Festival History, Facts & Figures

GABF Festival Facts

Note: The Great American Beer Festival includes both a public tasting and a private judging event.

2016 Recap


  • Charlie Papazian and John HickenlooperIn 2016, GABF celebrated the 35th anniversary of the festival and the 30th edition of the GABF competition. GABF founder Charlie Papazian was honored with a celebratory plaque and medal by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The festival also expanded to 780 breweries, and 7,227 beers entered the competition—a 9 percent increase over 2015. The festival featured a new booth called Heavy Medal, where 71 beers were poured from 2015 GABF medal-winning breweries.

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2016 Festival Facts

  • The festival sold out in 1 hour 7 minutes during the public ticket sale in 2016. In 2007, the festival sold out the week of the event.
  • 3,800+ beers were served in the festival hall—the biggest selection of American beers ever served.
  • 60,000 attendees (includes ticketed attendees, brewers, judges, volunteers and journalists) attended in 2016.
  • 780 U.S. breweries poured in the festival hall in 2016—a new record.
  • GABF had a $28.6 million economic impact on the city of Denver in 2016, according to Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

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2017 Date, Time, Location & Tickets

  • October 5-7, 2017
  • Colorado Convention Center, Downtown Denver.
  • Three evening sessions and one afternoon session.
  • Evening Sessions: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 5:30-10:00 pm.
    • Attendees receive a commemorative tasting cup, samples in one-ounce portions, the opportunity to sit in on presentations, and a festival program.
  • Afternoon Session: Saturday 12:00-4:00 p.m. American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and Brewers Association Members-Only session.
    • Attendees receive a commemorative tasting glass, samples in one-ounce portions, a festival program and a chance to rub elbows with brewers and be the first to sample award-winning beers as the winners of the prestigious Great American Beer Festival competition are announced.

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2016 Great American Beer Festival Competition

  • 96 categories of beer were judged, covering 161 beer styles, as well as the GABF Pro-Am.
  • The competition also saw its biggest-ever panel of judges, with 264 beer experts from 12 countries, including the U.S., and 170 competition volunteers.
  • Judging took place October 5-7.
  • 464 first-time participants competed.
  • 1,752 breweries entered the competition, representing 50 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Winners were chosen from 7,227 competition entries (nearly 9 percent more than the 6,647 entries in 2015 and surpassing all previous participation records).

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Navigating the Festival Hall

  • The Hall is divided into eight U.S. regions: Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Rocky Mountain, New England, Pacific, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest.
  • Take a beer tour using the My GABF app.
  • Taste beers from a particular state or region.
  • Focus on one particular style of beer (e.g., Stout, Pilsner or Pale Ale).
  • Notice how breweries in different regions approach a certain style.
  • Talk to brewery staff in the Meet the Brewer section of the hall, and while you’re there visit the nearby BeerX: The CraftBeer.com Experience pavilion.
  • Taste the medal-winning beers during the Saturday afternoon Members-Only or evening session. Winners announced during the Members-Only Saturday afternoon session.

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Festival History

  • The first festival was held in 1982 at the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder. There were 24 breweries, 47 beers and 800 attendees.
  • The festival moved to Denver in 1984.
  • The 10th festival was held at the Denver Merchandise Mart with 150 breweries, 500 beers and 7,000 attendees.
  • Due to continued growth and popularity and the fact that the iconic Currigan Hall was being dismantled, the festival moved from Currigan Hall in Denver to the Colorado Convention Center in 2000.
  • Demand for tickets is at an all-time high. The 2007 festival sold out the week of the event, while the 2016 event sold out in just over an hour.

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Festival Highlights

  • Great American Beer School—The beer education areas inside the festival hall include:
    1. Craft Beer & Food Pavilion – Enjoy multiple demonstrations throughout the festival, in which chefs and brewers alike discuss the art of cooking with craft beer as well as how to pair with beer to make the perfect meal.
    2. Paired Pavilion – Join chefs and small and independent brewers as they discuss and pair craft beer with dishes created with locally grown ingredients. Additional ticket required.
    3. Brewers Studio Pavilion – With beer that tastes so good, there must be an even better story behind it! The Brewers Studio gives festivalgoers the opportunity to listen to the brewers themselves as they wax philosophical on a variety of subjects as well as share their stories and beers.
    4. The annual GABF Pro-Am Competition – Entries are brewed by professional craft brewers based on award-winning homebrew recipes from American Homebrewers Association (AHA) members. Homebrew recipes are scaled up and brewed at a craft brewery for submission into the GABF Pro-Am competition.
    5. Support Your Local Brewery Pavilion/State Guilds Pavilion – Learn about individual states’ beer culture and try the rare beers showcased by the guilds–beers that are unavailable anywhere else at the festival. Several states will be represented. Enjoy displays of malt, hops, brewing equipment and more!
    6. Brewers Publications Beer Geek Bookstore – This area features books on every aspect of brewing, from style, technique and history to cooking, pairing and serving beer with food. Sample copies will be available and special book signings will be offered.
    7. BeerX: The CraftBeer.com Experience – This 2,500 square-foot area is jam-packed with educational and interactive stations about the art and science of brewing and the enjoyment of beer.
    8. Silent Disco – Always a crowd favorite, the Silent Disco gives dancers the chance to dance to music only they and the other disco dancers can hear through wireless headphones. Fun for dancers and spectators alike!
    9. Heavy Medal – New to the Festival in 2016, this booth was rock-n-roll themed and poured award-winning 2015 GABF beers.
    10. My GABF App – For its fourth year, the award-winning free My GABF app gave festival goers the ability to search by brewery or beer, take tours of the hall based on their taste and keep track of the breweries they visited and the beers they enjoyed.

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2016 Festival Sponsors

Learn about the sponsors that support GABF.

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GABF Official Numbers

2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Attendance 60,000 60,000 49,000 49,000 49,000 49,000 49,000
Volunteers 3,600 3,400 3,300 3,245 3,023 3,411 3,281
Volunteer Hours Worked 57,681 55,188 47,214 41,919 54,515 52,075 43,679
Breweries at the Festival 780 750 710 624 578 466 455
Beers at the Festival 3,800+ 3,800 3,500 3,142 2,774 2,375 2,248
Breweries in the Competition 1,752 1,552 1,309 732 673 522 516
Beers in the Competition 7,227 6,647 5,507 4,809 4,338 3,930 3,523
Categories Judged 96 + Pro-Am 92 + Pro-Am 90 + Pro-Am 84 + Pro-Am 84 + Pro-Am 83 + Pro-Am 79 + Pro-Am
Number of Judges 264 242 222 201 185 167 151
Avg. Number of Beers in each Category 75 72 61 51 51 48 42
Category with Highest Entries American-Style India Pale Ale: 312 American-Style India Pale Ale: 336 American-Style India Pale Ale: 279 American-Style India Pale Ale: 252 American-Style India Pale Ale: 203 American-Style India Pale Ale: 176 American-Style India Pale Ale: 150
Medals Awarded 286 + 275 + 3 in Pro-Am 268 + 3 in Pro-Am 252 + 3 in Pro-Am 251 + 3 in Pro-Am 248 + 3 in Pro-Am 236 + 3 in Pro-Am

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