Last week, from September 16th through the 18th, brewers and beer enthusiasts from around the country gathered in Denver, Colorado for the 29th Annual Great American Beer Festival, sponsored by the Brewers Association. With more than 2,200 beers to sample from over 450 breweries, there was no shortage of beverages to try and styles to become acquainted with. The event, which sold out five weeks in advance, welcomed nearly 50,000 attendees, further solidifying its spot as the Guinness World Record holder for the most beers tapped in one location, as well as the largest selection of American beers gathered together around the globe.
The GABF is not just a tasting event; it’s also the most renowned domestic beer competition with more than 79 beer categories covering 133 beer styles judged. Entries were up nine percent this year, with a total of 3,523 beers entered for medal consideration (compared to 3,308 entries last year). Each style has one gold, one silver and one bronze medal awarded, establishing the best examples currently produced in the U.S. Although the amount of entries submitted in each style grouping varied, it was undoubtedly the toughest competition to date.
The size and scope of the judging is massive, with 151 beer judges from ten countries enlisted for the task. The most competitive category (and it has been since 2001) was American-style India Pale Alem, with 142 entries. Behind IPAs were American-style Pale Ale, with 109 entries and Imperial India Pale Ale, with 97 entries.
There were also three new categories judged this year: Imperial Porter with nine entries, Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout, with 34 entries, and American-style India Black Ales, with a whopping 53 entries in its first year.
The geographic distribution of winners was broader than it has been in the past, with many more states represented and bringing home medals. An emerging trend of winners from the Midwest and Southeast and the traditionally victorious states, including California and Colorado, emphasized that the current beer boom is here to stay. “Other states appear to be emerging as the craft beer producer and consumer markets mature in their regions,” said Chris Swersey, GABF competition manager.
Next year will mark the 30th incarnation of the festival scheduled for September 29th through October 1st. Mark your calendars now! You won’t want to miss out on the milestone anniversary.
Check out what WE’s Assistant Tasting Director, Lauren Buzzeo, has to say about the behind-the-scenes of the great American beer event on Unreserved.