Denver’s Great American Beer Festival returns in October for the first time since 2019, and despite being the biggest beer event of the year, the festival itself will actually be smaller.

GABF’s longtime home, the Colorado Convention Center, is undergoing construction, which will limit the festival’s footprint to about 389,000 square feet, down from about 584,000 square feet in 2019, said Ann Obenchain, spokesperson for the Brewers Association, which throws the event.

That not only means fewer breweries serving beer —  500 down from the typical 800 — but also fewer tickets being sold. The Brewers Association is capping attendance at 40,000 this year, compared to 60,000-plus in years past.

Tickets go on sale July 12 for American Homebrewers Association members ($85) and July 13 for the general public ($95), and are expected to sell out.

Because the Brewers Association plans GABF many years in advance, the trade organization did not consider finding a new venue, Obenchain said. The convention center has hosted the festival since 2000.

“It’s still the largest ticketed beer festival in the U.S. and with 40,000 people, one of the larger events in Denver since COVID,” she said. “We’re excited for the expansion at the convention center because what it will bring next year is a bigger festival and a cool space.”

Other than its size, Obenchain said the 40th annual GABF on Oct. 6-8 will look largely the same as years past. Bagpipers will lead the ceremonial opening each day, breweries will pour samples from behind booths that are arranged alphabetically by brand name, and attendees will be able to partake in a silent disco and karaoke.

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The revered competition part of GABF, which was held the last two years in a hybrid format despite the festival’s cancellation, is expected to be its biggest yet, with an anticipated 10,000-plus entries, Obenchain said.

Paired, a food and beer sampling featuring noteworthy chefs, will also return in 2022. Foodies can purchase tickets exclusive to that event ($129) or for an upcharge also buy access to the festival floor ($199).

Given the milestone anniversary, the Brewers Association is planning to showcase GABF throughout the years in a retrospective installation. Other sponsored attractions are still to be determined, Obenchain said.

As for COVID-19 protocols, GABF is not requiring masks or proof of vaccination at this time, Obenchain said, adding that that policy subject to change to meet federal and state guidelines.

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