The GABF Rant No. 3 – It’s a Marathon and a Sprint

One of the wink-wink nudges you’ll get when you’re among the week-long attendees at the GABF is the old “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” line. Admittedly, it was funny the first few times. Besides, it’s probably true. Somewhere in my pile of notes from a previous year I have an entire essay written on the subject.

But tonight I’m not waxing nostalgic for beer-addled philosophical drivel. I come from the school of journalism that says you should throw out most of what you write – and I do! So wherever that essay is hiding right now it can remain, despite the possibly of a phrase well-turned or an insight seen. (Big breath. That reminds me of why my blog entries are sporadic – because I actually research, craft and edit my pieces, and link to detail that you can follow. Then there’s the little something I call 80/20 thing: that 80% of my thoughts stay with me and 20% get written down. Therefore, ergo, id est… these writings aren’t entirely spur-of-the-moment-op-ed jumbles, dirty laundry, et cetera. And no, little girl, these words don’t come from cabbages. Perhaps another time on that one.)

No, I’m just going to outline my week for you and let you decide. (And here’s another caveat, because parentheses seem to be where my thoughts are living right now, let you decide what type of sporting event this is). Just so you know in advance how I perceive the week (and the weak), it is neither a marathon nor a sprint, indeed it is both rolled into one.

If there is a sports metaphor here, it is more of cycling stage race, day after day rubbing elbows, monitoring metabolism, and risking a cataclysm that precludes your finishing. Strong one day and possibly weak the next. There are the pennants and colorful shirts, the throngs and their wafting social smells of sweat, cigars, bratwurst, and worse. The roar, the lines, the broken glasses. The newly of drinking age channeling their inner 2-year old. The VIP lounges, though entirely subdued by the standards of my old hangout (Las Vegas). And don’t forget the media darlings – the Sam, the Charlie, the Koch, and the other Koch. Side events take over the shadows in lesser venues and the commerce that erupts backs up from disgusting bathrooms like too much apple juice and milk in a baby’s stomach. There are pop stars who rise above their fellow brewers, royalty among the writers (one imagines there are), and at least 155 certifiable beer bloggers, among whom I seem not be numbered.

Lo, amidst this chaos there is an order. I have a place in that order. It is neither glamorous nor redundant. In bicycling terms I am a domestique, a helper of sorts. I go with the flow of the day and jump when there’s a need. But I’m not just resting in between, I’m still pedaling at 80% between jobs. I am part of l’equipe (“the team”), that this year will judge nearly 3,600 beers in a mere two and a half days (yes, we’re very efficient!). I am a chronicler of events. I am a gourmand, a Bohemian, an explorer. I am a snob and a prick. And I am just one of 49,000. Here is my schedule.


    • Fly to Denver, arrive 7:30 am. Take shuttle downtown.
    • Drop bags at bell desk. Go to Wynkoop.
    • Judge Lallemand dry yeast contest 11:30-4:30.
    • Run to hotel, change, check in.
    • Get judging assignments, attend judge orientation.
    • Meet friend/colleague Melissa Cole from London.
    • 5-course beer dinner at Mizuna (details in a future post).
    • Cab back to Falling Rock, mind the toilets, have a nightcap.


    • Get up, 6 am, workout.
    • Breakfast 7:30, cleanup.
    Judging 8:45 am-5 pm, lunch included.
    • Back to room, take online French exam.
    • Head out, choose between 5 venues within walking.


    • Get up, workout, breakfast, as before.
    • Judging all day.
    GABF first session, 5:30-10.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    • Seek out food beers at a dozen booths.
    • Back to hotel for Keg Ran Out Club (KROC) festivities.


    • Get up, workout, breakfast, as before.
    Judging until noon.
    • Grab a glass of beer from the lobby bar.
    • Run (literally) 8 blocks to Falling Rock.
    • Judge the Alpha King Challenge
    (Crown America’s Hoppiest Beer)
    • Scram to Jax in time for happy hour (oysters and martinis)
    GABF 2nd session, 5:30-10.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    • Seek out sour beers at a dozen booths.
    • Hit the town for late night grub.


    • Get up, workout, but skip breakfast.
    • Walk a mile to Cheeky Monk for beer breakfast with the Bruery.
    • Time permitting, catch up with my notes.
    • Walk another half mile to Bones for cooking class 12-2 pm.
    GABF 3rd session, 12:30-4:30, arrive at 2:30 after Bones.
    • Work at the Cicerone booth promoting beer expertise.
    • Bail around 4 to beat the supper rush, many options.
    • Return to festival for 4th session 5:30-10 pm.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    You Be the Judge Booth with Paul Gatza, 8:30-9 pm
    • Back to hotel, nightcap.


    • Airport shuttle 7:05 am.

Those who’ve been on one of my beer expeditions in Europe/UK know that this schedule is not unusual, just throw in a few castles and farmers markets!

Cheers! TPJ


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wine O
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 07:01:57

    Hitting your stride!


  2. Mike Barber
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 07:03:24

    Good Rant. Pertaining to your schedule, I’d like to see the ‘workout’ time period increased significantly to compensate for the rest of the decadence listed.
    I’ve always like the LoDo area of Denver. The Wynkoop was the first commercial brew pub I’d ever gone to back in the late 80’s. Lot’s of professional people there in those days with their motorola bag phones.


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