For the second year in a row, The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. The 3 day annual craft beer festival will celebrate their 31st year as a Denver staple this coming October. The festival is the biggest in the US and brings in over 600 breweries from across the nation to compete for medals in various beer style categories. The festival also provides unlimited 1 oz samples of nearly 3,000 different beers to thirsty pretzel necklace-wearing beer fans, many of which are rarities made just for the festival or unavailable in Denver or Colorado liquor stores or bars. However, despite the quick sell out, many beer fans took to social media sites to air their grievances, many of which directed their anger at Ticketmaster, whom the Brewers Association has used the past 2 years to handle ticket sales. Several anger laced comments were quick to point out that like the year before, many tickets went to scalpers. Within 30 minutes after the public sale of tickets, an internet search showed hundreds of tickets appeared on scalping sites such as Stubhub.com at twice the face value, prompting many would-be festival goers to cry foul or to threaten to cancel their American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA) membership.
Last year, the festival organizers began using Ticketmaster to handle the increasing volume of ticket sales. The festival, AHA, and Brewer’s Association faced an onslaught of angry comments on their Facebook page when a ticketing error allowed non-AHA members to log-in to purchase tickets during the member’s only pre-sale. The angry comments continued the next day when the public sale sold out in minutes, compared to 2011’s festival taking nearly a week before tickets sold out. This year, the member’s only session pre-sale error seemed to have been resolved with a prompt screen to enter a pre-sale code, however, tickets sold out rapidly causing many to direct their anger on the festival’s official Facebook page. The organizers addressed the comments Tuesday by explaining that they are under contract with Ticketmaster until 2014 and pointed out that a rapidly growing interest in craft beer has more beer enthusiasts from around the world interested in coming to Denver for the festival than there are available tickets. The AHA has also indicated a spike in membership in recent years as well widening the gap between supply and demand of festival tickets. In addition to fans being left out of buying tickets, some breweries are also feeling the sting of the rapidly growing festival. This year, hundreds of breweries were left on the festival’s indefinite wait list when available slots filled up including breweries such as Full Sail, Chuckanut, Ass Kisser Ales, and Denver’s own Crooked Stave brewery.
In contrast to the festival’s growing pains, the craft beer industry has seen a rapid increase in growth each year. This year alone, the Brewer’s Association reported a 20 percent increase in craft breweries up from last year’s numbers with 2,583 breweries currently in operation and over 1,600 new breweries in the planning stages. According to the Brewer’s Association webpage, craft beer is a 10.2 billion dollar industry in America and now has a 10% market share compared to “big beer” companies such as InBev and MillerCoors. In addition, craft breweries provide over 108,000 full and part-time jobs including waitstaff in brewpubs.
The Great American Beer Festival will take place on October 10-12th at the Denver Convention Center. Each tasting session begins at 5:30pm and ends at 10:00pm. For non-beer drinkers, the Designated Driver’s lounge includes massage tables, unlimited snacks and sodas and events such as Silent Disco. In addition to the festival, many Denver bars, tap houses and breweries participate in “GABF Week” and offers many beer rarities and tap takeovers leading up to the festival. For more information on the festival, please visit the festival’s official website at www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com