When: September 21-23, 2023
Where: Colorado Convention Center
The air is crisp and the excitement is palpable as beer enthusiasts from across the nation get ready to gather in Denver, Colorado for the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF). This renowned event is a celebration of craft beer culture, where breweries showcase their finest creations, attendees indulge in a wide array of flavors, and the spirit of camaraderie among beer lovers is at its peak. This year’s Great American Beer Festival is expected to have a monumental turnout, gaining back traction after its reopening last year in the wake of COVID.
Set to take place from September 21-23 in 2023, the festival promises to offer an unforgettable experience filled with tastings, educational seminars, and the chance to interact with the brewing community.
When did GABF Start?
The first Great American Beer Festival took place in 1982. It was spearheaded by Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewers Association, and the same man who would go on to host the first World Beer Cup in 1996. The inaugural GABF welcomed a modest crowd of around 800 attendees, who gathered to sample from just 47 different beers.
Over the years, GABF evolved into the largest and most prestigious beer competition in the United States, as well as a grand showcase of the industry’s diversity. 2019 saw over 60,000 visitors and, despite a crippling pandemic in 2020, 40,000 individuals attended when the festival reopened in 2022.
Who Competes in the Great American Beer Festival?
Breweries from across the nation compete in the GABF, showcasing their finest beers to thirsty attendees. As the name suggests, the competition is open only to American breweries. In addition to this, breweries wishing to compete must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Must be licensed to produce and sell beer in the US
- Must have a basic permit or brewer’s notice on file with the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TBB)
- Must be open and operating and have at least one beer available for sale to the public through a restaurant, taproom, retail store, etc.
What Types of Beers are at the Great American Beer Festival?
There are 98 categories of beer, so there is something to suit every palate. Competing beers need only meet a few requirements to be eligible:
- They must be at least 51% derived from grain (wheat, barley, etc.)
- They must contain hops (gruit is also okay)
- They must comply with all regulations set forth by the TBB
Other than that, the sky’s the limit! There is never any shortage of surprising flavors and brewing styles at GABF, which is part of what makes it so fun.
The Heart of GABF: The Competition:
At the heart of the Great American Beer Festival is the highly anticipated competition, where breweries from all corners of the country vie for recognition in various categories. This esteemed contest is not only a showcase of skill and creativity but also an opportunity for brewers to gain exposure and credibility within the industry. Winning a medal at GABF holds significant prestige, often leading to increased visibility and a boost in sales for the breweries.
Last year, 2,154 breweries submitted entries in 98 categories. 500 of the competing brewers were present at the actual festival, with the remaining sending in beers remotely. In total, 2000 beers were sampled at the fest, and nearly 10,000 were submitted for judgment by a panel of 234.
By far, the largest entry continues to be American Style India Pale Ale and Juicy/Hazy IPAs. Last year, American IPAs won out at 423 entries, making up just over 4 percent of all styles submitted for competition.
How Are Beers Judged?
The festival invites established experts in the industry to join its panel of judges. The panel is divided into smaller groups based on the judges’ individual areas of expertise. The tasting is blind and judges never sample their own beers. They award a gold, silver, and bronze medal in each category.
Is it Just Beer?
While the beer is undoubtedly the star of the show, the Great American Beer Festival offers much more than just tastings. Attendees can engage in seminars and workshops on topics ranging from brewing techniques and food pairings to sustainability in the industry. The festival also features a vibrant atmosphere with live music, karaoke, food, and a marketplace where beer-related merchandise and memorabilia can be found.
This year, there will also be a costume contest. The theme changes every day: favorite sports team is Thursday, visitor’s choice of flair on Friday, and iconic musicians and bands on Saturday.
Our Beer Submissions
On the heels of our first place victory at the World Beer Cup this year, we are submitting our Vladislav Barrel Aged Imperial Stout for consideration at the Great American Beer Festival. We chose a great name: “Vladislav” means “one who owns glory.” And don’t you want a taste of the glory?
You can try a can BEFORE the judges at our brewery, along with six other entries we will be submitting to the GABF. Stop by anytime-Happy Hour is from 4-6 pm. Hope to see you there!