GABF cancels festival for the second year, but the competition is on

Photo of the crowd at the GABF.


The picture above pretty much explains it all. By most indications, our nation is headed in the right direction in the battle against the virus, but the coast is not yet clear. It remains hard for most folks to imagine themselves standing in a crowd like the one that gathers for the Great American Beer Festival each year.

For the second year in a row, there will be no public tasting event at the GABF. Festival organizers have decided to skip it in 2021, citing health and safety concerns. While they’ve canceled the three-day event, they’ve not canceled the beer judging competition. As they’ve done for nearly four decades, they will conduct the nation’s largest beer tasting competition and they will award the industry’s most-coveted medals.

The annual festival held in Denver each autumn sees more than 60,000 people gather to enjoy beers from across the country. “Despite vaccination efforts and the gradual reopening of the country, the health and safety concerns for large indoor gatherings, like GABF’s 60,000-attendee event, remain,” said a statement from the festival organizers.


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Plans for the Craft Brewers Conference stand unchanged. That event is scheduled for September 9th through 12th in Denver.

The Great American Beer Festival is slated to return to its regular format in 2022 when it celebrates its 40th anniversary. The dates have already been announced: Oct. 6-8, 2022. As usual, the GABF takes place at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

great american beer festival crowd.

“We are disappointed to cancel the festival portion of GABF for the second year in a row,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO, Brewers Association, which organizes and hosts the GABF. “While we will miss celebrating with beer lovers and our craft brewing community, we are excited to continue with the GABF competition and national passport program this year.”


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Passport Program

Despite the festival cancellation, the GABF invites beer lovers across the country to participate in a national passport program (September 17 through October 17, 2021). Passport holders will have exclusive access to deals at participating breweries nationwide. More than 1,100 breweries from all 50 states participated in the inaugural program last year. Passports are priced at $20 and will be available for purchase in July. Brewery registration for the 2021 passport program opens June 29 on the GABF website.

Denver Beer Week, the Mile High City’s annual event that coincides with GABF, will shift dates this year to coincide with the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) September 9-12. From September 10-18, the nine-day celebration of craft beer, hosted by VISIT DENVER, is anticipated to feature more than 200 events including tap takeovers, rare beer tastings, meet the brewer events, and more.

The GABF Competition

It’s no mystery. A lot has changed in the world of craft beer over the past decade or two, but a medal from the GABF is still highly prized. By now, brewers know all about submitting beers for the competition.

As usual, the Brewers Association will host the 2021 GABF competition and awards ceremony. Winners will be revealed during the Brewers Association’s annual Craft Brewers Conference® & Brew Expo America® on September 10, 2021. The awards ceremony will be streamed live from the Bellco Theatre on The Brewing Network. More information about the competition and awards ceremony is available on the GABF website.



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