Tens of thousands of people flowed into Denver this past Thursday through Saturday for the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) to sample some of the finest craft beers in the United States. And once again, Miami craft brewers strutted their stuff.
It was the 35th-annual gathering of craft breweries from across the nation, held at the Colorado Convention Center. More than 3,800 beers were poured by at least 800 breweries.
Both Wynwood and Funky Buddha were located in the Meet the Brewer section of the festival, which was located on the main convention floor. These booths give festivalgoers the chance to not only sample the suds but also chat with the brewers.
The festival is also a competition. No breweries from South Florida received medals this year, but two breweries from Sunshine State (Coppertail Brewing Company and Red Cypress Brewery) earned silver medals. So far, Wynwood Brewing is the only Miami brewery to have earned a gold medal at the GABF.
With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on Florida, Wynwood Brewing's Luis Brignoni Jr. wasn't sure he'd make the festival, but he did. In fact, all South Florida brewery personnel made it. Funky Buddha's Ryan and Casey Sentz didn't arrive until Friday.
M.I.A. Beer Company's Benjamin Colon arrived a day before his colleagues. It was his second GABF in two years but his first time associated with a brewery. Because of storm-related travel delays, he wasn't sure whether he'd be the only M.I.A. employee pouring during all four sessions of the festival.
"I was nervous at first because I thought I was going to be the only one," Colon says, adding he was relieved when M.I.A. owner Eddie Leon and others arrived the next day. "We took all of Denver in."
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Aside from the multitude of craft breweries, the GABF also saw dozens of bearded fesivalgoers and hundreds of attendees dressed in costume for the occasion. One notable difference this year was the considerable number of people wearing jerseys and hats with logos of the Chicago Cubs, who had won the first two games of the National League Championship Series that weekend. (They now lead 2 to 1 over the San Francisco Giants.)
For Alex Gutierrez of J. Wakefield Brewing (JWB), the event was more than just a festival. The GABF newcomer also celebrated his 35th birthday. The very first day, JWB emptied three kegs. Its beer was finished by the third session early Saturday afternoon.
"I was amazed and humbled to see the reach our brewery has across the nation and the powerful presence that we had at the GABF," Gutierrez said. "Every session had a line so long you couldn't see where it finished."
But JWB wasn't alone in popularity. Thrillist named M.I.A.'s Double Deco IPA one of the top IPAs at the GABF.