Beer Man

All 375 breweries on the GABF waiting list have since been offered a place at the table

So many breweries wanted to be a part of the Great American Beer Festival this year that all of the spots filled within two hours on July 9, a rapid sellout that stunned both organizers and the brewers, leaving 375 would-be attendees on a waiting list.

But the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which hosts the festival, reports today that it has since been able to offer all 375 of those breweries some sort of place at the festival, even if it was just a booth on the floor and not in the competition itself.

See also: Great American Beer Fest changes policy to accept every brewery in 2014

Some of those breweries -- especially those from across the country -- chose not to attend if their beers weren't going to be judged, but of that 375 total, "111 are now participating in one way or another," says GABF director Nancy Johnson.

That's a pretty good outcome for a difficult situation that left many breweries angry with the registration process -- which also included some technical problems -- and forced the BA to change the way it handles brewery registration in future years.

"Certainly there was frustration," Johnson says. "But I feel really good about the way we handled it."

There are two major reasons why the BA was able to add more breweries even after registration closed. The first is because a significant number of the breweries that registered chose to enter the competition only and not pour beer in the hall.

That meant there were a few dozen tables still open after registration, although no room in the competition - which includes 84 categories in 2013.

The second reason is that the BA was able to add more judges at the last minute, meaning that some of the wait-listed breweries have been able to enter at least a few of their beers into the competition, depending on whether there was room in a particular category.

All told, there are going to be 626 breweries from across the country pouring an astounding 3,159 beers at the sold-out GABF, which takes place October 10-12. That is a 14 percent increase over the number of beers that were available last year.

Of that number, only 15-20 of the breweries won't have their beers in the competition (and of those, three chose not to enter the competition), Johnson says.

At the same time, 730 breweries are competing in the judging, an 8 percent increase over 2012. Of those, 117 chose not to pour beer for the public.

"Figuring this all out is a huge puzzle," Johnson explains.

Next year, the BA will allow every brewery that registers to have its beers judged, however, it will limit the number of entries for each company.

"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 said in August.

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).

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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