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Largest U.S. beer festival will be ‘immersive online experience’ in 2020 because of COVID-19

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Derek Draplin | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The country’s largest ticketed beer festival has cancelled its in-person event this year, instead opting for an “immersive online experience” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Great American Beer Festival, typically held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, was originally scheduled for Sept. 24-26 but will instead offer livestream experiences from Oct. 16-17, the Brewers Association said.

“The event is still in planning, but experiences will likely include beer tastings, conversations with brewers, local brewery activations, and at-home beer and food pairing deliveries” and beer competition, the trade group said.

Brewbound reported that last year’s festival brought in $35.3 million for Denver's economy, according to the city’s tourism bureau. It welcomed 60,000 attendees, 800 breweries and featured 4,000 beers in 2019.

The Brewers Association said its decision came after Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order on Wednesday for alternative health care sites to be prepared in case of a COVID-19 surge.

“In the event that a COVID-19 infection surge threatens to overwhelm our healthcare resources, the State may activate alternate care sites (ACS) to increase hospitals’ capacity to provide care to COVID-19 patients,” the order said.

The Colorado Convention Center and The Ranch Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Complex (The Ranch) are listed as locations allowed to operate as alternative care sites under Polis’ order.

“While we are disappointed to not be gathering in Denver this fall for the craft beer community’s annual big tent event, the health and safety of our attendees, brewers, volunteers, judges, and employees is and always has been our top priority,” Brewers Association President and CEO Bob Pease said. “As the world is still greatly affected by the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to be affected for the foreseeable future, we must stay true to our priorities and pursue other ways to host GABF.”