Great American Beer Festival

Friday and Saturday evenings I attended, virtually, the Great American Beer Festival. The first event on Friday was the Awards Ceremony. This was the session that had the greatest attendance; over three hundred people watched. It was open to the public and available on YouTube. All of the other events required you to spend $20 and get a GABF Passport.

There seemed to be an endless number of awards with many specific categories. Obviously the fewer contestants in a category gave an individual brewer a greater chance of winning. The Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale category had the most entries; 377. Spellbinder, Wren House Brewing Co., Phoenix, Arizona won the gold medal.  You can read  more about this style of beer here. I don’t think I have ever had it.

The Brewers Association sponsors the GABF. Justin Crossley, from the Brewing Network, was the host for all the session except the Awards Ceremony. Most of the events had around 150 viewers. That doesn’t seem like a large audience. I don’t know how many people usually attend the GABF but I assume it is more than 150.

Attending the GABF virtually meant the presenters were on Zoom or a similar platform. That meant there were various technological problems which led to poor production quality in some of the sessions. There were several interesting panels which I will discuss in separate posts in the coming weeks.


I just finished writing a review of Garrett Peck’s The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. You will have to wait to read the review in its entirety until The Historian is published. The book is an interesting survey of the current liquor industry. One thing that stood out in the book was how much the liquor industry is using tourism as a way to promote itself.

Wine tourism, particularly in California, is very big business. One could make the case – Peck does not – that the best aspect about the liquor industry for the American economy is that they produce their products in America. They make something and offer traditional, well paying unionized jobs, particularly at the macro brewing level. If the industry shifts its’ focus toward tourism and away from production, these jobs will be replaced by lower paying service jobs, a familiar story for much of American industry.

Of course many places want to become tourist attractions. As part of the Little Berks, on Saturday I went on a  walking tour of Florence, Massachusetts. Florence use to have some industry; Pro Brush was a big employer. It closed in 2007. The David Ruggles Center is trying to restore and promote the history of the village. Florence was involved in many of the reform movements of the nineteenth century including the water cure, abolitionism, and the underground railroad.

Sojourner Truth Statue Florence Massachusetts

Sojourner Truth lived in Florence for a while and there is now a beautiful statue of her there. The house she lived in still exists but looks completely different. Local historians would love to be able to restore the house. If they do, it will certainly be a tourist attraction. Many of the places we have gone this year while traveling also hope to have something that will produce a steady stream of visitors.