The Great American Beer Festival gets all the attention but not all the breweries.
A number of much-hyped craft brewers are choosing not to attend GABF this year and instead find a home at one of the many side festivals and tap takeovers the same week.
The trend became evident at the Beers Made by Walking and What the Funk!? Invitational events Tuesday evening, where handfuls of small and independent breweries with major followings among aficionados offered rare and celebrated beers you won’t find at the Colorado Convention Center this week.
“It’s really hard to tell your story in that kind of transaction,” said Erin Jones, the marketing director at North Carolina’s top-notch Burial Beer Co., about GABF.
Instead, Burial Beer attended Beers Made by Walking at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, pouring a sour beer made with local malts and foraged sumac from the Appalachian hillsides nears its Asheville brewery.
Jones said the more intimate setting at the event allowed her to talk to customers and still build the company’s brand. Other reasons breweries cited for not going to GABF: It’s not worth the cost and didn’t help sales back home.
“If I can accomplish (brand development) at things like this, why would I do GABF?” Jones said.
The craft breweries not pouring at GABF that are attending other related events include Vermont’s Hill Farmstead Brewery and Lawson’s Finest Liquids; Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales; Georgia’s Creature Comforts; Oregon’s Ale Apothecary; Colorado’s Powder Keg and Casey Brewing and Blending; and Missouri’s Perennial Artisan Ales, among others.
At What the Funk?!, hosted by Crooked Stave at the EXDO Center in the River North district, Paul Arney, the owner and brewer at Ale Apothecary, said smaller events for connoisseurs are the types of events he wants to attend. “These are our consumers,” he said, after pouring Minotaur, a deliciously complex wild ale aged in bourbon and wine barrels.
Across the way, Two Roads brewery poured three of its barrel-aged and sour beers at the event. The Connecticut brewery also is attending GABF. “For us, it’s just super fun,” said Clement Pellani, the brewery’s vice president of marketing and sales.
Texas’ Jester King is making a return to GABF this year after only attending side events in prior years. Averie Swanson, the brewery’s production manager, said Jester King sells 80 percent of its volume on site. So, she continued, “if you’re a small brewery, it doesn’t make a lot of sense” to go to GABF every year.