Why I’m Not At the GABF

It’s been a ritual for me since 1997 to be at the GABF.  I live in the area, so it’s not hard to attend.  I’ve missed a few here and there due to family commitments and business travel, but not many.

Sure.  It’s an adventure and a half.  Who wouldn’t want to drink with thousands of other crazy craft beer aficionados?  Who wouldn’t want a chance to taste “4,000 different beers from over 800 of the nation’s finest breweries?”

Well, me.

I gave my member tickets to my 25-year-old son this year.  That means he can take two more friends to the Member’s Only session.  We’ve texted numerous times this week talking about what breweries to sample and what beers to be on the hunt for.  As I write, it’s Friday evening and he and his friends are ready to go.  They’ve checked out the new alphabetical grouping system and have plotted a path to beervana tomorrow.

Last year, as I stood in the cattle pen waiting for the clock to strike noon and the Member’s Only Session to start, I did some soul searching.  On the positive side, the energy was palpable.  The excitement to enter the floor and get drinking was building with each passing minute.  I test out as an extrovert, so the mob of craft enthusiasm should energize me.  But it didn’t.

Maybe I’m getting older.  I’m pushing 60 after all.  Maybe I’m worn out, but that really doesn’t fit my character.

I remember something different

I remember when there we were excited to break through the 1,000 brewery mark.  I remember when I could find brewer friends and marketing colleagues on the floor or better yet behind the table pouring their beers and connecting with drinkers.

Leaving the member session last year I got a close look at the hordes queuing up to come to the Saturday evening session.  It looked like a scene from “Lord of the Rings” frankly.

I don’t want to spoil the fun or mock anyone.  I look forward to talking with my son tomorrow (or Sunday when he’s more with it) to talk about the exciting beers he found and the stories of people watching and general mayhem.

This year, I’m going to spend my time and effort instead attending more local, intimate beer festivals where I can still talk to a brewer or someone behind the table who actually has had a hand in making the beer.  Not someone who is just there volunteering to get free tickets.  And don’t get me wrong – I have at least six friends pouring this weekend and I love them dearly.  I’m proud of their service to the craft beer community.

Beer is not a full-contact sport experience for me

It’s not about how many one-ounce samples I can down in four hours (though I’ve been known to do that in the past).

I will celebrate with my clients and friends who win medals and make new friends this weekend.  But I will do it from a distance after the fact.

I’ll wait for my spot at the end of their taproom bar to open up, and look forward to talking to someone who really knows the beer.  And have time to enjoy more than an ounce.

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be back next year.  They say you never step into the same river twice.  Maybe I just need a little shore leave.


John Mann



John (13)

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One thought on “Why I’m Not At the GABF

  1. Great points John, and speaks to why Rick and I spend a larger part of our wine tasting time in Murphys…talking with the actual winemakers and owners….

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