Brewers come to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver hoping to win one of two awards. The first, from the Brewer’s Association judges, comes with a medal and industry cache. The other, though, can be just as valuable.
There’s no official people’s choice award at the country’s largest beer festival. But when a beer maker captures the interest and passion of attendees, word spreads fast—and often far beyond the walls of the Denver Convention Center.
Capturing that attention isn’t easy. There are over 800 brewers at the 2018 GABF, pouring more than 4,000 beers. The hall is the size of eight football fields and beer lovers flit around it like excited, semi-intoxicated hummingbirds.
There are, of course, breweries that have long lines every year. People line up for a one-ounce sample of Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Elder only to walk right back to the end of the line to get another one. The 3 Floyds booth often has a line formed before the show doors have opened, as media and brewers who get into the festival early eagerly await the first pour.
But GABF is also a chance for smaller, up-and-coming brewers that might not be known beyond their home state or region to make a national name, pouring different takes on favorite styles or expertly crafted versions of them.
These are the brewers who are tapped out long before the end of the show or ones who have increasingly long lines snaking from their pour stations.
Here’s a look at the brewers who have been reinforcing their iconic status (or building it) among craft beer fans at the 2018 show:
Bottle Logic – Six minutes after the doors to 2018’s GABF opened, when the vast majority of attendees were still in line to get in, the queue for Bottle Logic was 40 people deep. When the brewery tapped The Lost Colony, a rare rum- and bourbon barrel aged pecan porter, the line exploded to more than 250 people. The Anaheim, Calif. brewer dabbles in a variety of beers, with a blueberry sour and hazy New England IPA also proving popular with beer lovers.
Weldwerks – The Greeley, Co. brewer pinged a lot of people’s radars last year and has since become the most buzzed about brewer in Colorado. That’s spreading fast at GABF as fans line up for beers like Juicy Bits and Blackberry Cobbler Berliner Weiss.
Destihl Brewery – Word began to spread quickly about this Normal, Il. brewer’s offerings this year. The Pina Colada Gose, a fruity take on a sour beer, is the most popular pour.
Revolution Brewing Co – Chicago’s largest craft brewer is quickly building a national reputation, as people lined up for its Anti-Hero IPA. (Check-ins to beer ranking app Untappd from GAB put it in the top 20 most popular beers of the festival so far.)
Spice Trade – Some of the foot traffic for this Arvada, Co. brewer comes from its Most popular pours appear to be the Pumpkin Spice Latte (yep, there’s a beer version of that as well) and Scarlet Giant, a gose brewed with a wild yeast cultivated from a hibiscus flower from the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Great Notion – The lines for this Portland, Or. brewer were long last year, this year, they’re somehow longer. Demand was so great for beers like Ripe IPA (a New England style) and Blueberry Muffin (a sour ale that tastes, well, like its namesake) that all of the kegs were kicked before the show reached its halfway point Thursday. That demand is only likely to increase in the coming days.