A day after 49,000 tickets to the Great American Beer Festival were snapped up within minutes of going on sale -- leaving a lot of angry beer fans out there -- a Boulder homebrewer listed one of those tickets on eBay for $50,000.
Does he really expect someone to buy it? Of course not. But the twenty-something man, who goes by the eBay handle b0rderman, wanted to make a statement about the popularity of craft beer. Westword contacted b0rderman to find out exactly what that statement is. Here is his rant -- and it's a good one:
I am not mad at anyone. I was able to get the tickets that I wanted to get, so that takes a lot of potential frustration out of the equation. If I were unable to get any tickets to the event I would certainly be frustrated with the scalpers, though I think it would be interesting to see how many tickets were actually bought by scalpers. This whole debacle and debate is about the quick sell-out time, right? And many of the arguments assume that scalpers got all the tickets to GABF and that is why it sold out and that the Brewers Association left themselves exposed to exploitation by scalpers.
My guess is the record GABF sell out has just as much to do with good beer and its rise in popularity as it does with scalpers. Unfortunately, I don't think we get to know which it is, scalpers or genuine popularity.
But, even if the sell-out is due to scalpers then do we really get to blame BA? What can they do?
1. Sell more tickets/extend the event? I don't think this is viable at the moment. If you sell more tickets you'll have even bigger crowds and more empty kegs. If you extend the event you would ask even more from the brewers who already donate all their time and beer to the event.
2. Develop some sort of system to dissuade scalpers? I think the professional scalpers will game most any system developed and all that this would do is make the event more exclusive...which is not what I think GABF is all about (more on that in rant section below).
3. Raise prices? If #1 and #2 are not viable, and there isn't some sort of major scalper reform/crack down, this is the only thing they can do to extend the sell-out time. But no one likes to talk about this...and neither do I!
More on avoiding 'exclusivity' solutions to the sell out problem:
I imagine that GABF jump-started, or accelerated, a lot of attendees' discovery of craft beer. You can also argue it might have helped jump start, or accelerate, the thriving industry here in Denver, maybe even Colorado as a whole...wait, maybe even the USA?...THE MILKYWAY!? Hell, it might have played a small part in the eventual and necessary creation of your position at Westword. It did this because it is an inclusive event; everyone can go and everyone did.
If we limit attendees to the cool kids club then GABF is no longer the valuable industry advocate it is today (or was for the last few years).
GABF exists to award medals to beers, brewers and breweries and, in my opinion and more importantly, it exists to get people excited about drinking good beer. It is not a perfect event -- the hoity-toity double barrel aged batch 000 brett bourbon beer-is-serious-bidness crew complain there are too many drunk people there -- but what do we expect? Every year GABF drops a bunch of the uninitiated into a sea of good beer, many of which are stronger than what they are used to drinking. They get drunk, but this is good. That drunkenness is enlightenment. I imagine all of those people wake up with a hangover, but many also wake up with a new found taste for good beer. If it's harder for the 'uninitiated' to attend, then I think the industry loses out on a lot new potential customers...and in turn we, the bitter beer drinking populous, lose out on the proliferation of good beer.
All the solutions my pea-brain can come up with to dissuade scalpers are either not viable, futile or lead to exclusivity and less exposure of good beer to new palates. I don't think GABF should be a more exclusive event. Leave it open, first come first serve..at least until I get screwed out of a ticket next year and this idealism goes out the window.
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan
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