Great American Beer Fest changes policy to accept every brewery in 2014
After enduring a crush of demand from craft breweries across the country that wanted to attend the Great American Beer Festival, the Brewers Association announced to its members last night that it will change the registration process in 2014.
Breweries will now have a set number of days to register for the competition part of the festival, and every single one of them will be admitted, according to the new policy.
As a result, however, the number of beers that each brewery can submit for judging will likely decline significantly from the current number of ten per brewery.
"The number of beer entries allowed per brewery will be based on doing the math of the number of breweries that registered during the sign-up period and the pre-determined capacity of beers that we can successfully judge that year," the BA says.
In other words, if the BA determines that it has enough people to judge 5,000 beers, and 1,000 breweries register, then each brewery will be able to submit five beers. If 2,500 breweries register, however, each one will only be able to submit two beers. (Note: there were at total of 2,538 craft breweries in the country as of June 30, 2013).
This year, the BA set the number of beers that can be judged at 4,675, a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year. Some of the breweries who submitted beers won't be pouring at the festival, while some of the breweries who are pouring won't be judged.
More than 1,000 breweries attempted to register for the festival this year, causing one of the BA's servers to crash. Since there were only about 600 slots, however, it sold out in under two hours and more than 360 breweries ended up on a waiting list.
Some of those breweries have since been added to the roster, but many more are simply out of luck this year, and they vented their frustrations at the BA.
"The Brewers Association takes very seriously the 'race to enter' registration issue that has resulted from a rapidly growing number of breweries along with increasing interest in the competition and festival," GABF director Nancy Johnson wrote in her statement to members. "Since registration closed this year, we have been working to address this issue by devising a plan for 2014 that aims to eliminate the...problem for future GABFs."
The association hasn't yet addressed how it will handle booth space next year, which will once again be limited; there are 616 breweries scheduled to pour beer at the festival this October; that number will remain about the same in 2014 because of space constraints.
"The festival hall side of things will need to be determined yet," says BA spokeswoman Barbara Fusco, adding that every suggestion will be considered, including the idea that smaller breweries could share booths. Many other details will need to be worked out, including how many beers the breweries can pour in the convention center
"Unfortunately, whichever direction we go with the competition, some breweries and some people will not like the changes," Fusco says in an email. "We'll do our best to balance the many competing demands and perspectives, but with an event and community of this size, it's not realistic to think we can make everyone happy."
While it can be "tricky to predict behavior," she points out that the new registration system may encourage breweries to submit "the best of their best beers.
"If, as expected, this system allows more breweries to enter the competition (it's designed to meet that demand), then the number of beers breweries can enter might be lower than in previous years, encouraging them to send the best of their best," she adds.
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