Competition Information

View/download a PDF version of the Brewers Guide to Registering here (All information in the PDF is also available on this site).


GABF Eligibility Rules

See all brewery and beer eligibility requirements here

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About the Festival

The Great American Beer Festival is a production of the Brewers Association and is America’s longest running and largest gathering of U.S. breweries. The GABF continues to unite the brewing community with beer enthusiasts in a celebration of the quality and diversity of American-brewed beers. It provides an excellent opportunity to expose your beers to beer lovers who travel from around the country and world to experience the festival each year.

The primary purpose of the Great American Beer Festival is to educate the consumer about the quality and diversity in beer styles and breweries that exist across the United States.

Part of that educational process lies in recognizing brewing excellence through the GABF competition. The GABF judge panel awards gold, silver and bronze medals in 89 different style categories. GABF medals symbolize excellence in brewing throughout the world. During the three days of the GABF judging, an internationally renowned panel of qualified beer judges evaluates all beers entered in the competition.

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How is it judged?

GABF Judging

The Great American Beer Festival held its first competitive judging in 1987. The GABF invites industry professionals to sit together in small groups and, without knowing the brand or brewery name, evaluate beers in defined style categories. The ultimate goal of the GABF Judge Panel is to identify up to three world class beers that best represent each beer style category as described and adopted by the GABF. Brewers entering beers into the GABF competition should carefully review the category and subcategory designations before registering their beer. Each brand may be entered only once. If a brand is entered more than once in the GABF, it will be disqualified from the competition. It is imperative that beers are entered into the proper category and subcategory since judges evaluate beers on the basis of these category and subcategory descriptions.

Brewery and beer brand information is publicized exactly as it is provided on the entry forms by the entering brewery. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of error, please review your confirmation letter carefully, and then sign and return it, indicating your final approval of your company name, all spelling and also categories and subcategories.

Awards are only given in categories and not in subcategories; however, judges do evaluate beers based on their adherence to the subcategory guidelines provided in this guide. It is the responsibility of each brewery to enter its beer in the appropriate category and subcategory. GABF and Brewers Association employees cannot aid breweries in this decision. Information regarding the number of entrants for a particular category of the 2014 GABF judging is made available at the Awards Session. In 2013, the average GABF category contained approximately 49 entries. In 2014, if six or more beers are entered into any one category, these beers are judged and are eligible to win an award. The GABF, however, reserves the right to discontinue categories in the following year to reflect changing market conditions and brewing interest.

 

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GABF Awards Philosophy

The GABF awards medals for excellence in 84 categories and does not necessarily award medals to the top three finishers in a particular category. When judges decide a category contains three excellent examples of the style, they award gold, silver and bronze medals for the first, second and third place beers, respectively. If judges believe that no beer in the category meets the quality and style-accuracy criteria, they may elect not to award a medal. Judges may award a silver or a bronze medal and yet not award a gold medal in a category. The award criteria are as follows:

Award Criteria
If judges believe that no beer in the category meets the quality and style-accuracy criteria, they may elect not to award a medal. Judges may award a beer with a silver or bronze medal and yet not award a gold medal.
Gold A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
Silver An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma and appearance.
Bronze A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor deviations in taste, aroma or appearance.

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Brewery of the Year Criteria

All beers entered in the competition count towards Brewery of the Year awards. Award points are given in the following categories:

Brewery of the Year Awards
*Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer “to go” and/or distribute to off-site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery (packaging brewery) if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Very Small Brewing Company Less than 1,000 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Small Brewing Company 1,000–14,999 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Mid-Size Brewing Company 15,000–6,000,000 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Large Brewing Company Greater than 6,000,000 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Small Brewpub* Less than 750 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Mid-Size Brewpub* 750-1,500 barrels produced in 2013
Great American Beer Festival Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year Large Brewpub* Greater than 1,500 barrels produced in 2013

Volunteer at the Great American Beer Festival

IMPORTANT: Please read the following information carefully in order to properly determine the correct size category you should select for your brewery. Breweries that select categories that are later found as incorrect will be disqualified from winning the Brewery of the Year award in that category.

NOTE on Multiple Packaging and Brewpub Location Entries: Brewing Companies entering separate packaging and brewpub locations are required to enter both locations under the same BOY category. For instance, a company may not enter a packaging facility as a “Small Brewing Co.” and a brewpub location as “Small Brewpub”, but instead must enter both facilities as “Small Brewing Co.”. The BA will recategorize incorrect entries as needed.

For Packaging Breweries – Size is defined by total U.S. volume of the company which has majority ownership of the brewery.

For Brewpubs: Size of single store location is defined by production volume of the individual operation which holds the brewing license.

Team Brewery Name

The GABF allows for either individual or team concepts for the Brewer of the Year award. There are 2 choices for this recognition—an individual name/s (up to 2 people) or “Brewery Team Name”. In any case, one trophy is presented.

Brewery and Brewpub of the Year winners are determined based on the results of the competitive beer judging held at the Great American Beer Festival. All entries entered into the competition count toward Brewery of the Year points. Breweries are awarded points based on medals won, and these points are tabulated to arrive at the results. Here are the criteria used for awarding points, and the tie breaking system used to rank breweries.

  • Most Total Points – breweries are awarded points based on the number of gold (3 points), silver (2 points) and bronze (1 point) medals won in the competition;
  • Most Gold Medals;
  • Most Medals;
  • Most Total Entries in all Medaled Categories;
  • Number of Entries in Gold Medaled Categories;

The second and third criteria have the effect of making a gold and two bronzes worth more than a gold and silver, while two golds would be worth more than a gold, silver and a bronze. The fourth and fifth criteria recognize overall competitiveness by achieving medals in categories with more entries than others.

Winners of the 2014 GABF medals will be announced on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the GABF Awards Ceremony at the Bellco Theatre in the Colorado Convention Center. Winners of the Brewing Company of the Year and Brewmaster of the Year awards will also be announced at this time. Lists of medal winners and the number of entries in each category will be available after the winners have been announced.

 

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Great American Beer Festival Judges

Judge Selection and Procedures

The Great American Beer Festival Competition Manager selects judges from a list of internationally recognized brewers, sensory experts, suppliers, writers and consultants. These individuals have been selected on the basis of: (1)formal sensory training; (2) experience evaluating beers on flavor panels and/or at competitions; (3) judging demeanor; (4) knowledge of beer styles and the brewing process; and (5) industry and peer recognition.

Each year the GABF judge panel includes up to 20 new judges to keep the panel fresh with new ideas and palates. Prospective judges must communicate in fluent written and verbal English, must have formal sensory training, and must participate in regular flavor panels or competitions. Interested new judge candidates should contact Great American Beer Festival Competition Manager Chris Swersey by email: chris@brewersassociation.org for more information. The current backlog of new judges is roughly 2-3 years.

Judges’ Comments

During first-round beer tastings, each judge completes a beer tasting form for each beer judged. Brewers should each receive a minimum of three beer-tasting forms for each beer entered. Judging results will be sent within 30 days of the end of the Festival.

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Refund Policy

Refunds are not issued until after the festival. A full refund is given only in the event that your brewery cancels before August 8, 2014. You may also request a credit for the 2015 GABF in place of a refund. Any brewery that ships their product and later wishes to have the beer dropped from the festival due to improper fermenting, off-flavors discovered after shipping, etc. is not refunded. Beer is a donation and is not purchased by the festival.

 

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Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition

Pro-Am Competition

NEW THIS YEAR: The GABF Pro-Am competition is limited to 96 entries. These will be first come,first served during the beer registration process. Once filled, no additional pro-am entries can be accepted.

The Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association are proud to present the Ninth Annual GABF Pro-Am Competition of the Great American Beer Festival.

 

Commercial Brewery Rules:

Breweries that have entered at least ONE brand in the GABF competition/festival and have a booth in the festival are eligible to enter a beer in the Pro-Am Competition. Breweries are not allowed to enter ONLY the Pro-Am Competition.

Beers entered in the GABF Pro-Am competition must be commercially available. Commercially available means the entered brand has been available for sale at retail by August, 25, 2014. All GABF eligibility rules apply to Pro-Am entries.

Beer entered in the Pro-Am competition must be served at the festival and cannot be entered solely as a “judge only” entry. Pro-Am beer is served at a designated GABF Pro-Am booth in the festival hall, thus is not counted toward the maximum number of beers that can be served at the brewery’s booth. However, the brewery may choose to offer the Pro-Am beer as one of their five festival beers at their brewery booth as well. Each beer entered in the Pro-Am competition is served during one of the four tasting sessions. Breweries may request an additional 1/6 bbl MicroStar keg for their Pro-Am beer to be served at the Pro-Am booth.

Breweries may determine the homebrew recipes they scale up in one of three ways:

  1. Select an award-winning homebrew from an American Homebrewers Association (AHA)/Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) sanctioned homebrew competition held on or after January 1, 2013.
  2. Organize your own brewery-run and/or AHA/BJCP sanctioned competition.
  3. Partner with a local homebrew club to organize an AHA/BJCP sanctioned competition.

See our Events Calendar (http://bit.ly/BJCPcal) for a calendar of upcoming AHA/BJCP sanctioned competitions or go to www.bjcp.org/apps/comp_reg/comp_reg.html to register a competition. Breweries may wish to partner with a local homebrew club or homebrew supply shop if they wish to organize their own competition. See HomebrewersAssociation.org for homebrew club and shops directories. Contact Janis Gross, American Homebrewers Association Project Coordinator, at 720-473-7682 or janis@brewersassociation.org for information about local homebrew clubs and homebrew supply shops.

Breweries may choose to restrict entries to categories they are reasonably able to brew. For example, breweries may choose not to accept recipes for fruit beers, sour beers, or beers requiring extended aging, etc.

The homebrewer brewing their recipe with the professional brewery CANNOT be, or have ever been, an employee of that brewery or on the brewing staff at any brewery.

Breweries brew the winning beer from the recipe submitted by the winning homebrewer. The winning homebrewer must be an AHA member at the time the brewery enters the GABF competition and must have a valid AHA membership at the time of the GABF. All brewery entrants must be members of the Brewers Association.

Limited modifications of the recipe are allowed to accommodate the scale of commercial brewing and ingredients available to the brewery.

All entrants, both professional and amateur brewers, must sign a Licensing Agreement prior to the submission of entries to the GABF. The Licensing Agreement limits and protects the way the GABF trademark is used.

There is a $25 charge for GABF Pro-Am Competition entries, which covers the cost of awards and administrative time.

No more than one entry per brewery is accepted in the GABF Pro-Am Competition.

No more than 96 total entries are accepted for this competition. Entries are accepted on a first come, first served basis.

GABF Pro-Am entries compete in a best-of-show style judging, during the regular GABF judging. The GABF Style Guidelines and GABF judge panel are used for the judging. Entering brewers must provide the appropriate GABF category name and number along with any requested supplemental information for the entry to be judged correctly. Entries that do not include this information will not be accepted.

Judges will determine the top three entries in the GABF Pro-Am Competition, which are awarded Gold, Silver, and Bronze GABF Pro-Am Competition medals during the GABF awards ceremony. Medals are issued to both the winning brewery and the winning homebrewer.

The Pro-Am medals do not count towards “Brewery of the Year” awards, and therefore, are not counted for Brewery of the Year points.

Homebrewer Rules:

The homebrewer entrant or entrants must be members of the AHA by the time the brewery registers the entry in the GABF Pro-Am competition (July 2014), as well as when the Pro-Am entry is judged (October 2014). All brewery entrants must be members of the Brewers Association.

Qualifying homebrew competitions may be, but are not required to be, AHA/BJCP sanctioned homebrew competitions. Competitions held on or after January 1, 2013 may use AHA/BJCP categories, as defined by the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines for their entries, excluding those restricted by the competition. See our Events Calendar (http://bit.ly/BJCPcal) for a calendar of up-coming AHA/BJCP sanctioned competitions or go to www.bjcp.org/apps/comp_reg/comp_reg.html to register a competition.

Competitions must be timed to give the brewery adequate time to brew the beer to be ready for entry to the GABF.

The nature of the competition is entirely up to the brewery. They may choose to work with an existing competition or create their own. Breweries may restrict the styles of the competition to styles they can reasonably brew.

AHA membership of all homebrewer entrants is verified by the AHA. AHA membership must be current at the time the brewery enters the GABF competition, and also at the time of the GABF judging.

The homebrewer brewing their recipe with the professional brewery CANNOT be, or have ever been, an employee of that brewery or on the brewing staff at any brewery.

All entrants, both professional and amateur brewers, must sign a Licensing Agreement prior to the submission of entries to the GABF. The Licensing Agreement limits and protects the way the GABF trademark is used.

No more than one entry per brewery will be accepted in the GABF Pro-Am Competition. Individual AHA members may be associated with no more than one entry submitted into the GABF Pro-Am Competition judging at the GABF.

 

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