Competition Information

Bookmark this page for the most up-to-date information.

GABF Medals

Brewery of the Year Criteria

IMPORTANT: Breweries will be assigned to the correct Brewery of the Year category based on 2020 barrelage and brewery type. Size is defined by the production volume of the individual operation that holds the brewing license.

Brewery of the Year Flowchart

Brewery of the Year Flowchart – Coming soon!

Great American Beer Festival Brewery of the Year Awards

Does my brewery fall into the “brewpub” or “brewing company” category?

For purposes of the competition, brewpubs are considered a restaurant-brewery (i.e. has its own kitchen for food service) that sells 25% or more of its beer onsite. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar.

Small breweries that sell most of their beer out of a taproom but not serve food from an in-house kitchen would fall into the “Brewing Company” categories, based on 2020 barrelage production.

Team Brewery Name

We allow a team concept for the Brewer of the Year award. There are two choices for this recognition: individual names (up to two people) or “Brewery Team Name”. One trophy is presented in either case.

Packaging Breweries
Very Small Brewing Company of the Year <1,000 barrels produced in 2020
Small Brewing Company of the Year 1,000–14,999 barrels produced in 2020
Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year 15,000–6,000,000 barrels produced in 2020
*Brewpubs: Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a “brewing company”(packaging brewery) if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.
Small Brewpub* of the Year <750 barrels produced in 2020
Mid-Size Brewpub* of the Year 750-1,500 barrels produced in 2020
Large Brewpub*of the Year Greater than 1,500 barrels produced in 2020
Large Breweries or Multiple Location Breweries

Brewery Group of the Year

Over 6,000,000 barrels produced in 2019 OR multi-location breweries wishing to compete as a group. Refer to Brewery of the Year entry guide for more information


Brewery Group of the Year Point Tabulation

Brewery Group 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.

Point Tabulation: winner is determined by TOTAL POINTS awarded divided by TOTAL number of entries from that Brewery Group. See below for point value per medal type

Criteria used for awarding points, and the tie-breaking system used to rank breweries:

  • Most Total Points Divided By Total Entries: breweries are awarded points based on the number of gold (6 points), silver (5 points) and bronze (4 points) medals won in the competition;
  • Most Total Entries in all Medaled Categories;
  • Most Total Entries in Gold Medaled Categories;

The second and third criteria recognize overall competitiveness by achieving medals in categories with more entries than others.

Winners of the GABF medals will be announced during the GABF Awards Ceremony. 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.

Judges’ Comments

During first-round beer tastings at the 2021 GABF, each table of judges will complete a beer tasting form for each entry, which will include comments from all judges who assess the entry. Judging results will be sent within 60 days of the end of the Festival.

How is the GABF Judged?

GABF JudgingThe 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 at the category level; awards are not given at the subcategory level. 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. By rule, GABF and Brewers Association employees cannot aid breweries in this decision. Information regarding the number of entrants in each category are publicized during the Awards ceremony, and on the winners list pdf available for download. If twelve or more beers are entered into any one category, these beers are judged and are eligible to win an award. The GABF reserves the right to combine categories with fewer than 12 entries with similar categories prior to and during any given competition, and, reserves the right to discontinue categories and subcategories in future years to reflect changing market conditions and brewing interest.

GABF Awards Philosophy

The GABF awards medals for excellence in 91 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.

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 roughly 10% rookie 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 Assistant Competition and Staff Manager Kris Latham for more information. The current backlog of new judges is roughly 2-3 years.

Awards Ceremony

Details will be forthcoming

  • Date: Friday, September 10, 2021
  • Time: TBD
  • Location: TBD. Live stream will be available on The Brewing Network.