High and Dry for the GABF

At least 300 breweries were placed on a wait list for the Great American Beer Festival after the brewer’s registration filled up in less than two hours.

The process left even Brewers Association staff shocked. Last year the brewers registration took six days to fill up.

The public sale of tickets begins on July 31st. Last year the entire run sold out to the public in a few hours.

“The short story is we have more interest and more demand than we have spaces in the competition,” said Barbara Fusco of the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association won’t expand this year’s festival any more than it already has. It will be judging 8 percent more beers this year than last year — up 4,675 this year over 4,338 that were judged last year.

In 2012, the festival had 578 breweries pouring in the hall. This year more than 600 breweries will be pouring on the floor compared to 578 last year.

“We are growing the competition and festival in a way that we can maintain the integrity,” Fusco said. “It is a matter of principle that we strike that balance … grow the competition and festival in a responsible way to execute a standard that everyone expects.”

“Year after year the Brewers Association has looked to grow the competition in a way that is maintains the quality and is sustainable,” Fusco said. “There are going to be ramped up discussions about changes to GABF. But with a festival this big, it is hard to turn on a dime. Certainly, we seek and consider feedback and there will be ongoing discussion about changes for next year.”

The following was posted by Nancy Johnson and Paul Gatza of the BA;

Hi Everyone,

As many of you know, Great American Beer Festival (GABF) brewery registration filled up in under two hours yesterday; last year, brewery registration filled up in six days. Interest from Brewers Association (BA) brewery members participating in the competition and the festival has been skyrocketing in parallel with the explosive growth of the craft brewing industry.

Just like public interest in attending the festival, right now brewery registration is a matter of supply and demand, where more breweries would like to participate than we have the capacity to accept. In setting caps for beers to be judged in the competition, and likewise for the number of attendees at the festival, the BA is always seeking to balance the high level of interest from our members and fans with the imperative to conduct a world-class competition and to host a fun, safe event for the public.

Unfortunately, during yesterday’s brewery registration, some users encountered technical issues. We are still investigating those, as there was not a universal impact. During the time that some users encountered the error, more than 650 breweries were able to successfully register for the competition. Regrettably, even if there had been no technical issues, GABF brewery slots would have filled up in a matter of hours due to the high demand.

A wait list is available for breweries that still wish to participate; some breweries will come off the wait list, but not nearly all. The process now is for our staff to review all current registrations for duplicate and ineligible entries, and then we will begin contacting breweries on the wait list, hopefully by the end of this week. Based on current numbers, we do expect to be able to offer some form of participation in the festival hall as an option to some companies on the waitlist.

We’re proud of the success of our industry and the GABF, and also recognize the need to look at ways to amend the competition registration process/model. Of course, adapting an event of the scale of the GABF is no small feat. The Brewers Association staff, along with our Event Committee, will of course be looking at possible changes for future years.


Nancy Johnson
Event Director | Brewers Association


Paul Gatza
BA Director| Brewers Association