Feeling the Pain of Missing GABF

Today.  That’s the day that hurts the most.

Today is the first day of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, a three-day long celebration of craft beer in Denver, Colorado.  For those who don’t know, GABF is like a combination of the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and an all-you-can eat buffet for beer geeks, and I’m not there.  Instead, I type this from my usual stomping grounds of Northern New Jersey.

This wasn’t the plan.  Instead, Don and I were going to meet in Denver, and spend the next few days tasting exotic beers, mingling with brewers, and meeting fellow beer geeks, old friends and new.  And unlike last time when we went as a pair of goofy bloggers, this time we were going as Made Men. 

We have real-deal media credentials, and invites to all form of junkets have been flowing into our inboxes – a free bus trip to Oskar Blues to sample some special stuff, invites to all sorts of parties and events, and complete access to the show floor of GABF and the awards ceremony. Were going to be issuing tweets and posts and videos and pictures for both the Today Show (Don was going to be my photographer) and for B&WB.  A cornucopia of coverage from the bros., your cup would have runneth over.

But then a pipe burst and a stranger died and I called off the trip.

You see, while we could use our link to the Today Show to gain access to the festivities, we had to pay for our own travel and boarding (Matt Lauer, I ain’t).  Fair enough, but my life got suddenly expensive due to old pipes and bad automotive choices by yours truly.

First, the pipes.  The main drain pipe (an old iron number) from my kitchen split down the middle and warped the wood floors in our kitchen and foyer.  About a week later, the hot water line to the upstairs bathroom sink burst, silently flooding the cabinet and ruining the ceiling and walls in the room below.

While our insurance company has been fair with us, things are never as simple as just replacing what’s broken.  You see, my wife has been talking for years about extend the wood floors from the kitchen into the family room, and we were planning to do it in February.  Now that the existing floors are coming up, it makes sense to do it now.  Also, the cabinet in the upstairs bathroom has to be replaced, and the tile floors in there are cracked and old, so it makes sense to replace them out of our own pocket while the room is torn apart.  None of this is cheap.

While the house stuff pretty much took GABF off the table for this year, a horrible accident sealed the deal and made me have a come-to-jeebus moment about my MINI Cooper convertible.

A relative of our friends – a woman I’ve never met – was driving her kids to school in the family minivan, when a tired driver crossed the center line and hit the four of them head on.  The mom didn’t survive the wreck, and her 12 year-old daughter in the front passenger seat had her lower body crushed, resulting in a broken pelvis and needing two steel rods to be inserted into her legs, not to mention months of pain and rehab.  The two younger kids in the back seats were bruised up, but otherwise okay.

The moment I heard this story, I put my 10 year-old son in that front seat, which is really the only place he fit in my MINI (he’s 5’4″).  I thought of him with a broken pelvis, steel rods in his legs and no dad, and realized it was really stupid and really selfish to have bought myself such a frivolous vehicle.  It hit really close to home.  And they were in a minivan, not my roofless metrosexual mobile.

When I purchased my MINI, I had assured myself that even though it was a tiny convertible, it was safe; it was designed by ze Ghermins who are good at safety, plus it was so nimble I certainly could use my mad driving skillz to avoid any bad business I encountered whilst motoring.

I told myself these things because I really wanted that mid-life-crisis mobile, but in that moment, imagining my son in pain and his life (and the life of my dad-less daughter) changed irrevocably, all of my well reasoned arguments fell away, and I was left seeing my little convertible for what it is:  A potential death trap for my small family.  It might have been overreacting, but the MINI had to go.  I couldn’t live with myself (even if I was dead) if something happened to my family in that roofless little runabout.

I know we’ve discussed my MINI here in the past, and I should have shared this story sooner, but truth be told, I was embarrassed.  Embarrassed that I bought a fun car without really thinking of my family, embarrassed that I would have to take the financial hit for selling a car that’s only a year old, and embarrassed that instead of punishing myself for my stupidity by buying something safer and inexpensive, I purchased something kind of nice.

About two weeks ago, I picked up an (almost) bone-stock BMW X1, sort of a Subaru Outback that can carve corners.  I got a smoking deal on the car (the cheapest BMW makes, BTW), which put it close in price to some of its Japanese station wagon rivals.  It’s got good pickup, handles really well, and the whole family fits where they belong (adults up front, kids in back).  Plus, it’s been sold in other markets for three years, and has been crowned Europe’s safest SUV.  The only thing wrong with it is the logo on the hood – I like BMW’s because they’re car-guy cars, but the whole badge snob thing is a turn off for me.

So there you have it – it feels good to get the car thing off my chest.  I can’t keep secrets from you!

Anyway, between the house needing work and the financial hit on the car, it didn’t make sense to dole out more dough for flights, hotels, meals and drunken snack binges in Denver.  As a grown up, I know I did the right thing. But as a beer geek with a Golden Ticket, it’s killing me not to be there.

I’ll try to avoid Facebook and Twitter for a couple of days so I don’t have to read about what a fabulous time everyone is having.  Of course next week about half the people I’m Facebook friends with will have the same photo of them posing with Sam Calagione as their profile pic, so I imagine the sting might linger a while.  Oh well, maybe next year.

But for this year, GABF=Great American Bummer Fest.  😦



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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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22 Comments on “Feeling the Pain of Missing GABF”

  1. MrVoice
    October 11, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Jim I admire you for taking the stand that you did…I have never been to the GABF…but I have been to numerous shows in New England…
    May your repairs and remodel proceed quickly and under budget…you should sleep well knowing your choices are an inspiration…

    • October 11, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Thanks, MV. “May your repairs and remodel proceed quickly and under budget…” sounds like an Irish blessing for home improvement!

      • MrVoice
        October 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

        You’re welcome Jim…Irish blood I have me friend…

        • October 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

          And a little pirate by the likes of your response (or a touch of the Yoda).

  2. October 11, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    It’s OK, Jim. I’m not attending GABF this year either, so your trip to Denver would have been wasted. My wife and I are headed to Asia for a few weeks on our belated honeymoon tomorrow, so we couldn’t justify any spendy GABF-related beer dinners or activities right before we left.

    Good call on the car. I’m sure you’ll get over your logo-guilt soon.

    I’ll see you and Don next year at GABF, I’m sure.

    • October 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      Thanks, Alex. Knowing you’re not around actually helps – I would’ve been bummed to come all the way out there only to wave as we passed on the escalator at the airport.

      That’s if I’d recognize you – you’re probably less cartoony in the flesh…

  3. Brett
    October 11, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    I hear ya. I had to miss the ACBF in Boston this year (first time in 4 years) because my fiance had outpatient surgery and was pretty much confined to the couch the whole weekend, so I needed to stay home in case she needed anything.

    Like you said, it felt good to do the right thing as an adult, but my inner beer geek hated it!!

    • October 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      I hope she REALLY needed you, or else I’d be sitting stewing about the fact that I was confined for nothing. Can I carry you to the bathroom, dear?

  4. johnking82
    October 11, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Thanks for sharing and as much guff as I’ve given you over the MINI purchase….glad you made the correct choice now.

    Sadly, I will miss GABF this year too. If you want a bourbon barrel wood floor, let me know..

    • October 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      I’d love a Bourbon barrel wood floor, but i know better – Id get too may tongue splinters licking the thing!

  5. October 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I will raise a glass to all of my comrades who could not attend tonight. Although after all of the problems with the tickets this year, you may count your blessings that you’re not going.

    I completely understand about how home and family take priority, if I didn’t live here, then I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it either. But I do look forward to meeting everyone when they do get the chance to come.

    • October 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      Yeah, it’s a couple of grand easily if we wanted to fly in, stay near the action and, you know, eat. Make sure the glass you raise for me is Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. I’m angling to get a taste shipped to me for a Today Show piece, but I think the folks at Wynkoop are a little busy right now!

    • October 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      We expect dispatches from the front, Will. You will need to take one (or two) for the team.

      • October 11, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

        Look at my Untappd feed to get a blow by blow. It was a lot of fun. Even the General Admission line went quicker than I thought. No-Li from Spokane and Elevation from here in Colorado were the stand outs for me. Cheers!

        • October 13, 2012 at 11:33 am #

          I have no idea how Untappd works. Can you provide a link?

        • October 13, 2012 at 11:34 am #

          Never mind. I found you William C.

  6. Don
    October 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Glad you came clean about your auto choice. I know you were stewing about it. Besides. we all know that BMW stands for Big Money Waster. I’m really gonna be pissed off if you need a new tranny next year at this time!

    • October 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Don’t worry Don – it’s not in my nature to blow a tranny… 😉

    • October 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I had a BMW 20002 for years and never had any mechanical failures. The biggest problem was that it seemed to have a target painted on it…uninsured kid smacked me from behind at a red light while driving the car his granddad had just given him (no plates btw); young lass who had just gotten her license plowed into my drivers side at a stop sign…quote “I was looking the other way end quote; etc, etc.

    • Mark S.
      October 14, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Agreed. The way the story was going, I thought for sure you were going to announce that you had gotten a sensible, inexpensive, and safe car like a Subaru. Next time get a Subaru, save about $6000-$7000, and go to the GABF!

      Congratulations on upgrading to a more sensible and safe ride, especially for the boonies where you live!

  7. October 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    You made the right (and only) choice.


  1. A Six Pack of Brew Years Resolutions for 2013 | Beer & Whiskey Bros. - January 4, 2013

    […] Colorado and cross our hearts and hope to fly out to the Great American Beer Festival this year.  I almost made it in 2012, but then financial issues (a.k.a replacing my metrosexual Mini Cooper Convertible with a car less […]

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