GABF Notebook: Wrapping up everything from the fest

Brewess Anna Kornke and the Marble staff were kept plenty busy throughout GABF.
Brewess Anna Kornke and the Marble staff were kept plenty busy throughout GABF.

My first experience as a member of the working press at the Great American Beer Festival was a bit up and down. It can be a bit hard to do everything by yourself, for one thing, but in the end it is difficult to drink a lot of beer and then have any desire whatsoever to sit down and write up anything. Oh, and yeah, next year for any live videos we will try to bring something (a tripod?) so I do not end up creating something with a worse shaky cam experience than Blair Witch.

Next year I will have this whole thing planned out a bit better, rest assured. Still, I ended up with a bunch of little news tidbits that I still wanted to share, so voila, here is a notebook to wrap up GABF for 2016 and look ahead to 2017.

Now let us just hope I remembered everything.

NM breweries have support from Brewers Association

The sizable media contingent gathered to ask questions of the Brewers Association leadership.
The sizable media contingent gathered to ask questions of the Brewers Association leadership.

One of the more interesting parts of the fest that I was able to attend was a special press conference featuring the high-ranking members of the Brewers Association. After a series of speeches by the members, all of us in the media (there were hundreds of us, believe it or not) were able to ask questions. I wound up third in line, knowing full well what my question would be for BA president Bob Pease.

Q: In New Mexico right now we have a proposal coming up for our state legislature to raise taxes on our craft breweries to the highest level in the nation. If it passes, it would effectively end craft brewing in our state. With many states currently facing massive revenue shortfalls, how concerned is the Brewers Association with this happening in more states than just New Mexico? And, what can the Brewers Association do to help our state and others fight such proposed tax increases?

A: The Brewers Association is aware of what is happening. That is why, for the last 10 years, we have encouraged and helped in the formation and strengthening state guilds in all 50 states. Now there is a strong state guild in New Mexico and many other states. The next step we have been working on is to make sure that every state has a paid, full-time executive director. To ensure this, we have allotted up to $500,000 in grants to state guilds to hire and pay the best people to represent these guilds. We will then do everything in our power to help those state guilds activate and create a strong support base when it comes to helping them in situations such as the one New Mexico is facing. Working with the state guild in New Mexico and the American Homebrewers Association, we need to make sure people understand that any such proposal would be a job-killing proposal that would not create revenue. Not many legislators these days want to be seen as job killers. We have to make sure politicians are aware of this in our fight to prevent it from happening.

So, yeah, the BA is fully aware of what is happening in New Mexico and will back up our Guild and our breweries as much as they can. That’s cool.

Stats upon stats upon stats

Some nifty statistics about GABF, from the same press conference.

  • This was the 35th anniversary of GABF, for which Charlie Papazian was later honored at the awards ceremony. The first one, back in 1982, had 800 attendees. There are now 780 breweries with booths upstairs. The estimated 7,300 beers in competition this year were more than there were attendees at the 10th annual GABF in 1991.
  • Courtesy of Bart Watson, the BA’s top economist, craft breweries produced $55.7 billion in revenue in 2014, accounting for 424,000 full-time-equivalent jobs across America.
  • GABF brings in $28.6 million for the city of Denver, or about 2 percent of the city’s entire GDP.
  • The meteoric growth of craft breweries has slowed, somewhat, down to 8 percent by the middle of 2016.
  • There are more than 4,800 operational craft breweries, as defined by the BA, currently in the U.S.
  • There are 6,720 registered breweries with the TTB, meaning another 1,900-plus are planning on opening some time in the near future.
  • Beercations are becoming more and more popular. Of people who identify themselves as craft beer drinkers, 4 percent (roughly 40 million) visited 10 or more breweries while on vacation. On my last big vacation I visited Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Figueroa Mountain, The Brewhouse (Santa Barbara), Noble Ale Works, The Bruery, Tustin Brewing, Smog City, The Dudes’ Brewing, King Harbor Brewing, and El Segundo Brewing in California, and Mother Road in Flagstaff. So, yeah, I guess I fit in that 4 percent.
  • There are now 80 BA members exporting internationally. A small number? Yeah, but think about how small most craft breweries are and then imagine it is not all simply driving across the border into Mexico or Canada, but sending it across the ocean.

Awards notes

When you have 1,700-plus breweries entered for awards, you get a pretty crowded theater.
When you have 1,700-plus breweries entered for awards, you get a pretty crowded theater.

Some tidbits from the ceremony on Saturday.

  • Bosque’s Acequia IPA took home its third consecutive medal, following a bronze in the Fresh or Wet Hop category in 2014 and a gold in 2015. It is the third beer from a New Mexico brewery to ever win three medals, and the first to win three in a row. The other triple-winners are Marble’s Imperial Red (2012 silver, 2014 gold, 2015 bronze) and Pilsner (2011 bronze, 2013 silver, 2016 bronze).
  • New Mexico breweries have pulled off 30 medals in the last five years, with four in 2012, eight each in 2013 and 2014, four in 2015, and six in 2016.
  • There were officially 7,227 entries this year from 1,752 breweries in 96 categories. Only 264 judges were used. I pity some of those palates.
  • For anyone wondering what is now the overall tally of medals for our breweries, Canteen/Il Vicino still leads the way with 12 (two gold, six silver, four bronze). Marble is second with nine (two gold, two silver, five bronze) and Chama River is third with eight (five gold, one silver, two bronze). For history buffs, there were two breweries that won medals in the 1990s that have since closed. Santa Fe’s Wolf Canyon won four (one gold, two silver, one bronze) and Las Cruces’ O’Ryan’s Tavern won two gold.

Surviving the session

Men in kilts were drawn to La Cumbre all weekend.
Men in kilts were drawn to La Cumbre all weekend.

If you do not like huge crowds, GABF is not the place for you. I can handle them up to a point, but I have to admit, Friday night was downright claustrophobic after a while. Thankfully, people were mostly polite and there to have fun. The best advice I can give is to make use of the My GABF app on your phone. Map out the breweries you want to visit and stick to a plan.

The longest brewery lines were no surprise, as Dogfish Head, Wicked Weed, Cigar City, Founders, Southern Tier, Bell’s, Breakside, Fat Head’s, Stone, Victory, The Lost Abbey, Russian River, New Glarus, and Jester King were packed. The good news was so was La Cumbre, which had an awesome end-of-row booth. Plenty of folks were enthusiastic about New Mexico beers, notably during the Saturday afternoon members-only session, which is a must for anyone serious about trying a lot of beers without the heinous lines and immovable crowds. Following the awards ceremony did not hurt as many people purposely go looking for the beers that just earned medals.

Hopefully more New Mexico breweries can grab end booths in 2017. Oh, and the dates for GABF 2017 are October 5-7. Start setting aside some money and request your vacation time.

If anyone has any questions or comments, please drop me a line at or via any of our social media sites.

Until next year, it is back to local news starting Wednesday with The Week Ahead in Beer.


— Stoutmeister

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