Great American Beer Festival is set to brew up good times

More than 800 breweries from across nation will take part in Denver event

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In 1993, after geologists Charlie and Janine Sturdavant lost their jobs, they purchased a Victorian-style home in Golden’s historic district. They filled a machine shop behind the house with old dairy tanks. They transformed the sunroom into a tasting room. The back yard became an intimate beer garden, with picnic tables and bulb lights draped overhead.

More than 30 years later, Golden City Brewery is the city’s second largest brewery.

“Nothing was planned out — it happened organically,” said Derek Sturdavant, the son of the original owners. After he graduated from college, he took on the role of head brewer, or as his bio says, “mad scientist.”

Golden City Brewery, 920 12th St., is one of more than 800 breweries from across the U.S. that will be participating in this year’s Great American Beer Festival in downtown Denver. Sturdavant will be pouring favorites like the Cherry Bomber, which takes a half-pound of cherries per pint, and the Clear Creek Gold Pale Ale, a German-style beer.

The three-day beer extravaganza is from Sept. 20-22 at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St. in downtown Denver. As of press time, tickets were still available for the Sept. 20 opening-day session, from 5:30-10 p.m. An $85 ticket gets you a festival program, commemorative tasting cup and unlimited one-ounce samples of beer. Ticket purchase can be done online at greatamericanbeerfestival.com/tickets/public-tickets.

The beer fest dates back to 1982. Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), an organization of more than 46,000 members based in Boulder, started the festival.

The AHA is a division of the Brewers Association, a national nonprofit dedicated to craft brewers.

The largest of its kind in the country, the Great American Beer Festival is an opportunity for beer lovers to rejoice in all things beer, from tastings to food pairings to educational sessions with master brewers. This year, more than 8,000 styles of beer will be served. More than 62,000 attendees are expected over the three days.

“It’s like a big ol’ music fest but everyone is a craft beer fan,” Sturdavant said.

Brewers get creative and showcase new recipes to beer drinkers and to each other.

“I always love the fest because there is so much great beer from all over the country,” said Jeff Tyler, head brewer at Spice Trade Brewery, formerly Yak & Yeti Brewpub, in Olde Town Arvada. “You really get to explore and try some things that you wouldn’t be able to try unless you were hopping on an airplane every weekend and going to different places around the country.”

Tyler, a New York native with a degree in mechanical engineering, has been the head brewer since 2016. He brews his eclectic beers in a seven-barrel brewhouse located inside the Yak & Yeti Restaurant, 7803 Ralston Road. The Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan food restaurant is in a 153-year-old historic home.

“A lot of the beer we do has an interesting culinary influence to it,” said Tyler. Some of his styles are a jalapeno-infused beer, chai milk stout and lemon cello suasion.

He describes his favorite, the Jalapeno Lena, as a crisp, clean, effervescent, slightly bitter German-style Pilsner. He will be pouring it, along with four other styles, at the festival.

Megan Koloskie, manager of Grist Brewing Company in Highlands Ranch, 9150 Commerce Center Circle, said there’s a strong camaraderie among brewers at the festival. This year, she will be pouring a Berliner Weisse sour-style beer, Mexican-spiced fruit ale and sake collaboration

“It’s very fun,” said Koloskie, who is originally from Las Vegas. She discovered her love for craft beer when she moved to Denver. “I’m looking forward to meeting some other brewers and other breweries to do some potential collaborations moving forward, and getting our name out there.”

New this year, the beer fest will have an additional 100,000 square feet of space — making the entire hall almost six football fields large, said Ann Obenchain, marketing director at the Brewers Association.

“We expanded the Meet the Brewers section,” Obenchain said. “That’s where all the beer lovers can go meet the people behind the beer.”

There will also be a barrel-aged beer garden sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey and a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar with 12 giant TVs playing college and professional football games.

Most brewers will enter their beers in the contest, which has 102 categories of beer. Winners receive a medal and, more importantly, widespread recognition, Derek Sturdavant said.

“You get a lot of beer nerds coming to your brewery,” he said. “And they will drain your tanks.”

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