The Great American Beer Festival has changed significantly over the past five years, as the numbers of craft breweries and craft-beer drinkers have increased exponentially. To keep up with demand — and changing trends — the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which hosts the annual affair in Denver, has had to make a few adjustments every year. For the 2015 edition, the BA has made some of its biggest changes yet — and they bode well for a more satisfying festival experience for both attendees and the breweries that will participate in the three-day extravaganza, which runs September 24 through September 26 at the Colorado Convention Center.
The most important is the addition of 90,000 square feet of space in which GABF will create a special Meet-the-Brewer area, featuring more than 100 different breweries. The booths here will be larger, and they won’t be manned by GABF volunteers; rather, brewery employees and representatives will be in charge of staffing the booths throughout the festival. In fact, that was a requirement for this area. Says festival director Nancy Johnson, “We give them more space and extra badges so that they can maintain that presence."
Since there is more square footage this year, the BA also bumped up the number of tickets for the first time since 2008 — from 49,000 to 60,000. And to ease the crush at the doors to the convention center, there will also be a second entrance, on the Welton Street side, with added ticket takers and security.
A few other tweaks:
The Brewpub Pavilion has been upgraded with games and music so that it looks and feels more like an actual brewpub. Of the 3,500 breweries in the United States, about 40 percent are considered to be brewpubs, meaning they brew their own beer and also serve their own food. This year's pavilion will showcase 36 of them, including six from Colorado.
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More than 800 breweries will be pouring this year, up from 710 in 2014 — and just about every brewery that wanted to participate will get that chance. Many more breweries entered into the competition, but aren't pouring their beer in the festival hall.
There will be a second store selling GABF memorabilia (though not brewery-specific merchandise) in the Meet-the-Brewer hall.
There will be several new beer-style categories, including Chili Pepper Beer, Mixed Culture Brett Beer, Double Red Ale and Session IPA, which has more than 150 entries — a lot for a brand-new category.
Even though the GABF increased the number of tickets this year, they sold out long ago — but there will be beery events all over town. Find out more on the Great American Beer Festival website.