Details of what the virtual beer fest and competition—which has been pushed back to October—will look like are still being locked down.

By Mike Pomranz
May 21, 2020
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For months now, the coronavirus pandemic has forced beer events to move online. In April, the Brewers Association (BA) announced the Craft Brewers Conference would be held entirely through free online seminars. And last week, Untappd—the country’s most popular beer rating app—announced its next beer festival would be a virtual event in June. However, beer fans may have been holding out hope that the largest beer festival in the U.S.—the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), slated to take place in September—might still happen.

Today, came a mix of bad and good news: Yes, GABF will still take place, but not in its physical form as planned. Instead, for the first time in its 39 year history, America’s defining beer event will take place online, too.

Photo © Brewers Association

Now slated for October 16 and 17, GABF will be an “immersive online experience,” according to the Brewers Association, the trade group that runs the event. The announcement states that yesterday, Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order that made holding the annual event at the Colorado Convention Center “infeasible.”

“While we are disappointed to not be gathering in Denver this fall for the craft beer community’s annual big tent event, the health and safety of our attendees, brewers, volunteers, judges, and employees is and always has been our top priority,” Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association, explained. “As the world is still greatly affected by the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to be affected for the foreseeable future, we must stay true to our priorities and pursue other ways to host GABF.”

Unfortunately, those “other ways” are not yet entirely clear. For now, the BA says the virtual event is still “in planning” but “will likely include beer tastings, conversations with brewers, local brewery activations, and at-home beer and food pairing deliveries.” They also say it will involve “live and virtual experiences,” implying that smaller satellite events could potentially take place in areas where they are allowed.

Meanwhile, the actual competition part of the event—famous for doling out gold, silver, and bronze medals in over 100 styles—will still take place. While the GABF public event takes over the vast majority of the Convention Center’s exhibit hall, the beer judging component only needs a few rooms for judges to convene and rate beers—all of which have been delivered well in advance. So though additional details on how the competition will be held weren’t provided, it’s easy to imagine how medals could be awarded even with coronavirus-related restrictions.

“We are thankful to be able to move forward with this year’s competition and have the opportunity to award brewers’ achievements and generate consumer awareness for beer styles and trends,” Pease added. “We look forward to celebrating the annual accomplishments in brewing excellence and unveiling this year’s winners.”