Great American Beer Festival can be referred to as nothing less than “an experience” and the momentous occasion just continues to expand both inside the Colorado Convention Center with the growing number of attendees and throughout Denver, with the incorporation of more specialized events. So if you are not one of the many that quickly snaps up tickets, don’t dismay. We highly encourage you to download the GABF app or visit the website to find a long list of exterior events that still features exceptional breweries in nearby establishments, or look up your favorite beer bars to locate unusual and funky pours. Our top picks include: Goed Zuur, Freshcraft, Falling Rock Taphouse and Tap Fourteen. These spots still allow for the opportunity to appreciate that exclusive barrel aged stout, discover a Three Floyds Brewing lineup or take your pick from a Fort Collins tap takeover, but within the typically more comfortable constraints of a locally-based restaurant or bar.

We get down on some lamb meatballs topped with Harissa and tzatziki sauces alongside a Zombie Dust from Three Floyds Brewing Co. during their tap takeover at LowDown Brewery + Kitchen.

If you can snag tickets to the big show, we recommend you spring for the additional cost of the internal food and beer event Paired that couples craft breweries and notable chefs from across the country. Ten years ago, GABF brought the Farm to Table Pavilion into the mix, the infant stages of Paired, and the concept continues to progress to not only showcase sought after beers, but the powerful nuances that the magnificent mini plates beside them also provide.

Amidst the controlled chaos of GABF, we make it a point every year to escape towards the back corner of the humungous building and happily ease our way into a less crowded landscape that is speckled with the same prominent brews and added bonus, impeccable morsels of food. Plus, we find some distinct face time with both the liquid mechanics and the ladies and gents that are eager to feed us and relish in the surprises that they present with a wildly diverse array that alters the idea of what is proper “bar food.”

*Pro Tip: It seems obvious but we’ll say it again, it’s imperative to find time to chow down during the massive beer festival and Paired makes for an unmistakable step up from homemade pretzel necklaces.

Here are some of RMFR’s favorite moments and standout snacks at Paired during GABF 2018:

This deviled egg with smoked trout roe, everything spice and purple shiso from chef BJ Smith at Smokehouse Tavern in Portland, Oregon, pairs with an Alpenglow Golden Wild Ale from Uinta Brewing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Chef Mike Friedman from Red Hen/AP in Washington D.C. presents a chicken liver tramezzino with fig conserva, toasted hazelnuts and fresh thyme with a Glorious Pale Ale from Lord Hobo Brewing Company that hails from Woburn, Massachusetts.
These adorable guajillo meringues from chef Kyle Mendenhall at Arcana in Boulder, Colorado, cradles squash puree, fried dulse and toasted benne seeds with a Drunken Santa, a spiced English ale aged in bourbon barrels from Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth, Texas.
We love the Passionfruit Trees, a sparkling ale with fruit, from Calicraft Brewing Company in Walnut Creek, California, with the Jackson Hole style Tom Kha Gai from chef Gavin Fine at the Fine Dining Restaurant Group in Wyoming.
Hickory & Ash, part of Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group in Denver, shares these lovely chicken rillettes that rest on savory rosemary and cheddar pizzelles with cherry mostarda and green tomato chow chow beside an American pale ale from LauderAle Brewery & Tap Room in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, titled “I Got Lost on the Way Here.”
The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project shares their gratzer, Bacon – Hold the Eggs, with braunschweiger and a shallot marmalade on rye from Ardent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   
Colorado doubles down with a gorgeous presentation of puffed beef tendon, smoked tallow honey butter, lacto fermented white peaches and smoked dried beef from Bin 707 Foodbar in Durango, Colorado, with the Tamarindus Indica, a Belgian dubbel with tamarind, from Spice Trade Brewing out of Arvada, Colorado.
Sometimes less is more and this simple but beautifully executed, hand rolled garganelli with black garlic essence from chef John Tesar at Knife in Dallas, Texas, is a crowd pleaser with the India export ale, “Flying Bear” from Two Roots Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.
We’re big fans of El Moro Spirits & Tavern in Durango, Colorado, and their huckleberry olive oil cake with a buttermilk sabayon and quinoa crumble is moist and textural with the “Aren’t You a Peach” sour saison with Masumoto Farm peaches from J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami, Florida.
There’s nothing quite like the comfort found in a bowl of shrimp and grits and this collaboration between the Brewers Association comes with a Howler, a New England IPA with citra, cashmere and strata hops from Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery.
We sing the praises of brunch all. the time. so we chose to linger around the smoked wagyu brisket hash with tomato hollandaise and black pepper from The Bear and Star in Los Olivos, California, and wash it down with another breakfast favorite, an experimental cereal milk IPA from Armadillo Ale Works in Denton, Texas.
Our German-style kolsch “Hold the Lime” from Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, California, compliments this sammy, full of mole rock n’ roll chilled rock shrimp with a mole aioli and some sesame super crunch in a New England split top bun from Craftsman.
I don’t know what you are but we’re going to eat you.