The world’s biggest craft festival, and one of the nation’s finest is ON through Saturday in Denver, Colorado. It’s always a spectacular time and the Brewers Association has added some things this year.
So here’s what’s new at the GABF this year, the good, along with the less so…
The Already Enormous GABF Is Now Even Bigger
The GABF is larger than ever this year and things are laid out differently, (All good!)
To make room for the 800 breweries serving up more than 4000 beers this week, the Great American Beer Festival has added an additional 100,00 square feet of space at Colorado Convention to allow things to breathe and flow better.
And they also smartly debuted a new layout concept this year that now arranges breweries alphabetically rather than by region which past attendees sometimes found confusing.
New Corporate Sponsors Raise Questions
This year’s GABF features a number sponsored pavilions that have understandably drawn mixed reactions from the craft beer community.
Sports bar giant Buffalo Wild Wings is a new sponsor in 2018 and as part of that sponsorship they’ve created a 3,600-square-foot “sports bar and fan” experience inside GABF where they offer a steady stream of sporting events on 10 television screens.
If that kind of thing in the heart of the GABF strike you as kind of weird…you’re not alone. After all this is the same festival that kicked out longtime beer sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors last year in favor of “breweries that meet the BA craft brewer definition.”
And for the not-for-profit trade to partner with Buffalo Wild Wings, a corporate restaurant chain owned by Arby’s, still feels strange as does the idea of a giant sports bar at the GABF.
We’re less critical of the new Jameson Irish Whiskey sponsorship…
Sure they’re as corporate as Buffalo Wild Wings, but they’re relationship with craft breweries has been respectful in the states and their Caskmates program is at least interesting.
It is necessary to acknowledge that Irish Distillers who owns the Jameson brand did scoop up County Cork Ireland-based Eight Degrees Brewing, a craft brewery that can longer be seen as a true independent, at least not according to the Brewers Association’s definition. So there’s that.
But still we’d rather hangout Jameson Caskmates Barrel-Aged Beer Garden with the American brewers they’ve been working with, than watching ESPN at a mock sports bar at the Great American Beer festival…Just sayin.’