2021 Competition Updates


Welcome to the 2021 Great American Beer Festival competition. We’re looking forward to your participation in a vigorous competition and to an exciting awards ceremony.

This letter highlights many rules and styles changes for 2021 GABF. Be sure to look over this year’s style list and the style descriptions very carefully before submitting your entry form. Many category numbers have changed – don’t use last year’s category numbers!

What’s New at this year’s competition?

Brewery of the Year Awards: You’ll see significant changes to the Brewery of the Year categories and eligibility rules –

  • All Brewery of the Year categories for individual location breweries are based solely on prior year production volume. All breweries that wish to compete for Brewery of the Year awards must provide or verify their prior year volume during registration. Breweries that choose to not provide or verify their prior year volume are eligible to compete for individual medals, but will not be eligible to win a Brewery of the Year award.
  • Breweries must enter 2 or more beers in the competition to be eligible for individual location Brewery of the Year awards. Breweries must enter 6 or more beers in the competition to be eligible to compete for the Brewery Group of the Year award.
  • The calculation for individual location Brewery of the Year awards will be based solely on total points earned.
  • The calculation for the Brewery Group of the Year award will be based on total points earned divided by total entries submitted.

Fresh Hop Beer Entries: This year’s GABF is much earlier than usual, so much so that hop harvest won’t even have happened prior to judging. This means that fresh hop beers will be in production, or may not even have been brewed by the time judging occurs. Therefore, NEW FOR 2021, we’re delaying the judging of Fresh Hop entries until October 12. Winning Fresh Hop Beer entries will receive official 2021 Great American Beer Festival medals. But, Fresh Hop Beer medals won’t count towards 2021 GABF Brewery of the Year awards. See Category 98 for Fresh Hop Beer category specifications and see Dates and Deadlines for information specific to the Fresh Hop Beer category shipping and judging.

Eligibility Rules: All beers entered in the GABF competition must have a formula approval in place. In recent years, we’ve seen a large increase in the number of beer entries made with unusual and or rare ingredients. The vast majority of these ingredients are either GRAS or food safe, or the brewer has obtained a formula approval for these beer entries. However, a small but increasing number of beer entries include ingredients which are not food safe, or were made in contact with material that is not approved for food contact by FDA. An example of such a material is Amburana wood, which contains coumarin. See Beer Eligibility information for more info.

Pro-Am Competition Update: For 2021, no Pro-Am competition will occur. We hope to continue the Pro-Am competition in future years.

Collaboration Competition: For 2021, no Collaboration competition will occur. We hope to continue the Collaboration competition in future years.

Beer Style and Category Updates for 2021: Look for the full list of 2021 GABF beer categories here, along with a pdf of category guidelines! Here’s a brief summary of exciting changes for 2021 –

  • Category 14: Non-Alcohol Beer is a stand-alone category (rather than a subcategory)
  • Category 20: Experimental Wood-Aged Beer: this new category provides a home for wood- and barrel-aged beers that start out as complex blends of two or more hybrid beer styles (ie, Experimental Beers that are then wood-aged). For example, a spice and fruit beer which is then wood-aged
  • Category 21b: Kentucky Common Beer
  • Categories 28 & 29: The abv cutoff between the lower alcohol Pale, Amber and Dark beers and their stronger abv cousins has been increased to 8%, and, brewers entering these categories will have to provide the abv of these entries during registration
  • Category 41a: Other Hoppy Lager – this cousin to India Pale Lager celebrates and acknowledges recent interest in experimentation in lager beer styles with higher hopping rates
  • Categories 57 & 58: New Zealand Pale Ale and India Pale Ale
  • Belgian Beer Styles – these categories were significantly revised in the 2021 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines, and have been reorganized accordingly for the 2021 GABF –
    • Category 81b: Belgian-Style Session Ale is an exciting new category that acknowledges significant brewer and drinker interest in lower abv Belgian-style beer brands
    • Category 82a: Belgian-Style Speciale Belge – this category was formerly referred to as “Belgian-Style Pale Ale”, but was renamed after input from Belgian beer experts
    • Category 83: Belgian-Style Witbier includes minor revisions that reflect experimentation with different types of citrus and spices in this beer style
    • Category 89b: Belgian-Style Fruit Lambic has been combined with Belgian-Style Fruit Beer

I wish you an exciting and successful 2021 GABF – enjoy planning your entry strategy! We look forward to seeing you in-person at the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver this fall!

Yours Brewly,

Chris Swersey, Competition Director 2021 Great American Beer Festival