Okay, if you've never been to the Great American Beer Festival, allow me (no longer a GABF virgin) to tell you something: IT IS THE LOUDEST EVENT ON THE PLANET! Twelve thousand or so people per session inside a cavernous convention center -- one built more-or-less entirely of concrete -- equals LOUD. Very very LOUD. I flew home yesterday and my eardrums and throat still ache. (The only way to "talk" to someone is to lean in close and SHOUT. And I had to do a lot of shouting while I was signing books.)
But: the people who host the event -- the staff at the Brewers Association, the trade group for small and craft brewers -- are lovely, warm, generous folks. I thank Cindy Jones, Jennifer Reimer, and of course Charlie Papazian for their marvelous hospitality.
The event is well-organized and stuffed with things to do besides drink beer. The BA gave me a media pass (I think they couldn't figure out what else to do with me!), and so I was invited to all kinds of events I would not otherwise have had a chance to attend: dinners, lunches, receptions. I had a blast at a brunch hosted by Jim Koch, founder and CEO of Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams beer): mounds of fabulous food (always the highlight for me). Excellent beer brewed by the three finalists in the Boston Beer employees' homebrewing competition, and -------- a glass of Utopias, which I'd never had the pleasure of tasting. Amazing stuff. If some comes on sale near you, don't hestitate. GRAB IT!
I met dozens of people, including, for the first time, four of the men I interviewed for the beer book: Koch, Don Barkley, Charlie, and Nick Matt I also met a slew of other wonderful beer folks, including Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack of Philadelphia); Peter Cherpack (beerappreciation.com), Bryce Eddings (beer.about.com), Rick Lyke (lyke2drink.blogspot.com), and of course the lovely Carolyn Smagalski (aka the Beer Fox -- beer.bellaonline.com). There were plenty of other people, including the very kind people who stopped by the BA booth to buy my book and let me sign it for them. To them and to everyone at the Brewers Association, my sincere thanks.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: beer people are among human kind's finest!