What's New at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival
Just like with breweries and beers, America now has more beer festivals than ever before. The site BeerFests.com lists 17 beer festivals happening before the end of this weekend alone! Festival themes now run the gamut, focusing on things like cask beer, collaborations, extreme brews, women in brewing and all sorts of individual beer styles – just to name a few. And yet, throughout the boom of all these new fests, one annual event remains the king of them all: the Great American Beer Festival or GABF.
Since 1982, GABF has invited brewers from all across the country to show off their wares and, starting in 1987, compete for medals in various beer styles. At that very first festival, 24 breweries attended, pouring 47 beers to about 800 attendees. This year, the event is anticipating 800 breweries, allowing patrons to sample around 3,800 beers. Last year, between ticket holders and participants, 60,000 people attended in all.
Another important stat from 2016: The event sold out just 1 hour 7 minutes after tickets went on sale to the general public, so interested parties for 2017 will probably want to mark down this information: Tickets will go on sale next Wednesday, August 2 at 12:00pm Eastern Time via Ticketmaster.com. (An exclusive ticket presale starts the day before for members of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association. Importantly though, if you aren’t already a member of one of these groups, it’s too late to sign up to take advantage of the presale.)
This year’s GABF will once again take place in Denver, Colorado, at the Colorado Convention Center. Public tasting sessions will be held on Thursday, October 5, Friday October 6 and Saturday, October 7 from 5:30pm to 10pm each day. In addition to being able to try as many samples as you can get your hands on, your $85 ticket also gets you a commemorative tasting cup, access to dozens of seminars, a bit of free grub and entertainment, and a chance to chat with industry folk at “Meet the Brewer” booths.
An expansion of those booths is one of the biggest additions to the 2017 festival: The GABF promises more of these meet and mingles than ever before – over 150 participating brewers. Other new GABF features this year include an expanded brewpub pavilion as well as a “CraftBeer.com #beertravel Pavilion” pitching drinkers on the best craft beer destinations to visit in the US.
And of course, as the GABF is best known for, the beer competition will be held as usual, presenting gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three judged beers in 96 categories. If you think the number of beers available to be sampled is impressive, check this out: The GABF says that this year they are expecting to judge 8,100 beers from over 2,250 breweries – or nearly half of all the breweries in the US. Hopefully, they’ve got more than one judge; otherwise they’ll probably be a bit tipsy.