Industry News: US: Hundreds of breweries miss out on this year’s Great American Beer Festival

image "Great American Beer Festival 2011" sourced via deegephotos's Flickr. Also visit http://www.fermentarium.comIf you’ve ever attended a concert then you’re experienced with purchasing a ticket (or tickets). By this I mean you’ve experienced the joy of seeing your favorite performer / performers, undergone standing in line, and the dejection when you see that the exhibition has sold out.

Now imagine you’re one of the brewers at The Great American Beer Festival. Start to visualize you’ve been reminded by organizers to register on time. Add to the fact that as a matter of ‘convenience’ the organizers allow you to register your participation via the Internet. So far everything sounds perfect right? Wrong.

Instead you’re greeted by ‘canned’ messages (like registration starts at 9:00 AM, but it’s currently 9:15 on your watch), incompatible browsers, or in one case your wireless mouse’s batteries expire in the middle of registration. This is what happened yesterday, July 9th, when several thousand breweries attempted to simultaneously register their brewery / beers for consideration to the Great American Beer Festival. After less than two hours it was over.

"13/365 - Portrait of a Frustrated Artist Who Is Nowhere Near Drunk Enough" sourced through Creative Commons via Julian's Flickr pageFor those that were fortunate in enrolling their brewery and beers, their beers will be among a potential 4675  contrasting beers, spread over 120 categories, that will be analyzed at this year’s festival. Those that didn’t get in either due to technical issues or bad planning are now on a waiting list.  Also don’t think this is just some small production brewery is being asked to ‘sit this out’. Instead we encourage you to recall that Widmer Brothers, Shmaltz, Flyers, among others, were not successful either.

Taking to Twitter, many breweries and craft beer devotees are posting their appraisals, using the “hashtag” #GABF, to express their thoughts on the registration ‘snafu’. I have embedded the ongoing assertions below. There are of course questions go around both from breweries and craft beer advocates.

First why is there only 600 breweries earmarked to enter their beers into GABF? The answer is complicated according to Brewers Association Media Rep. Barbara Fusco. In fact you would have to look at the number of potential beers to be judged at the 2013 festival in Denver and divide this by the potential number of beers each brewery might submit to be judged.

Remember that 4675 figure mentioned earlier? That’s the confining number of potential, competing, beers that will be assessed at this year’s Festival. Divide the that number by over 185+ judges and you have an approximate average of 25 beers that could be judged per person. This math of course presumes each brewery submits no more or less than 7 beers on average. Given the strong likelihood against the assumed math remaining unproved, this will lead to some breweries, left waiting, receiving an invite.

Then there is the whole question of why so many breweries were left to refresh their Internet browsers while others did not. So far the folks at the Brewers Association can’t speak to the technical autopsy that is being performed on their registration servers. What is obvious is that the Brewers Association sent reminders using the commercial shipping (like USPS, FedEx, or UPS), social media (ie, Facebook, Twitter), electronic mail, and even posting it in the Brewers Association forums. Which might have been the basis for why so many breweries attempted to register at the same time compared to last year which took 2 days.

More on this from the GABF & Brewer Association

Great American Beer Festival (GABF) brewery registration filled up in under two hours yesterday; last year, brewery registration filled up in under two 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, around 600 breweries were able to successfully register for the competition. Regrettably, even if there had been no technical issues, it seems that 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, unfortunately, as the competition is very close to capacity. 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 as an option to some companies on the wait list.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 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.

Finally its valuable to comprehend some breweries just didn’t make any effort to attend GABF.  Which given the exploding growth of the Association, coupled with limitations on number of breweries invited, will ultimately keep many breweries from submitting their beers for awards.

So to all the breweries that didn’t get their application accepted our sympathies. And to all you thirsty beer advocates, you have until the end of July before you suffer the same potential anxiety, of not getting a ticket to the ‘Show’.

For those still curious what the Brewers Association had to say about yesterday’s registration, please read the below quote.

Cheers

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