This time, brewers, not consumers, left out in cold as GABF registration shuts out many

gabf 2013UPDATE I: See list of 35 breweries and counting at the bottom…

UPDATE II: Wait list is at 300+ per The Brewers Association. The list topped out at 70 last year.

(Denver, CO) – On Tuesday, the Brewers Association opened brewery registration for The Great American Beer Festival. Each year, the registration list fills up within days. Last year, it only took two days for 580 breweries to sign up.

This year, however, it only took less than two hours for 600 breweries.

Those who planned their Tuesday morning around the signup time and successfully filled out the form gained entry into this year’s event. Many others missed out and were left with the option of a waiting list in the form of Google Docs, wondering what could have been.

Complicating this year’s registration were server issues, something that has become quite common with limited events.

Typically, this is the position that consumers have found themselves in with limited releases. For example, the demand for events like the 2012 GABF, Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Day and a Founders Backstage release caused server stress and consumer frustration.

The hard truth is that all consumers (and *perhaps*, breweries) are playing by the same rules for these releases and pointing out the problem is much easier than thinking up the solution.

Tomme Arthur of The Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey, which did get in, asked (in the third person) what breweries did not. A few of those who answered include: Weyerbacher, Nodding Head Brewpub, Populuxe Brewing and Shawnee Craft Brewing. Bristol Brewing and Rocky Mountain Brewery also told The Gazette that they missed out. Crooked Stave is another.

Some Twitter highlights and others who missed out on Tuesday…

Is it time for an NIT-esque alternative to emerge?


35 Breweries & Counting (including some 2012 medalists)…

5050 (FiftyFifty) Brewing
Badger Hill Brewing
Bison Brewing
Black Diamond Brewing
Bristol Brewing
(The) Cambridge House Beer Company
Central Waters Brewing
Charleville Brewing
Columbus Brewing
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Eagle Rock Brewery
Flat12 Bierwerks
Hogshead Brewery
Loveland Aleworks
Natty Greene’s Brewing
Noble Ale Works
NoDa Brewing
Nodding Head Brewpub
O’Fallon Brewery
Off Color Brewing
Olde Burnside Brewing
Perennial Artisan Ales
Populuxe Brewing
Prairie Artisan Ales
Rahr & Sons Brewing
Rocky Mountain Brewery
Shawnee Craft Brewing
Shmaltz Brewing
Societe Brewing
Thai Me Up Brewery
Triton Brewing
Vintage 50 Restaurant & Brew Lounge
Weyerbacher Brewing
Yazoo Brewing

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25 thoughts on “This time, brewers, not consumers, left out in cold as GABF registration shuts out many

  1. I’m glad you’re highlighting this issue, but I’d also say that it’s a fallacy to say that “the hard truth is that all consumers (and breweries) are playing by the same rules for these releases and pointing out the problem is much easier than thinking up the solution.” This seems to be a bit of opinion masquerading as objective truth.

    First of all, it’s very unlikely all brewers are playing by the same rules. In talking with others in the industry, it seems some breweries were contacted by BA personnel prior to registration, ostensibly to warn them about the impending glut of breweries and to make sure they were registered. This courtesy was not extended to all breweries, be they BA members or not. Why is that an issue? Well, in previous years, what took 90 minutes today took days or even weeks, thus allowing ample time to register. Forewarning was very valuable, but not evenly disseminated.

    Likewise, it would be naive to think that major national craft operations – say the top 10 or 20 producers by volume – would be denied entry, even if they didn’t submit their registrations on time. I’m not sure if that situation arose, and therefore I’m not pointing fingers, but it seems a dubious proposition that a 150,000+ bbl brewery would be shut out while many much smaller operations participate. For those not in the know, Brewers Association member breweries pay membership dues related to their production volumes, and in many ways, it would be counterproductive for the BA to exclude larger producers. Logically, this suggests that perhaps the playing field isn’t so level, after all.

    Additionally, there are potential solutions, some of which could even be employed in conjunction with each other:

    – What about a minimum production limit – say of 2,000 or 3,000bbls, with a certain number of spots reserved for brewpubs (who mostly produce fewer barrels than that)? While some might argue that this is unfair to smaller producers, it seems a reasonable criteria. It would largely insure that established breweries (like Weyerbacher, for example) wouldn’t get bumped by, say, a start-up that may have brewed a few hundred barrels in their whole existence, or worse, one that may be out of business in a few years. In essence, it would reward breweries for building successful operations. If a given brewery is deemed too small by objective criteria, the solution is simple: keep up the good work and grow to a size that qualifies.

    – A minimum age requirement, though also likely controversial, could be helpful. Again, breweries that “stand the test of time” – say 3-5 years, for example – would qualify to participate. This would also reward successful operations, give new outfits a target to aspire to, and help weed out operations that may not be set up for long-term success.

    – How about eliminating multiple places for chain brewpubs? Is it really fair that a brewpub chain with 30 locations gets 10 spots and therefore bumps a small craft operation with only one facility?

    – What about allowing previous winners automatic re-entry? This could apply to the previous year only, a certain time span (say the previous 5 years), or could incorporate a threshold (if you’ve won 3 medals, for example, you’re an automatic registrant).

    The dynamic nature of the US craft beer scene is its greatest strength, and I don’t believe anyone in the industry would want to detract from or jeopardize that aspect of the business… so it’s important to keep GABF a vital, fluid, dynamic enterprise. That being said, there’s got to be a better way.

    Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Brewers Association and work for Central Waters Brewing Company ( out of Amherst, WI, and though we tried to register today, we were waitlisted. We’re not optimistic about getting into the fest, which is unfortunate, as we really enjoy the camaraderie and competition. We’ve won several medals previously and I hope we can participate again. Also, this is my rant, with my opinions, and not those of the brewery, its other employees, or its owners. If any of my info is wrong, or if I’m missing some valuable detail about registration, please inform and forgive me… I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this…

  2. I think that if you won any medal at the previous year’s #GABF your brewery should have an automatic spot for the next GABF.

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  4. Wait .. What? The explosion in brewery openings means not everyone can be accommodated at limited entry events? That’s unforeseen

  5. For what it’s worth, this message went out to all BA members (even individuals like myself) in the BA Forum at least twice. Maybe more.

    Just a quick reminder that GABF Brewery Registration opens up TOMORROW, Tuesday, July 9th @ 10AM MDT (9AM Pacific / 11AM Central / 12PM Eastern) so be ready to register your brewery. Brewer’s Guides to Registering for The GABF mailed out last week, so use those as a reference for registration this year, or you can always find the most up-to-date information on registration at (our GABF Brewers Info Site) including 2013 Style Guidelines and Brewery/Beer Eligibility information.

    Be ready to go at 10AM MDT on Tuesday July 9th so your brewery doesn’t miss out, because when it’s full, it’s full and you don’t want to be left out!


    Chris Williams
    Event Manager

    Not using that to justify a ‘you snooze, you lose’ mentality. Just adding it for additional information/context.

  6. There are plenty of secondary extremely large venues in Colorado. Why not separate or expand or have a secondary un-judged GABF spot. Breweries send beer.. volunteers and staff serve just like GABF but Us the consumers still have a chance to taste. Cheaper tickets… still have revenue… don’t have to fight with lines as much or deal with the shit show that is Ralling Fock.

  7. Yeah, I appreciate that they did remind breweries to register… but it appears that even some of those who signed on first thing encountered problems, and despite the sarcasm from jose above, 90 minutes is far faster than anyone anticipated, to the best of my knowledge. We had ours done in the first 2 hours and missed out. Oh well…

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  9. You know, on some level it’s the nature of the beast. There are thousands of breweries now and only 600 brewery spots at the festival. Less than 1/3 of the country’s breweries can participate in this event which means that more 2/3 of the country’s breweries are going to feel let down about it.

    We didn’t have our ducks in a row last year and we missed out, and while that sucked, it wasn’t the end of the world. This year, we were lucky enough to get in, so we’re excited to go.

    I just wrote a big diatribe about how I think they could fix it and then deleted it.

    It all comes down to this: Nobody is disappointed about missing the Festival. They’re all disappointed about missing the Competition. That’s the thing that needs to be fixed. I’d be happy to give up my spot giving away free beer to drunk people outside my target market…. so long as I can still keep all of my beer in the competition.

    There is a demonstrated economic value to winning a medal at the GABF. That’s why people want to be involved and why people are angry about not being there.

    So, the way to fix it is to make a sleeker, more efficient competition that can accommodate many more breweries and just not pair it with a beer festival.

    While keeping the beer festival, the way to fix it is to guarantee a returning spot to gold medal winners (or top medal in a category) and let everybody else free-for-all it, just like usual. People will be pissed off about not going, and that will be no different than any other year except that every year there will be more people pissed off because there will be more breweries.

  10. I think its silly to exclude breweries who are new and haven’t developed a brand name because a medal at the GABF is what catapults a lot of smaller brewers into the know among craft beer drinkers.

  11. We got on right at 12 and had no problems registering. It’s time the BA and brewers take a long hard look at what GABF should become. There are like 2500 breweries and growing and while not all of them are going to enter or even want to (I’m Shaun Hill and I’m to cool for GABF) a lot of them are going to want to showcase their beer. Either the BA takes over the whole convention center and allows each of those breweries 2 judged beers which would not be much more than the 4800 they allow now and cap categories at a limit to make sure it’s just not a pale ale and IPA competition or they should have regional competitions that then allow the winners entry into the fest. Barrel limits or age are dumb because there are plenty of small guys making great beers. Another option to increase size would be to source more judges. I know that it sucks for the breweries that didn’t get in but I have to take exception with the “we were to busy running our brewery to enter” people. You are not to busy to head to Denver for 3 days so you should be able to spare some time to register. It sold out in 2 days last year and this year there are even more breweries what did you think was going to happen?

  12. Why not expand GABF? Why limit it to 600? Is there not enough convention center space to accommodate? Or is it a lack of qualified judges? Or both?

  13. Oh I do hope AB-InBev and other crafty brewers managed to get their registration in on time!

  14. So they don’t have a count of how many members they have? Why can’t they find a venue big enough to accommodate them all???!?

    I find it hard to believe that with as big as craft beer has become and its market share that they couldn’t afford to rent a place big enough for all….

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  16. Add Mountain Sun Breweries to the shut out list. Ten GABF medals since 1995.

  17. With a list of 300+ breweries out there, I’m afraid I won’t be updating this post anymore. Sincerely hope you can make it in!

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