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More than 300 breweries sit on the GABF waiting list as organizers sort out what to do

More than 300 breweries sit on the GABF waiting list as organizers sort out what to do
Christopher Morgan

Organizers for the Great American Beer Festival are acting quickly to try and deal with the backlash from this year's frantic brewery registration process, which left many would-be attendees around the country out of luck and out of the festival.

Registration opened on Tuesday, but within two hours, it was sold out, surprising a number of breweries, who voiced their displeasure online. The Brewers Association, which runs the festival, also had technical problems with its servers.

See also: - Breweries scramble to register for GABF, which plans to increase in size in 2013 - Photos: Great American Beer Festival 2012: The Beer - Ten new Colorado craft beers to look for in July

At the end of the day, there were about 650 brewers registered for the competition, of which only about 600 will be able to pour beer in the Colorado Convention Center. Another 300 breweries had signed up for the waiting list, however.

Some of the Colorado breweries that didn't get registered in time, according to social media accounts and news reports, include Bristol Brewing and Rocky Mountain Brewery in Colorado Springs; Crooked Stave and Hogshead in Denver; Loveland Ale Works; and Odd 13, which will open in Lafayette in August.

On Tuesday, festival directors wrote a message to members in a private email -- which was leaked online by Beerpulse.com -- promising to review all of the registrations and to start adding a few breweries to the festival that are currently on the waiting list.

But BA spokeswoman Barbara Fusco warns that the number of breweries added could be very small. "There are way more breweries than there are spaces," she says.

Fusco points out that the registration process lasted two days in 2012 and that there were only seventy breweries on the waiting list. "The interest is phenomenal," she adds.

But the BA won't be able to expand the festival this year, and Fusco says she can't make any promises about 2014 either, primarily because it is already so huge and because the organization has already booked a certain amount of time and space.

In addition, there are only a certain number of people available to judge the beers, and those people are already challenging their taste buds and their blood-alcohol content.

"We want to maintain the quality of the judges and the integrity of the festival," she says. "So growing it exponentially isn't something that will happen soon."

Based on the number of judges available, "the maximum number of beers we have set is 4,675, which is 337 more than in 2012 and a 7.75 percent increase. In 2012, we had 4,338 beers...and that was a more than 10 percent increase over 2011," she explains.

Each brewery is allowed to enter a maximum of ten beers -- a number that was capped last year -- although some will enter fewer.

Numerous ideas have been bandied about on the Internet for ways to ease the demand, both for breweries and for attendees, including: expanding the space that is used at the Convention Center; adding more days or more weekends; holding regional tournaments or competitions; and limiting the festival to breweries of a certain age or size.

Fusco says the association will consider all of them. "Certainly those discussions will be amplified this year for next year. We will be deeply engaged in those discussions."


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