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By the Numbers: How Big is the Great American Beer Festival?

With GABF returning to Denver this weekend, we put together a (mostly true, slightly humorous) breakdown of the nation’s largest brewing festival.

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The Great American Beer Festival returns to Denver for its 36th year this Thursday. The festival has come a long way since it debuted at the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder in 1982. Back then, GABF brought 24 breweries together and attracted a crowd of 800 people. This year, there are more than 800 participating breweries. Below, we’ve rounded up some fascinating numbers to give you a behind-the-scenes look at America’s biggest beer fest.


255: The number of minutes that it took for this year’s festival to sell out of tickets. That’s nearly four times longer than it took last year (67 minutes) and more than three times longer than it took in 2015 (77 minutes).

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178 tons: The amount of ice needed to keep the beer cold throughout the festival. By comparison, a standard school bus weighs about five tons, so imagine more than 35 school buses—all made of ice.

40 miles of beer lines in the festival hall. If the lines were laid out on I-70 due west, they would stretch eight miles beyond Idaho Springs.

1 ounce per taste, which may seem like a small amount of beer, but be sure to pace your consumption. This marathon of a fest runs four-and-a-half hours—and those little sips add up quick.

At least 5: The number of drunk texts you’re sure to send your ex if you decide to sprint this beer-drinking marathon.

Great American Beer Festival
Photo © Brewers Association

79 percent: The number of breweries at GABF carrying the Brewers Association’s Independent Craft Seal. In a year where a record-setting 850 breweries are participating in the festival, suffice it to say independent brewers still rule at GABF.

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3,277: The distance (in miles) that Maui Brewing Company—the farthest brewery from Denver at GABF—traveled to make the festival. Be sure to pay MBC a visit at booth M5.

3,932: Festival volunteers who make GABF possible every year. For perspective, Century Link, one of Denver’s largest employers, has a staff of about 4,000 people.

6,350,748: Total ounces of beer. In case you were wondering, that equals more than 7,000 kegs. Divided up evenly between festival attendees, that amounts to about 105 ounces of beer per person over the course of GABF.

100 percent: The chances you’ll “never wear one of those hideous pretzel necklaces.”

Also, 100 percent: The chances you’ll change your mind after several beers and realize pretzel-themed clothing is actually the real MVP of the festival.

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Read More: 12 Sudsy Alternatives to the Great American Beer Festival.

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