Here are some suggestions for making the most of the beeriest time of the year without ever stepping foot on the festival floor:
Try Denver Beer Week
The Great American Beer Festival has become far too large to be limited to the confines of the Colorado Convention Center. It's an all-encompassing affair that spills over into nearly every bar and brewery in town. Many of these events are subsumed under the umbrella of "Denver Beer Week," a nine-day celebration presented by Visit Denver that includes beer tastings, beer-pairing dinners, tap takeovers, brewery tours, special events and a wide variety of related entertainment. DenverBeerFest.com is your one-stop resource for details on more than 150 event listings taking place today through Oct. 12 in and around Denver.
Visit your local brewery
Just about every brewery and brewpub along the Front Range will have something special on tap for GABF, and many will offer extended tap room hours as well as extra tours and special events throughout the week.
Upslope Brewery, for example, will celebrate GABF with special tapping in both of its Boulder tap rooms, as well as trivia contests on the hour every hour with prizes such as free beer, clothing and gift cards. Stop by the Flatiron Park Tap Room at 4 p.m. Wednesday, when they'll tap a specialty keg of Upslope Barleywine that's been aging in whiskey barrels for three and half years (upslopebrewing.com).
Wild Woods Brewing in Boulder will offer its gin barrel-aged Treeline IPA and its first anniversary Big Bonfire ale all week long, with food trucks parked outside each day and special one-off beer tapped daily (wildwoodsbrewery.com).
In addition to its core lineup, FATE Brewing will offer a few specialty beers, including its Oktoberfest, Doppelbock, Eisbock, a fresh-hop IPA and pumpkin beer (fatebrewingcompany.com).
BRU Handbuilt Ales will offer specials and special tappings all week long, including a Belgian-style Imperial Stout at 3 p.m. Sunday and Sasquash Pumpkin Porter at 3 p.m. Monday.
Odd13 Brewing in Lafayette will tap small one-off batches and modified versions of its core beers at 3 p.m. daily during GABF week, including Coal Miner's Cuzzin' Oatmeal Stout and Doctor Cougar Petite Saison (odd13brewing.com).
Soak in some knowledge
Ginger Johnson, founder of Women Enjoying Beer, will offer her insight during a beer-education event geared toward women and hosted by Ales 4 FemAles at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Left Hand Brewery in Longmont ($20 each session; lefthandbrewing.com).
Andy Parker, brewer and chief barrel-herder at Avery Brewing, will present an informative talk and guided sampling on his "Gestalt Theory" of blending a barrel-aged sour beer that transcends the sum of its parts, 3-5 p.
Take in a festival
The GABF isn't the only festival in town. Several bars and breweries also use the opportunity to host mini-festivals and gatherings.
Enjoy a block-party atmosphere and live music while watching local brewers compete in crazy competitions (blind-folded grain stacking relay, anyone?) during Vine Street Pub and Brewery's third annual Uptown Block Party and Brewer's Olympics, 1 p.m. Tuesday, outside the Vine Street Pub in Denver (mountainsunpub.com).
The Paramount Cafe on the 16th Street Mall in Denver will host a mini-festival from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday featuring beers from many local favorites (paramountcafe.com).
World of Beer bar in Denver will host a Barrel Aged Beer Competition from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday featuring barrel-aged beers from 30 breweries large and small and mostly centered on Colorado-based breweries. Ticket price includes unlimited samples ($45; facebook.com/wobcherrycreek).
It's a Firkin Fest from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Left Hand in Longmont when six cask-conditioned beers from the brewery's 20th anniversary throwback series -- Jackman's Pale Ale, Deep Cover Brown Ale, Motherlode Golden Ale, Dunkelweiss, and Munich Dark Lager -- go head-to-head to see who's the crowd favorite. Try them all and then cask your vote (lefthandbrewing.com).
Renegade Brewing will host a One Flew Over the Barleywine festival, featuring unlimited samples of 12 barleywines, 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Renegade Publik House, near the University of Denver ($30; renegadebrewing.com).
Oskar Blues is teaming up with Denver-based non-profit Love, Hope, Strength to throw its Beer and Guitars festival, a two-day music and beer event, noon-midnight Friday, Oct. 11, and 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday, Oct. 12, in Denver's Sculpture Park. The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, The Congress, The White Buffalo and many other national and local acts will perform on an outdoor stage, and plenty of Colorado-made brews and food from Oskar Blues will be on hand. A portion of the ticket sales will be split between Love, Hope, Strength and Oskar Blues CAN'd Foundation's Colorado Flood Relief Fund ($25; fbagblowout.com).
Go with the flow
Enjoy a one-hour vinyasa flow yoga class from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday at Upslope's Flatiron Park Tap Room, followed by a pint at the bar ($20; upslopebrewing.com).
Explore the culinary side of beer
Upslope will serve up some of its most rare beers and one-off batches paired with food prepared in the Infamous Beerliner, a refurbished 1974 bus that features four beer taps, three video screens and a commercial kitchen, 2-9 p.m. Monday in the brewery's Lee Hill Tap Room. The event is part of a 1,400-mile bike journey from Austin, Texas, to Denver to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer through the nonprofit Pints for Prostates (upslopebrewing.com).
Ian Clark, founder of BRU Handbuilt Ales, will prepare a special beer dinner that showcases his passion for exploring the intersection of food and beer at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the restaurant in Boulder ($55; bruboulder.com). At 6 p.m. Wednesday, join Clark for a BRU Flight Tasting event with tasters of five of his beers paired with small bites ($55; bruboulder.com).
Sample a variety of beers made with some truly wild ingredients during the Beers Made By Walking event, 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Wynkoop Brewing in Denver. Seventeen Colorado breweries were invited to dream up a specialty beer inspired by the edible and medicinal plants one might find while hiking in the state. Boulder Beer, for example, came up with its Spirit Guide Chokecherry Stout, which is infused with dandelion, milk thistle and echinacea ($30, beersmadebywalking.com).
Denver's Rialto Cafe will host the inaugural Brewer's Alley, featuring beers from Boulder Beer, Renegade Brewing Co., Ska Brewing, Bristol Brewing and Upslope, along with food pairings, 4:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, at the alleyway off the 16th Street Mall between Curtis and Champa Streets in downtown Denver ($25; brewersalley.eventbrite.com).
The Kitchen (Next Door) will celebrate GABF with a lineup of local beers from Upslope, Odell and Dry Dock during its annual kickoff event at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
For something you can really sink your teeth into, head to Odd 13 Brewing in Lafayette at 7 p.m. Monday for a jerky and beer-pairing event. Sample five-ounce tasters with a variety of jerky flavors from Duke's Jerky ($20; odd13brewing.com).
Get on the bus
Hop a ride on the Oskar Blues Trolley to tour various stops during the brewery's third annual Oskar Blues Ordeal, a series of special tours that depart from the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver. There's a different itinerary Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 11, with highlights such as behind-the-scenes tours of Oskar Blues' brewery in Longmont, a visit to the original brewery in Lyons, a gospel brunch and a bonfire and pig roast on Oskar Blues' Hops and Heifers farm. Ticket prices include beer, meals and roundtrip transportation ($75-$100; oskarblues.com).
Bar hop by bike
Avery is organizing a "Barrel-Aged Bike Ride" from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, starting at Denver's Falling Rock Taphouse with stops at Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, Highland Tap and Burger and finishing at Star Bar. Along the way, patrons will enjoy samples of rare Avery beers, as well as receive a playing card at each stop. The three best poker hands at the end of the event win something cool. BYOBike ($45; averyride.eventbrite.com).
Join a tap takeover
A tap takeover, where some or all of a bar's taps are given over to beers from a particular brewery, is a great way to sample a variety of beers, many of which aren't available outside the brewery's tap room, in one convenient location.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, for example, Upslope Brewery will take over the taps at Corner Bar in downtown Boulder.
Be among the first to try Boulder Beer's newest creations -- including Shake Chocolate Porter, Mojo Nitro, Fryed and Dragonhosen -- during a mini-tap takeover, also on Monday, at Rueben's Burger Bistro in Boulder. A raffle for a Boulder Beer bike jersey will be held at halftime during Monday Night Football (ruebensburgerbistro.com).
Drink in your pajamas
After a GABF session a few years back, members of Avery's staff decided to cap off the night by donning robes from their hotel rooms and going out to local bars. An event was born. Put on your fanciest robe and join Avery brewers for a Robe One Out bar crawl party from 10 p.m. to close at Freshcraft, Lucky Pie and The Pour House Pub in Denver. (No tickets necessary; first 30 people in robes at each bar receive a free Avery beer.)
Contact Tom Wilmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.