The Great American Beer Festival has developed some significant stretch marks over the past few years as the craft-beer industry has exploded nationwide. To accommodate that growth, the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which organizes the fest, has tweaked a few things from time to time while essentially keeping most things the same. This year, however, the BA has made some significant changes that bode well for a more satisfying festival experience for both attendees and the breweries that participate in the three-day extravaganza, which will take place from September 24 through September 26.
The biggest change is the addition of 90,000 square feet of space where GABF will host a special Meet-the-Brewer area, featuring 120 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.
“We are very excited to have the additional space. Attendees love to talk to the brewers or face of a brewery, and now they have an area where they know they will happen,” says BA spokeswoman Barbara Fusco. The trade group has been talking with the Colorado Convention Center for some time about the space, but didn't want to add it until both sides were sure that it would become a permanent, year-to-year fixture.
Because of this expansion, the BA has bumped up the number of tickets (they go on sale to the general public on July 29) that it will sell for the first time since 2008. As a result, there will be 60,000 people at this year's fest, up from 49,000 each of the past six years. “With that additional space, we can have more bodies in the hall,” Fusco says. “GABF is big, and our goal is to have it be just-right big and not too big.”
Ticket prices remain the same in 2015: $80 for the three general sessions, and $65 for the members-only Saturday-afternoon session.
This new section means that there will be more than 800 breweries pouring beer at the festival this year, up from 710 in 2014. There will also be more breweries submitting entries for judging: 1,575, up from 1,309 last year. Not all of them will be pouring for the public, though.
In 2013, many breweries were left out of GABF because of the rapid increase in new breweries across the country. After that, the BA changed its registration rules so that every brewery that wants to be judged can enter beers. Breweries that want to pour beer must enter a lottery for the available slots. According to Fusco, none of the breweries that wanted to be at GABF will be left out out this year.
The list of participating breweries is expected to be released in late July.
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