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DENVER (KDVR) — In the first-ever virtual Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) competition, 272 medals were awarded to 240 breweries across the country online on Friday.

The annual festival and competition, which is usually hosted at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, was moved online due to health orders restricting large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 34th version of the GABF included 8,806 entries from 1,720 breweries from all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Judging took place in 35 sessions over 18 days with social distancing and strict safety measures in place. 

The awards ceremony was broadcast on The Brewing Network on Friday night, kicking off the two-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 said, competition manager, GABF. 

“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 the resiliency of the craft brewing community as a whole.” 

There were 337 first-time participants and 19 first-time winners. Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., in Golden tied with two other non-Colorado companies for second-most medaled brewery with three.

In order to attend the event, passports were purchased to include exclusive access to on-site deals at participating breweries from Oct. 1 – 18. Passport holders also had access to a variety of sessions from brewers online.