Got Beer? Where Are Ya’, GIBF?

To a young 26-year-old beer enthusiast, the Great International Beer Festival represented the biggest event of my year. It’s hard to believe that in those 10 years, the craft beer scene in RI has evolved so much that even little dive bars in the deepest depths of Blair Witch County, RI, are carrying a couple of decent craft beers on tap, some of which are locally made by one of the four million breweries that I assume have opened since I started writing this sentence.

A decade ago, Samuel Adams and Pete’s Wicked Ale represented the most exotic fare on most taps. Today, I sip a locally made IPA on tap at a local sports bar where saisons fear to tread. I truly believe none of that would be possible without the staple of the local beer scene for decades, The Great International Beer Festival.

Part drinking festival on the floor, part trade show behind the curtains, the GIBF was a great gathering of everyone in the business. The distributors who brought in great imports would showcase their finest, rarest brews, and the big boys would pour straw-colored water for those who sought only purile intoxication.

But this year, there is no fest. The Great International Beer competition that went along with the festival is now being run by Yankee Brew News. There is a gaping hole in the calendar between Beervana and RI Comic Con. It seems wrong, somehow.

Over the years, the festival has had some ups and downs. Ask any cop who works the show, and they will tell you with great restraint the difficulties in trying to keep order in a giant convention hall full of intoxicated people and unlimited pours. That’s been a struggle for many years, as the GIBF attempts to keep up with its younger successors like the aforementioned Beervana. Personally, I would like to see the GIBF bought by someone with a true passion for craft beer who will work diligently to meet the demands of the ever-changing craft beer community.

As a soldier on the front line of craft beer for 10 years, the potential loss of the GIBF is like the closing of Doherty’s and Track 84 and the other dedicated bastions of craft beer before the revolution truly took root. I feel like the old guard are being decommissioned, and one by one, these great comrades are slipping away.

But hope springs eternal. Perhaps we will see the GIBF rise again like a glorious phoenix, spread its fiery wings and soar to new heights. We can all drink to that.

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