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Thursday, August 01, 2013

GABF Reconsiders Registration After 2013 Debacle

Perhaps you recall this incident three weeks past:
On Tuesday, the Brewers Association opened brewery registration for The Great American Beer Festival. Each year, the registration list fills up within days. Last year, it only took two days for 580 breweries to sign up. This year, however, it only took less than two hours for 600 breweries.

Complicating this year’s registration were server issues, something that has become quite common with limited events.
When you have a first-come system, you end up with things like multiple branches of the Californian Pizza Port chain getting in while stand-alones from around the country stood with their noses on the glass looking in.  No one thinks that's a great idea.  Now the Fest has a new plan.  From event director Nancy Johnson:

The 2014 GABF brewery will remain open for set number of days, and all interested breweries may enter the competition. The number of beer entries allowed per brewery will be based on doing the math of the number of breweries that registered during the sign-up period and the pre-determined capacity of beers that we can successfully judge that year. 
Here is an example to illustrate:
  • Total number of beers that can be judged = 5,000
  • The registration period lasts (is open) for two weeks; no clambering to enter during one short time window
  • Total number of eligible breweries that apply = 1,000
  • 5,000 beers / 1000 breweries = 5 entries per brewery
  • Thus in this scenario, the competition would accept the first 5 entries from every brewery that entered
  • Let’s say 2,500 breweries entered instead of 1,000: in that case, every brewery could enter 2 beers in the competition. The math would work like that for whatever number of breweries entered (Max. capacity of beers that can be judged – divided by – number of breweries entering the competition)
This is a pretty elegant solution.  It would further democratize the fest and likely spread medals around more evenly.  Firestone Walker and Chuckanut wouldn't walk out with their usual 37 medals each.  (That may cause other headaches for the GABF, like deciding breweries of the year, but one step at a time.)  It would also compel breweries to think very carefully about which beers they're sending, which I suspect would have unexpected and unpredicted consequences.  We'll see soon enough.

As a postscript, the GABF still has other registration woes:
Tickets to the 2013 Great American Beer Festival that were available to the general public were snatched up in a record-breaking 20 minutes Wednesday, causing many fans to vent frustration about scalpers suspected of crashing craft beer's biggest party and prompting more questions about whether the event needs a makeover. 
This is going to be a lot harder to fix, though the folks from Denver could look north for some solutions.  The GABF gets 49,000 attendees in three days, and there's no way to fold space to get more people in the convention center.  But they could, like the Oregon Brewers Fest, add more days.  That seemed to work out pretty well.


  1. ticketmaster had the exact same issues two years in a row, and their system of only being able to add one session at a time, checkout, then go back to purchase other days was absurd. As long as they use ticketmaster I am not going anymore.

  2. BA reported they are under contract with Ticketmaster for GABF sales through 2014.
    .. I am one of those who logged in promptly at 10a MDT, setup an account, selected a day, and executed 'Enter' many, many times over the next 30 minutes without success. Fortunately, friends obtained a ticket for me.

  3. This is a disaster. The interest in this event has outstripped the event's ability to deal with it. Big changes are needed. Will they happen? We'll see.