The Great American Beer Festival is coming up in a couple of months and they recently released the 2017 list of breweries that will have booths at the fest. With more than 800 breweries represented every year, it has become the biggest beer event in the country. That number is only some of the breweries that wanted to be at the fest, however, since a lottery has been in place since 2014 to help organize the huge number of breweries that are eager to participate. In 2013, a surge of attendees entered GABF and the result was that the booth spaces sold out within 2 hours leaving many long time attendees as well as popular newer breweries out in the cold. Now there is an entry period over a few weeks where everyone can apply to pour beers and then they run a regional lottery to determine who can actually attend. Not everyone wants to go to GABF, however. Some breweries are not interested in trekking to Colorado or the large costs associated with the trip.
Dude, Where’s Vermont?
One notable omission from the fest is the entire state of Vermont. Not one brewery is representing the Green Mountain State this year and I, for one, am bummed. I grew up in Vermont and remember my first Otter Creek Pale Ale that ushered me into the wonderful world of hops. I think most craft beer lovers would agree that a Hillstead Farm, Lawson’s Finest Liquids or The Alchemist showing would make us incredibly happy and might even be a highlight of the trip. On the one hand, this omission is surprising because Vermont is known for producing some of the best craft beer in the country, but on the other hand, we have to remember we are talking about Vermont. Vermonters by nature don’t give a crap about most conventional accolades. They aren’t ones for tooting horns, blasting BS on social media, worrying about national distribution, or as it turns out, national exposure at the GABF. Vermont breweries have won a few GABF medals over the years and they certainly could be entering this year (that list is not available), so we will see if they pop up on in the winner’s circle in October. And if any Vermont breweries do need someone to hop on stage at the GABF awards and accept a medal for them, this Vermonter will be more than happy to help.
Big Boys Stay Home
Another notable omission from this year’s GABF list is most of AB InBev’s portfolio as well as other big beer owned breweries like Lagunitas. Big beer is just as welcome as any other beer to compete at this fest, but it seems that many of the “craft” breweries bought out by AB InBev decided to stay home. This is actually the first year that Breckenridge Brewery won’t be attending since 1991. Maybe they are making a stand against the Brewers Association which recently released an emblem designed to signify whether a brewery is a craft brewery or not. The High End’s video about the emblem is both hilarious and worth a watch to see their strong reaction.
Part of the reason for the low attendance by craft breweries probably has to do with the rules that GABF recently rolled out in 2014 which limits the number of beers entered from breweries owned by any one company to 20. When your “brand family” owns so many breweries, those 20 entries are spread out and limits the submissions from companies like AB InBev and MillerCoors.
But AB InBev does have a couple of breweries representing. Blue Point and Four Peaks will be pouring beers at this year’s GABF. Interestingly enough, these breweries are two of the most lo-pro crafty breweries with many people not knowing they are owned by AB InBev. While 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road and even Wicked Weed have been much higher profile breweries for the High End (AB InBev’s craft beer division), the other two breweries have slipped by with less negative publicity surrounding their buy-outs.
To be fair, most of this is speculation at this point. We don’t really know why these breweries are staying home anymore than we know the reasons why breweries attend the fest. Thorn will be there this year pouring and your’s truly will be attending too, so look for more blogs coming you way about the biggest beer event of the year!