DENVER, the United States, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of breweries nationwide participated in the first-ever virtual competition to determine the best beers brewed in America despite severe COVID-19 restrictions.
This year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the largest ticketed beer festival in the United States, was markedly different this year, which saw no sell-out crowds at Denver's Convention Center, no hotels sold-out, and no restaurants packed each night for the usual four-day event.
"This year's GABF competition may have looked a little different, but the beers entered into the competition were as impressive and innovative as ever," Chris Swersey, competition manager of GABF, told the media on Saturday.
Judges for the 34th edition of the celebrated competition evaluated 8,806 entries from 1,720 breweries in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Socially distanced judging took place in 35 sessions over 18 days with strict safety measures in place, GABF officials said.
In state-by-state competition, Colorado finished second to California with 26 metals. It was followed by the states of Oregon and Washington, continuing the West Coast domination of quality craft beer breweries.
By the end of the weekend, the Brewers Association (BA) had awarded 272 medals to 240 breweries across the country, with the East Coast represented by North Carolina, Virginia and New York, above others.
According to the BA, a business group for small and independent craft beer brewers, sales of the industry increased by 6 percent in 2019, reaching 29.3 billion U.S. dollars, which accounts for more than 25 percent of the 116-billion-dollar beer market.
However, the mid-year report from the BA released in July indicted that craft beer volumes declined about 10 percent through the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This has arguably been one of the most challenging years breweries have ever faced, so we hope these awards serve as a symbol not only of brewing excellence but also of the resiliency of the craft brewing community as a whole," Swersey said.