Some Colorado Springs brewers shut out of Great American Beer Festival

July 10, 2013 Updated: July 10, 2013 at 8:49 am
photo - Venetucci Pumpkin Ale is made from real pumpkins, which also make a nifty cooler. Photo by R. Scott Rappold, The Gazette file
Venetucci Pumpkin Ale is made from real pumpkins, which also make a nifty cooler. Photo by R. Scott Rappold, The Gazette file 

It seems registering to pour beers at the Great American Beer Festival is becoming as difficult as scoring tickets to the mega-fest held in Denver each October.

Brewer registration began at 11 a.m. Tuesday. In less than two hours, all 600 slots for brewers were full. Last year’s festival, which featured 580 breweries, filled up in two days.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 170 breweries were on a waiting list to participate.

“The craft brewing industry has been growing at a phenomenal rate, more breweries every year, more breweries that want to participate in the GABF,” said Barbara Fusco, spokeswoman for the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which puts on the festival. “The simple matter is the demand to participate in this festival outstrips the number of spaces.”

Technical problems also greeted some brewers, as a computer server became overloaded and some users had to refresh or reload, losing their spots in line for registration. Organizers used social media to communicate with brewers about the problems.

Fusco said space is limited because, for judging purposes, there is a maximum of 4,675 beers. Judging is a major part of the festival, as breweries happily tout winning in the most prestigious beer competition in the world. She said brewers were notified by mail that festival spots would sell out quickly.

Colorado Springs’ Rocky Mountain Brewery was among those locked out. Owner Duane Lujan, whose fruit beers have won medals at the World Beer Cup in Chicago, said he tried to sign up an hour after registration began because he was trying to finish a batch of beer.

He missed out in 2012  because he waited two weeks to register so he thought he was signing up early enough. The form is lengthy and complicated – he said it has taken him 30 minutes to fill out in the past – and when he tried to sign up the website said the festival was full.

“Maybe this GABF thing has become like eBay. Maybe the guy who is most technical savvy wins everything,” he said. “It’s extremely frustrating to not be able to do what we do well, which is brew world-class beers and bring interesting new beers to the forefront and to be able to be in a face-to-face setting with our customers and to see their reactions. “

He is on the waiting list but doesn’t expect to be called. He doubts he will try to compete in the festival again.

“We probably spent three months developing some stuff we wanted to enter this year to kind of leave an impression. Unfortunately all those efforts are going to be enjoyed by our local customers.”

Bristol Brewing Co., whose Laughing Lab has won nine medals at the festival since 1996, is also on the waiting list.

Some other area breweries had more luck registering. Colorado Springs’ Trinity Brewing and Monument’s Pikes Peak Brewing confirmed they will be pouring at the festival. I’ve reached out to some other breweries and I’ll let you know what I find out.

Fusco said 49,000 people will attend four tasting sessions at the Colorado Convention Center Oct. 10-12. Tickets sold out in minutes last year and likely will be highly sought-after again. They go on sale to the public July 31 through Ticketmaster.

Said Fusco, “There are way more thirsty homebrewers and thirsty craft beer fans who would love to attend the GABF than tickets available for the festival.”

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