By Day Bracey
PittsburghCurrent Craft Beer Writer
Oct 3, 10 a.m.: I’m in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, sharing a Lyft with an Arab couple in from NY for the same event. They ask me my plans for the weekend. “First things first, I need to find some weed!” Just then, the driver pulls out a pill bottle stuffed with a gram of marijuana. “Take that so my kids stop playing with it.” I guess it’s going to be that kind of trip. Five stars.
Oct 3, 4:30 p.m.: The Great American Beer Festival has been running since 1982. There are hundreds of breweries with thousands of beers from all 50 states and more than 60,000 people in attendance. The brewers are split into 13 regions and you are given a map to find your favorites. It’s bigger than anything I could have imagined and more than any person can cover in a month, let alone three days. You can tell who the popular breweries are by the length of lines, though it boggles my mind why anyone would wait in line when there are literally thousands of options within arms reach. Craft beer is a lot of science with very little logic. Looking around, I begin to see for the first time just how diverse the industry is in America. I have never seen so many nuances of white bearded men. They’ve got long beards, short beards, neckbeards, tall white guys, short white guys, bald white guys, fat white guys, red flannels, blue flannels, green flannels, and more work boots than you can shake a stick at! My mind is playing tricks on me. I find myself excited to see people I know at this festival, only to realize upon closer inspection that they are not the beard I’m familiar with. This is going to be a long trip.
Oct 3, 5:30 p.m.: I run into a familiar group of Black people called the Brewing Change Collaborative, whose mission is to “foster diversity, equity and inclusion for people of color in the brewing industry through advocacy, outreach and education.” I first met this group at Fresh Fest. They were given tickets to this event by Craft x EDU, whose mission is to champion “inclusion, equity, and justice in the craft beer community through education and professional development.” The effort is headed by Dr. J. Nikol Beckham and sponsored by New Belgium. The initiatives of these groups are clearly working, because without these 12 people of color, I’m not sure there would be any at all in attendance, besides Garrett Oliver and myself. Speaking of which, we should go grab a diversity photo with him for the interwebs.
Oct 3, 10 pm: Weed and tequila.
Oct 4, 2 am: Weed and beer.
Oct 4, 4 am: Weed and dinner.
Oct 4, 9 a.m.: Weed and breakfast.
Oct 4, Noon: Weed and Black American West Museum.
Oct 4, 5:30 p.m.: Beer and beards.
Oct 4, 10 p.m.: Weed and beer. We’re at Epic Brewing following day 2 of GABF. We’ve met up with Dom “Doochie” Cook of Beer Kulture, a lifestyle brand and craft beer consulting agency whose mission likely includes diversity, equity, inclusion, blah blah blah. You getting the gist of this? Black people are sick of drinking alone, and they are making concerted efforts to bring others with them. Doochie and I have a passionate conversation about the direction of the industry and how to best carve out a place for our people. If you’re into books, I recommend his work.
Oct 5, Midnight: Falling Rock Tap House is touted as the best watering hole in Denver. It has to be, Garrett Oliver is here. I also run into the bro gods from Warcloud Brewing. The Slow Pour Pils is a house favorite. It takes five minutes to pour with a frothy head that’s worth the wait.
Oct 5, 11 a.m.: Weed and Mexican food.
Oct 5, Noon: Beer and beards.
Oct 5, 4 p.m.: Raices, Spanish for roots, is the first Latinx owned brewery in Colorado. The co-owner, Jose Beteta, is also founder of the first Latinx festival in America, Suave Fest. The beer is delicious, the music is ethnic, and the vibe is communal. I’m given a tour of the place by Quique Iglesias, who owns Olentangy River Brewing in Columbus and is also credited for opening Dacay, the first craft brewery in Puerto Rico. Tamil Maldonado, co-owner of Raices, tells me that they want to focus on her culture, while building a space that is welcoming to all. She considers her brewery to be a multicultural community center and hopes to empower the people in her neighborhood through craft beer.
Oct 5, 8 p.m.: Weed and music. Red Rocks is an amphitheater cut into a mountain overlooking Denver. The acoustics and scenery are unmatched by any I’ve ever witnessed. If you ever get a chance to visit Denver, don’t leave without visiting this unique space.
Oct 5, 11 p.m.: I’m sharing a Lyft with some gals from the concert on their way to more fun. I’m on my way to bed, with a 5am flight. Before I get out, I offer the driver the last of my weed, about 3 grams. “I leave in the morning and I can’t fly with flower. Do you want it?” His face says, “Five stars.”