After a three-year pandemic hiatus, the Great American Beer Festival returned to the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday for its 40th anniversary. Like most of us, though, the nation’s premier beer gathering felt a little battered and a little bruised.
Not only was the festival, which continues through Oct. 8, 30% smaller than in 2019 (due to construction at the convention center), but it lacked some of the vibrancy of previous years. There were few decorated booths, less food and fewer side activities.
Fewer people and a smaller space made the festival more manageable, though, as did the alphabetical — rather than geographical — arrangement of the breweries in attendance. That arrangement also served to mask the fact that some geographical regions of the country barely showed up, victims of a tougher economy: New England was represented by just nine breweries total, while an eight-state swath of the South brought a mere 14 breweries between them.
Still, there were plenty of smiles as old friends saw each other again and the crowded format of the fest brought a sense of normalcy back to many. And to that, we raise our taster glass.
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