Tuesday, July 28, 2015
As you are queuing up Wednesday to buy your GABF tickets, a thought will run through your head: Should I spend the extra money to get tickets to the Paired event as well?
The short answer: If you are thinking about it, you absolutely should.
In my 15th year of attending the Great American Beer Festival last year, I finally went to what then was called the farm-to-table session. It was an eye-opener.
The joy of craft beer is often heightened by a good food pairing. But what is cooked up in the back room of the festival is beyond good.
There chefs and breweries work together to demonstrate why a sour beer can compliment a briny oyster so well. Or they show what barrel-aged beer can add to a fine sausage.
This is not haphazard matchmaking, like some poorly engineered website. This is gurus like Vail Big Beers brain Laura Lodge putting together cross-country restaurants and master breweries who will work together to find just the right taste - and then dare you to compare it to others in the room.
Paired is growing this year from 14 to 21 brewery-chef pairings, and it's clear that they know interest from the beer crowd is growing too.
The lone downside to purchasing this add-on is that being in the Paired section will consume much of your time at that evening's session. Where once you flitted around the great hall of the Colorado Convention Center comparing notes about hundreds of breweries' offerings with your friends, you now will debate with a smaller crowd whether a double IPA pairs better with Beef Wellington or with chipotle shrimp. (Spoiler alert: It's the latter.)
But going even once can be a perspective-altering experience to let you truly feast on the best marriages of food and beer. So, if you're kicking around the buy, do it. You won't regret it.