What’s the best way to experience the Great American Beer Festival (GABF)? There are many different strategies—some of which can be read here—but most are anything but systematic. It does not matter if one attends every night of the GABF, one will still miss out on the majority of what’s being served. If attendees can’t have it all, they might as well have the best and, to have the best without a lot of wasted time searching, there is the Big Friendly Guide to the Great American Beer Festival (GABFBFG).
GABFBFG is a computer and smartphone application that allows users to assign a numerical rating to the beer they are drinking. It is a simple 1-4 scale so beer geeks don’t have to waste time in the minutiae; they just need to decide whether the beer is bad, good, great, or so fantastic it’s worth knocking people over to get to. The beers can be found in a drop-down menu. GABFBFG then coalesces all of the user’s ratings and places the beers in a hierarchy. Users can then select their favorite style of beer and find out which beers and which breweries have the highest rating in that category.
One might ask: what is the point of this app if the GABF already gives out medals to the best beers in any given category? For one, GABF announces the winners late in the festival; the winners are unknown to festival-goers who attend the earlier sessions. Also, GABFBFG is the people’s choice; GABF has official judges and, while they are highly-trained in their skill, they do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the masses. A beer could be technically great but, if it doesn’t appeal to the public’s palate, then what good is it? GABFBFG puts the user in the driver’s seat. Lastly, the medaling beers tend to kick the keg quickly but, because they are lesser known, the winners of GABFBFG will likely be in supply until the very end.
Devon Ostendorf, the creator of GABFBFG, describes the app as an experiment; it hasn’t been fully tested and the outcome is unknown. However, the best chance for success is to have as many people as possible use the app because, the more people using it, the more accurate the rating system. Ostendorf also asks that festival-goers convince non-participating breweries to include their data on the app so that there are no missing links.
The full benefit of GABFBFG may not be felt during this initial year but it is still a useful app that will only become more useful as more GABFs pass and more users join.