GABF_crowd

When is a beer festival too big? GABF announces expansion

News today from the Brewers Association has me wondering if a beer festival can actually get too big. This year they’re making the biggest beer fest in America even bigger.

When a craft brewery reaches a certain size some craft beer fans deem it too big to be good. It’s a binary decision: big equals bad. Do people feel the same way about beer festivals?

The Brewers Association just announced that for 2015 it is expanding the Great American Beer Festival, which is held in Denver each autumn. This year the dates are September 24 thru 26.

Last year the festival welcomed 700 breweries, 3,300 different beers, and 49,000 festivalgoers. It is an awesome and audacious display of craft beer’s increasing popularity and power. And now it’s getting even bigger.

For the 2015 the Brewers Association is adding another festival hall, which increases the event’s footprint by 90,000 square feet. The GABF will now accommodate 900 breweries, 3,500 beers, and 60,000 festival goers. It’s almost like the Brewers Association is showing off.

Click on image to see full size.
Click on image to see full size.

If you’re old like me, you remember the Charles Atlas ads that appeared in comic books. The big, musclebound bully kicks sand in the face of the little wimpy guy and then steals his girlfriend. In the end, with the help of Charles Atlas, the little guy bulks up, kicks the bully’s butt and regains the admiration of his lovely lass.

The Great American Beer Festival’s continued growth is like craft beer’s version of the same story. I’m not sure anyone would fly to Denver for an Anheuser-Busch festival.

A three-day event, all sessions of the GABF will sell out almost instantly, so maybe it isn’t big enough yet. At some point, Denver’s inability to accommodate all the festivalgoers, breweries and related industry folks is probably the only thing that restrains the festival’s size. They could probably sell 250,000 tickets to a festival with 1,500 breweries and 7,000 beers.

I know you’re out there. Many of you subscribe to the “big is bad” philosophy and immediately turn your back on any local brewery that gets too big for its britches. I suppose you feel the same way about beer festivals.

In my opinion, the continued growth of the GABF is good news. Maybe it’s too much for you, a bigger festival than you’d care to attend, but it speaks to the continued growth and success of the craft beer industry. Whether or not I choose to attend, it’s still good news.



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2 comments

  1. Problem is not the size once you are inside…it is getting in is the problem. The lines are tremendous. There are a few tricks on cheating the line..but those tricks might go away

  2. Ahhh, I’m sure we all remember when the BA decided to take the GABF on the road to Baltimore and how that failed–before the curve indeed. Though I personally would probably not fly to Denver for an AB beer fest I might think about it as at least the beers served would be consistent, something that is lacking at the Denver event. The GABF is like the Internet, a wonderful and horrible thing all wrapped up together conundrum like, I wouldn’t have it any other way no matter my opinion on it (though not thrilled judging this year is now 3 full days, ugh). We should also keep in mind here in the NW, when speaking of ‘too big?’,that the Oregon Brewers Fest now runs for 5 days–Wed thru Sun. I think at the end of the day we are talking about getting big vs getting diluted eh? Are we looking at 20 by 20 or bigger I wonder. And thanks K for the Charlie Atlas graphics, a wonderful throwback!

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