Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Volunteering at the 2009 GABF

Volunteering at the GABFA big beer festival like the Great American Beer Festival doesn't just happen all by itself. It takes a lot more effort than just having a bunch of breweries bring kegs and throwing a big party. It takes a lot of planning and hard work. One way to give back to the GABF each year is to volunteer your time.

The GABF uses thousands of volunteers to make that event successful each year. This was my second straight year of volunteering at the GABF. This year there were over 453 breweries represented and over 2100 different beers being poured. That equates to a lot of kegs and a lot of individual bottles of beer to be moved around. After all, if all 49,000 attendees were going to get their share of beer, there had better be enough beer for everyone to go around.

I volunteered for the 8:00am to 5:00pm Thursday GABF Set-up crew. Our job involved doing several things: sorting kegs into numerical order onto crates by booth number. Once sorted, put all the duplicates into longbed trucks in the back of the loading docks in numerical order. Not an easy task, particularly when there were no lights inside the truck trailers.

As soon as one truck was filled, we had to move on to the next truck. My team filled up three entire semi-trailers worth of extra kegs. Once all of the extra kegs were safely stored away in the trucks it was time to ice down all the beers on the main floor. There were roughly between 1600 barrels to ice down. Not only that, but all of the kegs had to be connected to the taps and CO2 lines.

Once all the beer was set up we had to move all of the serving tables into place. Only after that could the brewery reps could come in and start decorating their booths with signs and displays.

The entire physical preparation for the GABF convention hall started a few days in advance. This year the Wednesday set-up crew had time enough to start loading kegs into the big barrels the night before. That freed us up to do a lot more troubleshooting and managing of the spare kegs the next day.

I must admit, the moving of hundreds and hundreds of kegs around was no easy task. There were 5 gallon kegs and also half barrel kegs to move around. Some weighing in at over 190 pounds. It was quite a work out.

By the end of the two 4-hour shifts that Thursday morning, my arms, shoulders and legs were dog tired. Last year I did the same thing and also ended up serving beer at the Thursday night session.

This year, I just wanted to relax and drink some beer after a long day of kegworking. But even the task of walking around tasting beers took a toll on me. By 9:00pm that night, I could barely stand due to how sore my feet were from being on my feet all day.

I ended up leaving a bit early from the Thursday 2009 GABF session. I headed home to Greeley and fell asleep quickly. I ended up getting a lot of sleep that night. A good thing too because the next two days would be filled with even more beer events in Denver. It's too bad I wasn't getting frequent driver miles on my car for driving back and forth to Denver three straight days.

Overall, I'm glad I volunteered for the beer festival. Not only did I earn two free passes to the Thursday and Friday night sessions, I also got a great understanding and appreciation for what it takes to set-up for a festival like this.

If you'd like to volunteer at the GABF and earn some free passes to the festival for yourself, be sure to visit the GABF web site around the May timeframe. They will post a link to a volunteer application form that you can fill out.

I'm sure that the likes of Charlie Papazian, the breweries and the rest of the Brewers Association had their hands full with promotions, advertising, brewery and exhibitor registration, tickets and the like. I'm glad I didn't have those jobs. Moving kegs was hard enough.

A big thanks to all of the volunteers and organizers of the 2009 Great American Beer Festival. You helped to expand the festival once again and kept those beers flowing all through the 3-day festival. I hope to do it all again next year. Well maybe not moving kegs again but perhaps pouring beers.

Update: View the 2009 GABF music video in Setting up for the 2009 GABF part 1. Also, new complete video coverage of the Thursday setup day from a volunteer perspective in Setting up for the 2009 GABF part 2.

Related articles:
- Hot picks from the 2009 GABF.
- 2nd annual Flying Dog's FBAG party. (2009)
- 2009 Colorado GABF medal winners.
- Thursday night 2009 GABF Tweetup highlights.
- Behind the scenes video at the 2008 GABF.
- The Inaugural Denver Rare Beer Tasting. (2009)

This article came from FermentedlyChallenged.com
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