Photo Courtesy of Brewer’s Association
Every year, thousands and thousands of beer geeks travel from all over the world to attend the fabled Great American Beer Festival. While this raucous celebration of malty libations isn’t steeped in the same deep/long-running traditions as Oktoberfest, it offers a selection of beers that even the most experienced beer drinker couldn’t get all the way through. In 2019, more than 800 breweries participated and poured in excess of 4,000 different beers. For legal reasons, this is NOT a challenge. Definitely not.
This writer has been fortunate enough to attend this fantastic boogaloo for the past two years, and let me tell you- there is no beer fest on American soil quite like it. I have been to many beer festivals, both as an attendee and as a worker/beertender (leaning more toward the latter), and nothing even comes close. The sheer scope and size of the fest is enough to make your jaw drop- the Denver Convention Center floor where the festival is held seems to sprawl endlessly on, row after row, brewery after brewery, beer after beer. It’s heaven on earth.
But how, in a time where limited capacity is a must, does a festival of this magnitude survive? Thus far, the showrunners have yet to make any official announcements aside from the fact that it was moved from late September to mid-October 2020 (16-17 of October to be exact, which also reflects a deduction of a whole day from the usual festivities), and that this year’s festival will be entirely virtual. They are expecting to release an official statement on August 1, detailing possible virtual beer tastings, conversations with brewers, and of course, the all-important awards ceremony.
For those who want to see their breweries represented in competition, there will certainly be ample opportunity. A GABF medal is highly coveted in the craft beer world, so you can bet that the viewership will be high. It will be interesting to see how the beer tastings are organized- i.e. the manner in which the showrunners are able to release lists of beers to be guided through virtually, and where to buy them to follow along at home. Whatever the case, this will surely be a gargantuan experiment in virtual mega-parties, and is sure to be fun for all.