A whopping 1,360 breweries from all fifty states and the District of Columbia will enter beers into the competition at the Great American Beer Festival this October. That's about 81 percent higher than last year, when 750 breweries tried to register for the fest, according to preliminary numbers provided by the Brewers Association.
But because of GABF's new registration process -- which guaranteed admittance to every brewery that wanted to enter this year -- each brewery will only be able to submit four beers for judging, significantly less than in previous years. The number could rise to five, but that has yet to be determined, says BA spokeswoman Barbara Fusco.
In addition, 822 breweries said they'd like to pour beer at the festival itself. There is only room at the Colorado Convention Center for 630 tables, however, along with another 96 booths for sponsors, for a total of 726 spots. So, the BA will have to hold a regional lottery to decide which breweries will be allowed to attend.
All of the numbers are subject to change, Fusco said, as the BA analyzes the data.
Registration for GABF, which takes place October 2-4, 2014, ran from June 17-26, an open period that allowed the BA to avoid the ugly situation that developed last year when so many breweries tried to enter that all of the spots filled within two hours. The rapid sellout stunned both the breweries and the BA and left 375 beer makers -- both longtime companies and rising stars alike -- on a waiting list.
That turn of events led to some frustration and anger on the part of a few breweries that boiled over on Facebook and elsewhere. The BA was eventually able to offer all 375 breweries a spot at the festival (the first 100 were also offered the chance to enter one beer in the competition), but many of them chose to stay home anyway.
This year, the organization made some major changes to the process. The primary one was a decision to allow every brewery that registered -- up to 1,400 -- to enter beers into the competition. But that decision means that the number of beers each brewery can enter will be determined by how many breweries want to compete. The BA has the ability to judge 5,400 beers in 2014 (up from 4,800 in 2013, a 12 percent increase).
Breweries that end up pouring in the hall will be allowed to serve one more beer than the number of beers that they entered into the competition. The results of the lottery for space in the hall will be released sometime in July.
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