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Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beer Aims to Fill Void of GABF

Falling Rock Taphouse - Aperture of Ales by Holly Gerard

For the past 22 years, on the Monday before the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), one of the country’s most iconic beer bars has helped usher in the event with a celebratory kick-off tapping at 5 p.m.

However this year, on September 21, when Falling Rock Tap House’s GABF countdown timer would normally have ticked down to all zeros, there will be little pomp and circumstance as the festival transitions to a virtual format in response to the pandemic.

Like most businesses in downtown Denver, Falling Rock has been hit hard during the past six months. In addition to being shut down temporarily at the onset of the pandemic, the renowned beer bar had previously relied heavily on foot traffic from local offices and Rockies games, with its biggest weekend often coinciding with GABF.

falling rock

Over the years, owner Chris Black had grown their GABF week from a daily lineup of special tappings in 1999 to hourly tappings beginning in 2000, bringing in lines of beer fanatics often five to six deep along the entire width of the bar.

“Our primary business model of pulling lots of people to special tappings of beers is really challenging, we don’t really want large crowds in the time of COVID, we want 50-60 people to show up, not the 100’s that maybe would have shown up in the past,” said Black.

But this year, in wanting to protect the safety of their patrons and employees alike, Black’s assistant Beth Walter helped to come up with a solution that would still allow Falling Rock to celebrate the weekend, while also creating a safe and memorable beer experience. Titled, the Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beer, the four-session event will span Thursday, September 24 – Sunday, September 27.

falling rock alternative festival of great beer
Photo Courtesy of Falling Rock Tap House

Tickets include 30 two-ounce pours of special tappings and rare releases from the Falling Rock cellar. The lineup features everything from a vintage Avery Mephistopheles from 2009, to rarities like Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight and DeProef & New Glarus’s Abtsolution collaboration. Attendees will also be treated to a meal of pulled pork sandwiches on Thursday and Friday night, and hot chicken sandwiches on Saturday and Sunday during the 6-10 p.m. sessions.

Black noted that they were taking several precautions to ensure a safe and healthy drinking environment for attendees including limited spaced out seating, and creating over 200 sampler paddles for participants. However due to the limited seating capacity, Black noted that the event would have to sell out all four sessions in order for it to go on as planned.

“If we sell out the event it will give us a much better cushion to make it through the winter months and reduce the stress level a small amount,” said Black. “Who knows what changes we’ll have to make in the coming months, we’re just trying to do our best to follow the guidelines and make it through to the other side while keeping all of our staff and customers as safe as we can.”

The full pour list for the Falling Rock Alternative Festival of Great Beer is listed below and tickets are currently available via NightOut.

 Thursday/FridaySaturday/Sunday
1Breakside IPABreakside IPA
2Drie Fonteinen Oude GueuzeDrie Fonteinen Hommage
3Russian River SupplicationRussian River Supplication
4Lost Abbey Falling Rock 21Lost Abbey Falling Rock 21
5Crooked Stave Falling RockCrooked Stave Falling Rock
6Avery Mephistopheles 2009Avery Uncle Jacobs 2014
7Courage Russian Imperial StoutCourage Russian Imperial Stout
8Lost Abbey Angel’s Share 2014Port Older Viscosity 2013
9Lost Abbey Angel’s Share 2015Port Older Viscosity 2014
10Dogfish Head 120 Minute 2020Alaskan Smoked Porter 2011
11Dogfish Head 120 Minute 2019Alaskan Smoked Porter 2015
12Founders CBS 2017Founders KBS 2017
13Founders CBS 2018Founders KBS 2018
14Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad w/CherriesSierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Narwhal
15Epic Oak & Orchard Cherry LimeEpic Sour Brainless Lucy
16Firestone Walker Bretta RoseFirestone Walker Rolling Bones
17Topling Goliath Mornin’ DelightTopling Goliath DDH King Sue
18Comrade SuperdampComrade Superdamp
19DeProef/New Glarus AbtsolutionDuchesse Chocolate Cherry
20Lawson’s Finest TBD ALawson’s Finest TBD B
21Cannonball Creek Project Alpha 40Cannonball Creek Single Hop Nelson
22Westbound & Down Hop ConductorWestbound & Down DIPA
23Surly DamienSurly Damien
24Russian River Happy HopsRussian River Blind Pig
25Anchorage/Tired Hands Migrating EyesAnchorage An Eternity
26Cellar West Make HayCellar West Westfield
27Unibroue Saison 13Unibroue TBD
28Casey Brewing & Blending TBD ACasey Brewing & Blending TBD B
29Purpose Brewing Smoeltrekker #74Purpose Brewing Smoeltrekker #76
30Bell’s 35th Anniversary Expedition StoutBell’s Double Two Hearted Ale

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