They descended upon the Colorado Convention Center with such number and force, few knew what to expect. Hotels were completely booked with myriad guests:\u00a0beer-belly twenty-somethings, groups of women looking to broaden their knowledge and affluent couples traveling from abroad with the event as the only item on their itinerary. The city of Denver was filled with locals and tourists alike, all carrying little 3-ounce tasting glasses with the same ubiquitous logo as the countless banners adorning the street. With 408 breweries pouring over 1,800 beers, this was the largest selection of American beers ever gathered together on the globe. The Great American Beer Festival: need I say more?\r\n\r\nWith more than 46,000 attendees and over 18,000 gallons of beer, 2007 marked the 26th anniversary of the Great\u00a0American Beer Festival, held October 11-13. This year's event was bigger than ever with all four sessions selling out in advance. The 1st GABF held in 1982 hosted 22 breweries, 40 beers and 800 attendees; the festival has undoubtedly grown substantially and now welcomes breweries from almost all 50 states.\r\n\r\n\r\nSamples at the GABF.\r\nPhoto James Piccolo\r\n\r\nThe event, presented by the Brewers Association, is an opportunity for consumers and members of the industry alike to mingle and see what is currently going on in the craft brewing scene. With over 1,440 breweries in the United States today, almost every American is positioned to live within 10 miles of a local brewery.\u00a0The growth and availability of craft beer is helping to drive the segment, with the volume of craft beer sold in the first half of 2007 up 11% compared to the same period in 2006; for the first time ever, craft beer has exceeded a 5% dollar share of total beer sales.\u00a0The growth in sales is higher than that of any other alcohol beverage category, with 8% of the growth coming from shoppers trading up or across a brand and 4% coming from new consumers (those who have never purchased beer before).\r\n\r\n\r\nPro-Am beers waiting to be judged.\r\nPhoto James Piccolo\r\n\r\nAttendees of the event are treated to unlimited one ounce samples in addition to a wide array of other activities.\u00a0 The creation of a "Beer and Food Pavillion" showcases award-winning chefs and brewers from around the country with different discussions and demonstrations occurring throughout the festival.\u00a0The Brewery Poster contest allows breweries to compete for the best poster which the attendees vote upon, with all of the artwork eventually auctioned off and a portion of the proceeds going to charity. The Pro-Am Competition beers, now in its second year, are award-winning homebrew recipes produced with the assistance of a professional brewer; the beers are all showcased on the festival floor with the opportunity for all attendees to taste. With a full out awards ceremony (over 75 beer style categories and 222 total medals awarded), book signings, game lounge and merchandise booth, there is definitely something for everyone.\r\n\r\nThe 27th annual Great American Beer Festival will take place October 9-11, 2008; for more information, please visit www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com. Save the date, and look forward to seeing you all there!