The Great American Beer Festival, which takes place from October 5-7 this year, just keeps getting bigger. As of last week, the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which hosts the extravaganza, had registered a staggering 2,259 breweries for the competition, up from last year's record-setting 1,752 breweries. All told, 8,218 beers will be sampled and rated by the judges, up from 7,227 in 2016 and far beyond the 1,752 beers judged in 2015.
Those numbers will change slightly as the BA adds in a few breweries from the waiting list and makes room for others in the festival's Meet the Brewer area, but the numbers are already staggering.
Of those, 997 breweries indicated interest in pouring at a booth in the festival hall, says BA spokesman Barbara Fusco. "Based on inventory, we were able to provide spots to 820," but that will increase to 860-900 as the BA moves some breweries into the featured end-cap spots that are being reserved just for craft brewers this year.
"At this juncture, there remain 170 breweries on the wait list for a booth — though past experience has shown us that if offered (if inventory opens up), not all of these companies will actually take a booth," Fusco says.
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Ticket prices, meanwhile, are $85 to the general public and $80 to members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association (tickets to members for the Saturday day session are $70); they go on sale August 1 to members and August 2 to the general public, at ticketmaster.com. The cost, which once seemed high, now represents a relative bargain for the variety alone, as compared to other craft-beer festivals.
Two years ago, festival organizers added 90,000 square feet to the festival space at the Colorado Convention Center, along with about one hundred special meet-the-brewer booths.
This year, there will be 150 of those; the changes have significantly improved the experience for many people over the past two years. Other returning attractions for 2017 include an expanded Brewpub Pavilion (a record 48 breweries will participate); the Heavy Medal booth featuring pours from previous award winners; and the Golden Ticket Giveaway, which gives selected winners early entrance and a guided tour and tasting with a celebrity brewer.