Tickets made available to the general public for the annual Great American Beer Festival vanished in a flash Thursday morning for the third consecutive year, with most tickets for the 2014 edition being snatched up and tossed into online sales queues just a few minutes in and the official sell out declared 32 minutes after sales began at 10 a.m. MT.
Tickets disappeared in less than 20 minutes last year and in about 45 minutes two years ago, according to the Brewers Association, which stages the annual celebration of hops and malt at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
Both the general public sale and pre-sale Tuesday to members of the American Homebrewers Association and the BA came off without the Ticketmaster technical glitches that sullied the previous two years, according to the BA.
"I think Americans remain thirsty," said Barbara Fusco, sales and marketing director for the festival. "We have folks attending from all over the country. In the past few years, about 50 percent of buyers have come from outside Colorado, so it's truly a national event. We're pleased there was a technically flawless ticket sale today and we are looking forward to the celebration in October."
Still, the quick sellout for the Oct. 2-4 festival inevitably left some craft beer fans empty-handed and disappointed, with some mourning the passing of an event once more intimate and accessible and many casting blame on scalpers who circumvent efforts to thwart them.
As of this afternoon, more than 900 GABF tickets were for sale on StubHub.com ranging in price from more than fair ($75 for the least-sought-after Saturday evening session) to the laughable ($1,102 for Saturday afternoon's members session). The face value of tickets is $80 for the general public and $75 for members of the BA and AHA.
This is the final year the BA has a contract to sell GABF tickets through Ticketmaster, which often gets the brunt of the blame from consumers when anything goes off the rails. The BA has said it will reassess its ticket-selling vendor situation but that does not mean a change is coming. Fusco made a point of saying Ticketmaster "is quite possibly the most sophisticated" ticket vendor when it comes to measures to combat scalpers and automated bots they use to horde tickets.
"We are just as disappointed and frustrated with the secondary market and scalping activities," she said. "Unfortunately, being such a popular event, we are subject to scalpers and ticket brokers just like headliner concerts and playoff games and big sporting events." The vendor and scalpers, she pointed out, are in a cat-and-mouse game to stay ahead of each other.
"GABF is a fundamentally social event and people like to attend with their friends and family," Fusco said. "So (a limit of) four seems reasonable - a not too big, not too small quantity."
Next year, the GABF will expand into an additional hall at the convention center, giving it about 30 percent more space. Festival director Nancy Johnson suggested that last year that more tickets would be made available as a result, but Fusco said no firm decisions have been made. She said organizers are focused on this October's party.