Great American Beer Festival in Denver

Consider this first, and last, call. Tickets go on sale Thursday for the nation's largest one-stop showcase of craft beers, the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver Oct. 11-13. Last year, 49,000 tickets to the event at the Colorado Convention Center (700 14th St.; [303] 228-8000), a chance to sample the wares of 475 or so brewers from around the country, were snapped up in less than a week.

The bed

A sure sign of the festival's firepower: Good luck finding lodgings near the convention center for less than $300 a night for this weekend. A comfortable, if not swanky alternative is the Hampton Inn & Suites Denver-Speer Boulevard (2728 Zuni St.; [303] 455-4588) in Denver's ultra-trendy LoHi neighborhood, a 10-minute drive or pleasant 25-minute walk to the festival.

The meal

Linger is set in a four-level former funeral home called Olinger. This LoHi kitchen (2030 W. 30th Ave.; [303] 993-3120) is alive with a multicultural street-food menu. Recently, a foursome shared a mellow chilled asparagus soup with English peas and mint-lemon emulsion; suitably sticky mee krob noodles from Thailand; loamy masala dosa by way of India; and crispy chicken b'stilla stuffed with almonds, apricots and golden raisins via Morocco. The mortuary tie-in is not overplayed, though bottled water does arrive in embalming-fluid-brown glass bottles.

The find

Where did Bob Dylan acquire the designer cowboy shirt he wore to receive his recent Medal of Freedom Award? That would be Rockmount Ranch Wear, upscale western clothing specialists at the same downtown location since 1946. Enter the great-smelling confines (1626 Wazee St.; [303] 629-7777) and you're greeted by two things: showpiece racks of fancifully embroidered shirts favored by country musicians — mother-of-pearl snaps and buttons are a mainstay — and Wazee, the old store dog who greets customers with a tail wag and a toy lodged in his mouth. Definitely visit the second-story loft and the mini-museum's collection of vintage goods and memorabilia.

Lesson learned

Exercise restraint at the festival. Resist the incessant pours offered at tables with no waiting. Instead, search out the longer lines of imbibers, a sign of desirability. Tip: Try the flavors being done by theNew Glarus Brewing Co.of Wisconsin and Michigan's Short's Brewing Co.

The tab

From Los Angeles International Airport, the current advance purchase round-trip airfare for these dates is $218. Midsize rental car from airport, with taxes and fees: $106.19. Hampton Inn: $189 a night or $160 (non-refundable) for a prepaid room. Dinner for four, with wine and tip, at Linger: $114. Festival: $65 per session (a designated driver, no-drinking entrance fee is $25). Total: $692.19

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