The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) pours into the Colorado Convention Center October 2-4 for another suds-soaked celebration of all things beer. Founded by Brewers Association president, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing author and Colorado resident, Charlie Papazian in 1982, the festival has blossomed into the largest of its kind in the Unites States drawing 49,000 attendees over the four-session event.
Despite the vastness of the event and the number of tickets available, the fest sold out in 32 minutes this year. Here’s a look at what new features ticket-holders can look forward to…
More brewers and more beer
GABF will showcase more than 3,500 beers from 700 breweries up from 3,142 beers and 624 breweries in 2013. To put the explosive growth in craft beer interest in perspective, the first GABF featured 22 breweries, 40 beers and 800 attendees. The number of breweries participating in 2014 is more than 250 greater than were on hand as recently as 2008.
Changes to the judging process
Beyond the costumes, pretzel necklaces and silent disco, at its core GABF is a competition. For a brewer, medaling at GABF is a badge of honor and recognition of the effort that goes into each batch of beer. They can often be found hanging in taprooms and denoted on bottle labels and menus.
This year’s GABF will see approximately 5,700 beers from more than 1,300 breweries entered in the competition. That number is up from 750 breweries in 2013. The huge increase in entries stems from the Brewers Association’s decision to include every brewery that registered in the competition. That, however, necessitated a decrease in the number of beers each brewery could submit with the initial cap being set at four.
Enhanced Beer Geek program
After some grumbling about the low beer IQ of volunteers tapped to serve beer, GABF implemented a Beer Geek program in 2013. These beer educators helped elevate servers’ understanding of the products they were pouring. After a successful debut, the program is back and geared toward further educating volunteers and festival goers.
“We believe the public experience will be enhanced because of [the Beer Geeks’] passion for beer education and volunteer mentoring,” said Nancy Johnson, festival director, via press release. “Plus the breweries represented at GABF will benefit from a more educated volunteer pourer. Sharing awareness and education about the breweries and beers at the festival is a win-win for everyone – the volunteer, the brewery and most importantly, the beer fans at the GABF.”
New Beer & Food Pavilion and Brewers Studio Pavilion events
The Beer & Food Pavilion offers patrons the opportunity to pair beers with various food options. From hot dogs and charcuterie to the art of creating the perfect pairing, these mimi-workshops will sate hunger and increase beer knowledge. Check out the full schedule here.
Over at the Brewers Studio, craft beer luminaries will enlighten GABF attendees with insider info and anecdotes. Explore sour ales with Upland Brewing and beer collaborations with Fort Collins Brewery. Find out about different hops varieties and how to maximize their flavors and the process of farm to glass brewing. Check out the full schedule here.