If a return to post-pandemic normalcy means —as it does for us — being able to attend the Great American Beer Festival again, then “normal” just got a date: October 6 to 8, 2022. That's when the public portion of the annual three-day bacchanal will return to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, with 60,000 attendees expected.
On Monday, April 5, the Brewers Association, which hosts GABF, announced that the drinking portion of the fest has been officially canceled for 2021, although the beer competition will go on as usual. This will be the second year in a row that the signature Denver party has been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Despite vaccination efforts and the gradual reopening of the country, the health and safety concerns for large indoor gatherings, like GABF’s 60,000-attendee event, remain," the organization says.
As previously announced, the awards and the ceremony, which usually coincide with the fest, will take place on September 10 during the Craft Brewers Conference, an annual breweries-only trade show that also had to be canceled in 2020 but is now set for a later-than-normal appearance in Denver that month.
“We are disappointed to cancel the festival portion of GABF for the second year in a row,” BA president and CEO Bob Pease said in a statement. “While we will miss celebrating with beer lovers and our craft brewing community, we are excited to continue with the GABF competition and national passport program this year. We look forward to convening in person for the festival’s 40th anniversary in 2022.”
Despite the cancellation, beer fans will once again be able to participate in the BA's "national passport program" from September 17 to October 17, 2021. Passport holders get access to deals at participating breweries across the country. More than 1,100 breweries from all fifty states participated in the inaugural program last year.
In addition, the Visit Denver tourism bureau plans to go ahead with Denver Beer Week — shifting its dates to correspond with the Craft Brewers Conference from September 9 to 12. There are typically several hundred tappings, tastings, tap takeovers and other events at breweries, bars and restaurants in whatever city hosts the conference — and those will probably take place in Denver this year, especially if vaccination rates rise.
“Beer is synonymous with the Denver brand, and our city has maintained a longstanding relationship with the Brewers Association and GABF that spans nearly four decades,” says Richard W. Scharf, president and CEO of Visit DenverGABF. “We are optimistic that Denver will welcome the country’s largest beer celebration back in its truest form next year, and in the meantime, we are excited about the return of the Craft Brewers Conference this year, which will fill thousands of hotel rooms with beer enthusiasts from across the industry.”