Great American Beer Festival Moves Online for 2020 Event

The announcement we all expected but nobody wanted to hear arrived today. The Brewer’s Association has confirmed that the 2020 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) will take place online. The event, which was scheduled for September 24-26 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, will now be a virtual event held October 16-17.

Why GABF 2020 Had to Change

If you’ve ever attended GABF you’re probably not surprised by this turn of events. The annual beer festival and competition draws huge crowds of beer lovers and brewery staff from across the country. In 2019, more than 60,000 attendees roamed the festival hall to sample beers from over 800 breweries. Even in a space as massive as the Colorado Convention Center it seemed unlikely that the festival could take place as it had in the past, given today’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. However, based on the press release from the Brewer’s Association today, the real nail in the coffin for a traditional GABF came when Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order “to allow the operation of alternate care sites in Colorado due to the presence of coronavirus disease 2019, rendering GABF at the Colorado Convention Center infeasible.”

The Dogfish Head Brewery booth at Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2019
Oh, the fun we had before social distancing – GABF 2019

“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,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association. “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.”

What Will a Virtual GABF Look Like?

The 39th GABF will certainly be different than any of the previous festivals. However, the Brewers Association is promising they’ll offer live and virtual events to bring beer lovers together for this annual celebration of American beer. While the event is still in early planning stages, the release states that “experiences will likely include beer tastings, conversations with brewers, local brewery activations, and at-home beer and food pairing deliveries.”

On the upside, while the public festival is largely impacted, GABF’s annual professional beer competition will carry on. More than 100 professional beer judges are expected to evaluate around 7,000 entries to identify the top three beers in each style category. GABF medals may not be handed out with a Charlie Papazian fist-bump this year, but medals will be awarded, so that’s something. Brewery registration opens on June 6. You can find more information on the competition, style guidelines, and awards ceremony here.

Mirror Image Brewing Company accepts their first GABF award at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2019
Photo © Brewers Association

“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,” added Pease. “We look forward to celebrating the annual accomplishments in brewing excellence and unveiling this year’s winners.”

We’ll Be There for GABF, Virtually

It’s no secret that GABF is one of our favorite events. During the festival Denver hosts a whole week of GABF festivities, inside and outside the festival hall, and we’re sad to be missing out on the fun this year. Sad, but not surprised. Given the current pandemic there really was no other choice but to cancel the festival, and we’re happy to see that at least some portions of GABF will go forward virtually. Whatever the online festival brings, we plan on being there, and you should, too. Like many other businesses, the craft beer industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 closures. Even if we can’t do it in person, we plan on showing up to support the festival, the breweries, and the Brewers Association in any way we can. So far this year the Brewers Association’s had to work harder than ever to provide critical resources and support to their members and to the larger brewing community. They’ve done it despite a reduction in staff and earnings due to the cancellations of several of their annual events. That’s why we’ll be there to support them at GABF this year, even if it’s from afar.

Having fun at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2019
Good times at GABF 2019

As more details are released about this year’s GABF event, we’ll share them with you. Until then, you can learn more about GABF and sign up for email updates by visiting greatamericanbeerfestival.com/.

Read the full press release from the Brewer’s Association about the 2020 Great American Beer Festival here.

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