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Not Yet a Cinderella Story


Beer enthusiasts are a cheap bunch. At least that’s the general impression and a big part of why the annual Great American Beer Festival can’t lock down a consistent weekend for its massive event year after year.

You see, conventions where doctors or computer geeks or the National Association of Flux Capacitor Manufacturers come to town from all over the earth for three or four days spend about $2,000 each, according to Rich Grant, communications director for Visit Denver, the non-profit trade association that contracts with the city of Denver to do marketing and book the convention center.

This year, the GABF runs from Sept. 17-19, the same weekend as the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, a rockin’ beer-centric event that this year features B.B. King, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Elvin Bishop and Eddie Shaw. Blues and Brews, now in its 17th year, is held on the third weekend in September; you can set your sundial by it. And it, like the GABF will certainly sell out (consider yourself warned). This overlap pains beer enthusiasts.

But because the GABF draws a considerable number of attendees from Denver and the Front Range, they don’t tend to plunk down for hotels; buy breakfast, lunch and a power dinner with clients for three or four days; or buy lots of cowboy boots and T-shirts. So this relegates the GABF to sloppy seconds when it comes to reserving dates. They’re not like 20,000 plastic surgeons in town for four days and nights who leave a $40 million pile of cash when they leave.

Nancy Johnson, event director for the Brewers Association and the lady in charge of booking space for the Great American Beer Festival, says she has dates “held” through 2020. But like the high school dweeb with bad hair who’s into Dungeons and Dragons, the totally hot babe he’s asked out won’t let him know when it’s his turn until she’s sure there are no better offers. Hence the folks at Visit Denver don’t sign a contract for space at the convention center until four and a half months out; after they’re pretty sure that the silicone enhancement convention has again gone to Vegas.

On a purely fiscal level, you can’t blame Visit Denver, they’re trying to pull in as much cash as possible for the city and its businesses. That’s their mission. But for a signature event that has, in its 29 years, become iconic, it’s too bad it can’t get a standing reservation on the calendar.

But that may change. Grant says Visit Denver will be doing a survey of attendees at the GABF this year to find out where they’re from, are they staying in a hotel, eating out and generally how much money they’re dropping while here. Or, are they like you, dear reader, merely commuters who are only buying one ticket and maybe a Flying Dog T-shirt because of the cool Ralph Steadman artwork.

So if someone with a clipboard comes up and starts asking you personal, financial questions, answer as if you were Michael Jackson; you’re staying at the Curtis Hotel, noshing at the Squeaky Bean and not heading back to Longmont without two or three pairs of cowboy boots.

Booze in Brief
Distillery tours: Roundhouse Spirits is offering free tours of its new distillery space from 3-7pm, Thursday– Saturday, 5311 Western Ave., Suite K. Stop by and see what real gin tastes like (and how it’s made), not to mention the lusciously delicious Corretto liqueur. roundhousespirits.com

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