Brewers Association Revises Registration Process for GABF

The Brewers Association (BA) has streamlined the registration process for this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in hopes of avoiding a repeat of a debacle that made securing a spot at the event difficult in 2013.

Last year, brewers flooded the BA’s servers in an attempt to register, which resulted in the festival selling out in half an hour. As such, not all beer companies were able to sign up. Additional “technical problem[s]” with Ticketmaster, which the BA contracts for general public and member ticket sales, “had a negative impact” on some members, as outlined in an apology issued by the BA at the time.

This year’s registration opens to BA members on Tuesday and, to ensure that brewers aren’t excluded from participating, the organization said it plans to accept every applicant wishing to submit products for judging — unless more than 1,400 companies apply.

But while the amount of breweries able to participate in the medal competition has increased, the number of beers a company can enter for judging has not. That number will depend upon the total number of brewers competing, the BA said.

For example, explains the festival’s website, if 1,000 breweries apply to compete and 5,000 beers can be judged, each brewery will then be eligible to enter five beers.

Come October, when the three-day festival is scheduled to take place in Denver, Colo., the BA anticipates being able to judge approximately 5,400 total beers, an increase of 12 percent over last year.

Brewery registration begins tomorrow and will remain open through June 26.

Barbara Fusco, BA spokeswoman, said the new process, which was given a test run of sorts at the World Beer Cup, should help allay “the rush to enter.”

“Instead of having a finite amount of space that opens up and stays open until it’s full, we now have a longer application to register process that doesn’t require you be online at 10 a.m. mountain time and that’s that,” she said. “We used this system with our World Beer Cup competition for 2014 and it worked smoothly and it eliminated that race to enter so to speak.”

Should more than 1,400 breweries apply, (unlikely, according to Fusco) registration would close earlier than the 26th. For context, 750 breweries, including those who were admitted and those who were left out, applied to participate in last year’s GABF. About 1,000 beer companies applied to take part in the 2014 World Beer Cup, Fusco said.

The BA, which signed a contract with Ticketmaster through 2014, is obligated to work with the ticketing agency for this year’s event, though Fusco said it has yet to reach a conclusion as to whether it will renew the contract, but admitted that there will be a “process of examining alternative options.”

“A large number of factors will play into the decision,” she told Brewbound. “Past performance in addition to the likelihood of this or any other vendor being able to handle the complexity of the GABF ticket sake.”

The BA said it will also limit entries to the Pro-Am competition, which is open only to members that have also entered at least one other beer in the primary GABF competition, to 96.

And, due to finite physical space and growing interest in pouring beer at the festival, booth spaces may be assigned through a lottery, according to the website. Brewers that are able to land a booth will be able to pour up to five beers, including those entered in the competition. Sponsors of the festival, on the other hand, will be allowed to pour up to 10 different beers at their booths.