The Great American Beer Festival, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, won't take place in its usual form in 2021, either, though the competition will still go on — but with new, earlier dates.
The Boulder-based Brewers Association, which hosts GABF, has also decided to push back its other major event, the Craft Brewers Conference, from March to September 9 through 12, when it will be combined with the GABF beer-judging competition. The combo event will take place in Denver — in person if possible, otherwise virtually.
"One thing our industry loves to do is convene and collaborate," explains BA spokesperson Ann Obenchain. "So, shifting the dates back provides an opportunity for that to happen."
Last year's CBC in San Antonio also had to be called off because of the pandemic; this year's event had been scheduled for San Diego. Since huge events like CBC and GABF are booked years in advance, moving them took a lot of work, Obenchain says. Denver, luckily, was able to accommodate the BA.
Obenchain didn't rule out some sort of public GABF gathering this year. "We'll be exploring opportunities, and, if possible, there will be a public element," she says, noting that the BA, like other organizations, will have to wait to see if the COVID vaccine makes in-person events possible in 2021.
As for 2022, Obenchain believes there will be pent-up demand for large public festivals — but she says the BA may reimagine what GABF will look like for its fortieth anniversary that year.
Registration for attendees of CBC, which is the largest craft-beer trade show in the country, will open in April; brewery registration for GABF begins in June. The awards will be announced on September 10.
The Craft Brewers Conference generated $37.9 million in direct spending the last time it was held in Denver, in 2019, and attracted nearly 15,000 brewing-industry professionals, the BA says.
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