Brewing Up Demand: Beer Festival Sells Out in Record Time

Many beer fans looking to imbibe at the Brewers Association's Great American Beer Festival this fall were out of luck this week, as tickets sold out fast and technical problems arose.

It may be the equivalent of the biggest kegger in the country, but that doesn’t mean the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is immune to logistical issues.

With its tickets going at a pace way more comparable to a major rock concert’s than an annual association showcase’s, the Brewers Association’s annual event set for October 10–12 in Denver sold out in record time this year—understandably causing some major headaches. More details:

An extremely hot ticket: On Wednesday, general session festival tickets went on sale for $75 each—and then sold out in record time. The good news for the association is that the fast sales speak to already-clear evidence that the craft beer industry is surging—in other words, demand is largely eclipsing supply. The pace of the festival ticket sales is speeding up year after year. In 2011, it took a week for the event to sell out. Last year, it took 45 minutes. This year? Just 20 minutes.

Members got stuck too: A day earlier, the association’s members found themselves facing a similar problem. Registered members of the Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association couldn’t catch a break on Tuesday, when presale tickets  sold out in less than 90 minutes (less than 30 for some big-draw sessions). Some members complained that the online ticketing system wasn’t working correctly and rejected their member numbers. The Brewers Association blamed vendor Ticketmaster,  which it has a contract with until 2014. “Ticketmaster had a technical problem that unfortunately had a negative impact on many of our members,” the association said in a statement. “We are sorry. There do not seem to be any easy answers in the world of large-scale event ticketing.” The group says that the tickets would have sold out even faster had technical issues not been at play.

Are scalpers to blame? In the hours after the general sales tickets were gone on Wednesday, fans complained that they were showing up  for sale on ticket resale sites such as StubHub—for much higher prices. “We share those concerns and wish there was a feasible fix,” the association wrote on Facebook. “Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to successfully avoid a secondary market for hot tickets—whether for popular concerts, sporting events, or festivals like the GABF.” The post went on to cite the steps taken to prevent scalpers from snapping up tickets in large numbers.

When asked if the association might consider dropping Ticketmaster as its vendor, spokeswoman Barbara Fusco told The Denver Post she wasn’t sure, but “at this juncture, we will be considering all suggestions and reviewing all the options available to us.”

(photo by

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!