Our Favorite Beers from the 2022 Great American Beer Festival

Sam Adams Utopia line GABF

The Great American Beer Festival made its triumphant return to Denver in time for its 40th Anniversary celebration– and The Beer Travel Guide was happy to make our triumphant return to Denver coincide with America’s biggest beerfest. When GABF started, it was 24 breweries, 47 beers, and no competition. Now, it features more than 2000 beers from nearly 500 breweries and serves as host to a competition nearly 100 categories deep that boasted nearly 10,000 commercial brewery entries. The scope of GABF is massive, so it’s impossible to get to even a quarter of the beers being poured over the weekend– but we did our best, girded our livers, and tried as many beers as we could. Even trying north of 200 beers in three sessions makes narrowing down a list of favorites a daunting task… but much like the judges must face impossible decisions in selecting gold medal winners, we too have given it our best shot. Here are our favorite beers from the 2022 Great American Beer Festival. 

Before diving in, a word or two about our approach to GABF: when we attend, it’s rarely with the intention of visiting our usual favorite breweries. Our favorite thing about beer festivals is getting to discover breweries from across the country that we’ve never experienced before– or breweries we enjoyed a while ago that we haven’t been able to encounter again since. You’ll see a couple of familiar favorites on here, because we’re not immune to the temptations of timed pours or new exciting beers from a place we’ve grown to love, but for many of the breweries you see missing from this list– especially California breweries like Pure Project, Russian River, The Lost Abbey, Bottle Logic, Firestone Walker, Figueroa Mountain, and others that we enjoy several times throughout a calendar year– we simply decided to prioritize exploration of new or rarely visited breweries instead. (Worth noting that we’d had Pure Project’s Corylus and The Lost Abbey’s award-winning Peach Afternoon the week before GABF, and both of those would’ve absolutely made this list had we consumed them on premises.) 

Field & Oak: Golden Raspberry- 2020 Harvest

Kane Brewing was a highlight in 2019, but we’d yet to try anything from Field & Oak, Kane’s lambic-and-saison-focused offshoot. The spontaneously fermented Golden Raspberry was our first sip, and it was an absolute grand slam, easily one of the best of the fest. Fruity, tart, effervescent… it makes our mouths water just thinking about it.

Blind Tiger Brewing: Smoke Follows Beauty
Live Oak Brewing: Grodziskie 

One of the more surprising trends we saw this year was how many breweries brought smoked beers to the festival. We love to ask at the table, “Which is your favorite here?” and they, to borrow a popular phrase, wanted all the smoke. Blind Tiger’s Smoke Follows Beauty was a big smoky boy– and a gold medal winner in the Smoke Beer category– and the lager specialists at Live Oak brought an absolutely delicious Grodziskie, somehow both smoky *and* crushable, an instant favorite at The Beer Travel Guide. We hope to see the smoked beer trend continue!

Chuckanut Brewing: Kolsch
Fritz Family Brewers: Cuckoo for Kolsch

Another style we found more in supply than we’d normally expect at a beer festival was kolsch– and we were grateful for its inclusion. So many breweries understandably go heavy on the IPAs, stouts, and sours, because those are the popular styles and the biggest flavors, but all of that higher ABV leaves one longing for a clean, crisp, light, slightly sweet option like a kolsch. Chuckanut and Fritz Family Brewers, both of whom had multiple delicious lagers available, were two spots with standout kolsches of the weekend. 

Altstadt Brewing: Lager
Austin Beer Garden Brewing: Industry
Faction Brewing: 1970’s Lager
Insight Brewing: Avant

Along those same lines, we were fortunate to have tried a variety of the gold medal winning lagers of the festival– several before the awards were presented– and found them all to be worthy inclusions on the podium. Altstadt and ABGB both represent some of Texas’s finest lager-making in general, so their terrific beers here were no surprise, and Insight’s pilsner was nice and crisp. Finally, Faction’s 1970’s lager was the best beer under 4% of the festival, a beautifully done industrial lager that merited multiple return visits to the Faction table.

Bearded Brewer Artisan Ales: Carnival Dayz: Blueberry Cotton Candy
Corporate Ladder Brewing: Double Barrel Zombie
DankHouse Brewing: Stay Puffed: Grape Cherry
Gideon’s Brewing: Mango Habanero Sour

Unsurprisingly, fruited sours were in *very* high demand over the weekend– the smoothie sensation sweeping the nation gives the sort of burst of fruity sugar juice that sounds increasingly appealing as one’s blood alcohol level rises. We find ourselves drawn to the fruited sours with the most distinctive flavors– because whether or not we like them, they keep us on our toes. From the spicy sour at Gideon’s and the grape cherry Icee vibes at Dankhouse to Bearded Brewer’s absolutely straight bubblegum cotton candy juice, the standouts earn our respect. And special mention must be made of Corporate Ladder, making some of the best fruited sours on the planet– their peach brandy and rum barrel aged fruit bomb Double Barrel Zombie Sour is no exception.

Living Waters Brewing: BA Køge
Soul & Spirits: Bring it Home

We haven’t made it out to Tennessee in far too long, so we were happy to see so many Tennessee breweries volunteering (teehee) to make the trip to Denver for GABF. Two Tennessee breweries that were new to us, Living Waters and Soul & Spirits, blew us away with all of their options– we don’t always go back for everything a brewery is pouring, but we did for both these places. Trying to pick a favorite from these tables, gun to head, we’ll go with Soul & Spirits’s refreshing Helles and Living Waters’s delectable barrel-aged coffee stout.

Cannonball Creek Brewing: Trump Hands
Cannonball Creek Brewing and Riip Brewing: 1019 West Coast IPA

We at The Beer Travel Guide are firm believers in the “west coast best coast” mantra, and that’s especially true when it comes to IPAs. We’d never had any IPAs from Golden’s Cannonball Creek Brewing before, but Trump Hands was outstanding, the best session IPA we had at the fest. They also had a hop bomb IPA at the collab table with Riip Brewing– Riip makes some of the best west coast IPAs in SoCal (their Dankster Squad, enjoyed by us in their taproom a few weeks ago, took home silver in the IPA category), so it makes sense that this collab was also a monster, a competitior for best IPA at the festival, clear, hazy, or otherwise. We’ll have our eyes peeled for Cannonball Creek going forward.

By All Means Brewing and Uberbrew: 018 IPA: Alpha Force 013
Shades Brewing and Templin Family Brewers: Painapple Cocokiller
Off Color Brewing and Metropolitan Brewing: Avec le Guillotine
Perry Street Brewing and Draughtworks: Shirts are for Jerks

Speaking of collaborations, the collaboration table was one of the most consistently great locations per session. We’d have six to eight collaborations every session, and they never failed to blow us away. Some of the most memorable: an outstanding Montana black IPA collab from By All Means and Uberbrew, a pineapple coconut fruited kveik from Utah’s Shade’s and TF Brewing, a wild fermented doppelbock from Chicago’s Off Color and Metropolitan, and a top-notch cold IPA from Spokane’s Perry Street and Missoula’s Draughtworks.

Our Mutual Friend: Dream Burner
Precarious Beer Project: Polar Bears Toenails
Western Collective: Western Phantasy Vol. 3

Speaking of cold IPAs (we’re killing it with these segues!), the classic india pale lager was in full effect at GABF this year. And despite the raging debate over the “cold IPA” moniker, there’s no denying that the rose by any other name tastes as hoppy and crisp. Western Collective and Denver’s own Our Mutual Friend delivered some of the best we had of the style– and Precarious Beer Project, winner of the heralded Brewery Group Brewery and Brewer of the Year, also brought home gold in the Experimental IPA category for Polar Bears Toenails, an appropriately chilly name for a champion cold IPA. 

Fremont Brewing: Rusty Nail 2022
Revolution Brewing: Coconut Deth
WeldWerks: Otra Noche

We’re not immune to the siren song of the 13.5+% imperial stout at GABF, especially when some of the best stout makers on the planet have some of their most scrumptious high-ABV treats easily accessible for festival goers. (Props to any breweries who eschews the timed pours and doles out wonders like these freely.) Fremont is a staple in the barrel aged game, and the WeldWerks/Other Half collab lived up to its massive hype. Finally, Revolution Brewing blessed us, among other things, with a taste of sinfully smooth coconut goodness from its Deth’s Tar series. 

While we’d love to write about every beer we loved in great detail… these articles are very time-consuming! So below is a list of more beers that we absolutely loved that merit inclusion on any best-of-the-fest list: 

Bent Water Brewing: Premium Lager
Bozeman Brewing: Metamorphic Flanders Style Red
Call to Arms Brewing: Operation Steingrabber
City Star: Cabaret 
Commonhouse Aleworks: Looking East
COOP Ale Works: F5
Crooked Stave: Stay the Funk In
Deadwords Brewing: God Complex
Decipher Brewing: Artemis
Four Sons Brewing: EightFold
Frontyard Brewing: Rye IPA
HenHouse Brewing: The Beer 2000
Humdinger Brewing: Roast Coaster
Level Crossing Brewing: Vienna Lager
Light the Lamp Brewing: Upgrade
Morgan Territory Brewing: Barrely Tipsy
New Terrain Brewing: BA Eurotrip
903 Brewers: Dr. Seltzer
No Label Brewing: Cali Boy
Old Germantown: Kellerbier
Peace Tree Brewing: Get a Little Hazy
Peculier Ales: Barleywine
Radiant Beer: Dig This Crazy Scene
River North: Nightmare Fuel
Rouleur Brewing: Domestique Blonde
Snake River Brewing: Speargun
Sonder Brewing: Kato
Sun King: Horchata Shadow Proof
Taxman Brewing: Flower Bond
Thesis Beer Project: Holy Khao!
Une Annee: Le Grand Monde 2021-6
West Sixth Brewing: Mexican Mocha

Thanks again to everyone who made this experience so special– especially all of the new friends we made!– and congratulations to everyone pouring at the festival, whether you won a medal or not, and whether you made this list or not. We tried safely over 200 beers, and we found very, very few beers we didn’t like. You’re all worthy and magnificent, and we love supporting craft brewers like you. Cheers to the entire gang from GABF, and we hope to see you all again next year! 

Please leave in the comments what your favorite beer/brewery was at GABF, and be sure to check out all our GABF content over on TikTok!