The competition lives on, however, bringing at least some excitement to craft beer brewers and drinkers. But with travel restrictions in place around the world, there will be no overseas judges and fewer from elsewhere in the U.S. Instead, 120 beer experts — mostly local, but some from other states — will do the tough work normally handled by 325. And they'll be judging a mind-boggling 9,000 different entries.
Instead of lasting three days, the judging began in mid-September and will run for seventeen days, with only 35 people allowed into the judging area at one time. The same judges will have to take on multiple categories, and the BA had to work around everyone's schedule in order to accommodate them.
"There are many, many layers of protocols in place," Obenchain points out.
To make things slightly more streamlined, GABF organizers combined or reduced the number of categories from 107 to 91, though that is still a lot of beer. And breweries had the option this year of entering up to ten beers, something the BA allowed because it wasn't sure how many breweries would participate.
The 39th annual GABF takes place online this year and via a brewery passport that gets participants access to brewery specials and some special releases; access to both is $20. The online content begins October 16 on the Brewing Network at 5 p.m. with the awards ceremony and continues through October 17.