to drink while you work (which isn't really work). I've done this for 5 years, and it really is the best way to see the show, because you get to meet lots of people, including the brewers. They allow for plenty of breaks, and it gets you into the session for free (normally $50 for each session). There are a total of 4 sessions, and if you work 3 of them, you get a free ticket for another session, as well as a free tasting glass and festival t-shirt. In the past, this is how I've done it, and I can say that I think it is the best scenario. You get to attend one session as a regular customer for free, but still get to attend the other 3 sessions too. I've picked the best 3 sessions for volunteering. They are: 1) Thursday night, which is the least crowded of the evening sessions, 2) Saturday afternoon which is closed to the public, and is very easy with plenty of opportunities to wander and taste, and 3) Saturday night, which is a total madhouse, and nobody really cares too much if you goof-off or get smashed.
The Friday, day-trip to Fort Collins should also be a great time. We'll tour 4 breweries in the area, and get a sampler platter at each, and also a pizza dinner at the final stop which is "The Fort Collins Brewery." Again, we'll get our own private shuttle, which will pick us up at our hotel, and drop us back there (or take us directly to the festival if we want).

More details/itinerary
Thursday Oct 9:
8:05 AM - Flight leaves Indy
8:50 AM (Mountain) - Flight arrives Denver, take private shuttle to hotel
10 or 11 AM - Check in at LA Quinta Denver-Central
11 AM - 4 PM - Open. Maybe get lunch and hang out downtown
4:30 PM - Leave for Thursday night session at Denver Convention Center
5:30 PM - 10 PM - Work first volunteer shift.
10PM - ??? - Open. Maybe dinner and/or hit the bars

Friday Oct 10
9:30 AM - Private shuttle picks us up at hotel, and drives us to Fort Collins (a little over an hour)
11 AM - 4 PM - Tour 4 microbreweries in Ft. Collins, all tastings included as well as pizza at the last stop
4 - 5:30 PM - Shuttle drives us back to Denver
5:30 PM - 10 PM - Attend Friday session, using free ticket
10 PM-??? - Open. Maybe dinner and/or hit the bars

Saturday Oct 11
Morning - Open/recovery
Noon - 4 PM - Work volunteer shift for "Members only session"
5:30 PM - 10 PM - Work volunteer shift for final session
10 PM - ??? - Hit the bars and after-parties

Sunday Oct 12
Morning and Afternoon - Open
5:00PM - Take private shuttle to airport
7:57PM - Flight leaves for Indy
If you're wondering how he pulled all this off for just $395 - I certainly was - he explains a little further here:
I need to get to 10 or it will be cancelled.

As for the cost, it's mostly because we won't be paying for any session tickets, since we'll be volunteering for 3 of the 4 sessions (and then getting one free session ticket). Southwest had some crazy fares, which I locked in with a group discount, and I know a decent hotel that is a little further away, but much less expensive (and still easy walking distance).

If I hadn't lived in Denver, I wouldn't have known about most of this.
So there you go. I don't think it's possible to do this any cheaper. So if you take Chris up on the offer, let us know. And we'll see you out in Denver.


  1. I would agree, that is walking distance, but it's not 15 minutes and you're not doing it in the rain.

    Overall that is crazy cheap for the whole event. I'm not sure what the volunteer pourer schedule looks like but I do know there are more beers there than you can try in all 4 sessions combined, so make sure you plan things out a bit.

    Jess and I have always flown Frontier and received really good rates through them, but with the whole "bankruptcy" thing going on I don't know how things have changed.

  2. If you check out the map, it looks like there's a pretty close bus route, so it's not all that inconvenient.

    Considering that we've got more tied up in hotel costs than his total trip, I think it might be worth hoofing it. If we weren't planning on spending the whole week in Colorado I would have jumped all over this.

  3. I'm planning on volunteering for the GABF all day Thursday for the setup and then helping pour beers on Thursday night. Then coming back for the members only session to taste the brews. Love to meet any Hoosier beer geeks who come out.

  4. I am going to do it, but does anyone know this Chris person personally? I am a little weary of giving someone I've never met before 400 bucks.

  5. Never met him. I think Jim has. Your hesitance is completely understandable.

    I know he's done quite a bit with that meetup group, so that might be a good place to start as far as checking out his reputation.