It's been four weeks since tickets went on sale, but the Great American Beer Festival, which takes place September 20-22 at the Colorado Convention Center, hasn't sold out yet. For anyone who's been following craft beer since at least 2012, that's an unheard of, almost shocking fact.
Tickets to last year's fest sold out in four hours and fifteen minutes, selling out in just 67 minutes the year before. The record was 2013, when every last ticket was snapped up within twenty minutes of going on sale. (See below to find GABF's sellout times going all the way back to 2009.)
Granted, the only tickets remaining for this year's GABF are for the opening night on Thursday (and the Paired event). The Friday and Saturday sessions sold out within a day. But still, what gives?
Various theories have made the rounds on Facebook and online message boards. They range from the notion that people are simply tired of the festival, which can be overwhelming because of its large size, or tedious because of the number of young drunk people stumbling around the cavernous space. Others believe that cost is a factor or that the trendy breweries aren't showing up in enough numbers. Still more have speculated that locals are simply choosing to drink beer at the hundreds of accompanying events around town.
But the Brewers Association, which hosts GABF, says none of that is true.
"This year we increased ticket inventory across all sessions to meet demand, ensure a higher purchase success rate, and complement the increased venue capacity," says GABF spokeswoman Ann Obenchain.
Translation: Because the festival added 100,000 square feet of space this year, the BA decided to sell 2,000 extra tickets across the four sessions — so 500 for each one. That's a lot of tickets, and the festival still sold out three of its four sessions within a day. When you put it that way, it sounds pretty good.
"In addition, our new ticketing vendor AXS’s anti-scalping measures enabled more ticket inventory to stay in the primary market," Obenchain adds.
Translation: Ticketmaster sucked. The BA and festival-goers have speculated for years that scalpers were using bots or specialized software to bypass Ticketmaster's security system. The scalpers would then try to sell the tickets for inflated prices on the after market — a tactic that worked for a couple of years.
"Lastly," Obenchain says, "we’re aware that most of the media and public expected a very quick sell-out and communicated as such. This can be a disincentive for beer lovers to even try to buy tickets. We’re looking forward to shifting that paradigm next year through more proactive communications to encourage beer lovers who are interested in attending GABF to try and buy tickets, as there is a high chance of success."
Translation: It's the media's fault. Of course it is. It's always the media's fault for reporting the facts. Last year's slower sellout was probably an indicator, however, that things were trending in the other direction.
Here are the sellout times for GABF for the past ten years.
2017 — Four hours and fifteen minutes.
2016 — One hour and seven minutes.
2015 — GABF expanded from 45,000 tickets to 59,000 tickets and still sold out in 77 minutes.
2014 — 32 minutes.
2013 — 20 minutes. This is still the record and caused a huge stir, raising questions about whether Ticketmaster was the appropriate ticket conduit for fans and intensifying a debate about whether GABF has gotten too big.
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2012 — 45 minutes. The pace shocked a lot of longtime festival-goers, who were locked out of the event because they were used to being able to secure tickets at a more leisurely pace.
2011 — One week. At the time, this was the fastest sellout ever, prompting festival organizer Nancy Johnson to say, "Holy cow! That was amazing." Little did she know then what lay in store in the next few years.
2010 — Several weeks.
2009 — Tickets were still on sale until a mere two weeks before GABF.