DENVER — The annual Great American Beer Festival kicked off at the Colorado Convention Center Thursday.
This year, the event features 500 breweries with 1,800 beers. It's a chance for brewers and beer lovers alike to try IPAs, porters, lagers and others brewed across the country.
"It's a great way for the brewers to collaborate with each other. It's an amazing time for beer lovers to go to these breweries and experience things they might not get in Colorado otherwise," Ann Obenchain, the vice president of marking and communications for the Brewers Association, said.
This year, Obenchain said there's expected to be about 40,000 festival attendees over the four different sessions spanning three days (Saturday is split into two different sessions- afternoon and evening).
There will be a gluten-free and non-alcoholic area this year.
"The gluten-free garden is where we've curated lots of beers, ciders and other alcohol as gluten-free products for you. In addition, we also have the non-alcohol oasis. So if you're really looking to temper or if you want to just try some of the exciting beverages that are going on right now, there's not a better time. Breweries are exploding and experimenting with flavor in that non-alcoholic category," Obenchain said.
The Great American Beer Festival is not just about the sampling. It's also a competition. Participating breweries enter their beers to be judged by a panel of beer professionals. However, festival attendees can try the competition entries during tasting sessions, according to the event's website.
An unexpected part of the event is the costumes some attendees dress up in for the festival. Organizers decided to create costume themes and contests for all four sessions of the festival.
This year, the theme will be "Titletown" or "team night" on Thursday.
"Whether your favorite sports team is a little league, dream team, national or world championship team, don your favorite fan threads and sport your fandom," the website instructed attendees.
The theme for Friday is "festival flair." You choose your favorite costume.
For Saturday afternoon's session, attendees are encouraged to dress up like "iconic musicians and bands," and Saturday night, the costume contest is "movie and TV characters."
This will be the 41st Great American Beer Festival. 2019 was the largest in festival history with more than 800 breweries, 4,000 beers and 60,000 attendees.
The first festival was held in 1982 at the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder before it moved to Denver 1984, according to the website.
This year's Great American Beer Festival runs through Saturday, September 23. You can learn more and get tickets here.