I figured I’d go ahead and draft this since it will be on every blog and news site by next Tuesday afternoon. Tickets actually go on sale tomorrow morning at 10am for AHA members, and 10am Wednesday morning for the general public.
At 10 AM this morning thousands of beer fans all over the country poised over their keyboard, rhythmically tapping “F5” for refresh, ready to give their hard earned money over to TicketMaster registration fees in exchange for the golden-ticket of our generation: access to the Great American Beer Festival. By 10:01, every ticket had been claimed. By 10:05 hundreds of tickets were available on StubHub at a 300% (or more!) markup.
“It all happened so fast,” said one unfortunate beer fan. “This is almost as bad as when Radiohead came to Denver.”
In 2012, every ticket was snatched up within an hour.
In 2011, it took nearly a week for the event to sell out.
It is predicted that 2014 will sell out exactly one week before the tickets even go on sale as every spot will be claimed by beer bloggers, press, friends-of-friends…
Yaddi-yaddi-Yada, you get the idea.
A few weeks ago the story was about how the Brewer’s Association server crashed while breweries across the country were attempting to register to have their beer poured and judged at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. As a result hundreds of brewers and breweries were locked out of the festival, wait-listed indefinitely, and wondering what they were going to do with all of the beer they had planned on submitting for competition.
This isn’t too surprising, seeing how tickets for the 2012 GABF sold out in less than an hour, a great wealth of the sales going to scalpers looking to turn a quick buck on attendees with no other options.
The AHA has experienced a boon in membership over the past year. Are more people becoming interested in Homebrewing? Perhaps. But I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that even more people are taking precautions to not get shut out of this year’s festival. Which means tickets will be even more scarce. Which means the price will take another jump next year. Which means even more breweries will fight tooth and nail to get booth space as the Great American Beer Festival becomes even more high profile.
In other words: a shitshow is upon us and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The majority of the craft beer community has gone ahead and put all of their eggs in one basket and left that basket precariously close to the edge of a table.
This is a good a time as any to take a step back and consider what this festival actually means.
To a brewery: it is their chance to have their beer tasted and compared to beers from all across the nation and potentially take home a medal declaring them the best in a particular category. It is also a chance to put their brand in front of thousands of beer enthusiasts in an attempt to expand their distribution to the ever-saturated Colorado market.
To the beer enthusiasts: Lots of beer to drink, one ounce at a time. Maybe you’ll attend a few seminars to expand your understanding of the process of making beer. The comradery of thousands. The chance to try a particular beer that you’ve been studying up on after reading about it in last month’s Beer Advocate.
On Thursday night thousands will pour into the Denver Convention Center with pretzels hanging from their neck, cameras stuffed into pockets, and notepads on hand in effort to produce reviews and content for their website/blog/magazine/YouTube channel/whatever. Overall, it is a pretty happy place to be.
But I’ll go ahead and argue that GABF is a horrible place to discover new beer.
I don’t remember much from last year’s festival – alcohol tends to do that to memory. I, like so many others, went to find some awesome beers and learn about a few new breweries. After the first hour, my notes were a mess, my camera had died, and the crowds and the lines were becoming rather tedious. After the third hour, every beer tasted like a kernel on the same cob of corn. Nothing was standing out.
So what do I remember liking and learning about from last year’s GABF? For one: the beer from Florida’s Cigar City and that’s because I had it at a Denver Beer Week affiliated Tap-Takeover at Star Bar. I remember trying my first beer-mosa with Dry Dock’s Apricot Ale at a hangover brunch the morning after the festival. If I had tried either of those breweries within the beer hall, it would have taken a lifetime of marketing collateral to get me to remember them even a month later.
Don’t get me wrong, GABF is a good time. But it’s not the end-all, be-all. And the more we keep jumping through hoops to get to the festival the more scalpers are going to make a run at the tickets and the higher the prices are going to be and the quicker the hotels are going to book up and the lower the general common denominator is going to be.
Let’s not forget that the festival is also an anchor event to Denver Beer Week. You’re likely going to find just as much variety out in any one of Denver’s numerous bars, taphouses, restaurants, and empty lots are you are in the major beer hall. Further more, your money goes back into our local economy and allows your favorite watering hole the added income to do something creative when the town isn’t beer crazy. It also means the cute bartender you’ve had eyes over might receive enough tips to take you out to a decent dinner.
What do you think? Are we beyond the tipping point of craft beer? Has the demand finally hit a spot where creative thinking and/or a total restructuring is our only solution? Leave it in the comments below.
Still can’t stay away? Coming in from out of town? We’re working on a traveler’s guide for you because, let’s face it, the Wagon also benefits from the insanity that is GABF.