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Social media is abuzz with consternation with the Brewers Association (BA) and the ticket vendor (Ticketmaster) for the speed at which tickets for the 2013 edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) sold out. Although it did not go as smooth as they would have liked, the ticket sales improved on the pace at which the festival sold out in 2012. According to reports, all member tickets (there were a set number available) sold within 90 minutes when made available for presale. All the remaining public tickets sold out in 19 minutes.

Some background on the Brewers Association and the American Homerbrewers Association (AHA). 

"The Brewers Association is an organization of brewers, for brewers and by brewers. More than 1,700 US brewery members and 38,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association are joined by members of the allied trade, beer wholesalers, individuals, other associate members and the Brewers Association staff to make up the Brewers Association."

The mission of the BA:

"To promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts."

Per the BA, there are approximately 49000 visitors to the festival (those attendance numbers include brewery reps, press and others). Please keep in mind that the BA is a member organization. The Brewers Association, member breweries and members of the AHA interact on many different levels throughout the year (the National Homebrew Competition, BA Meet and Greets, etc), The BA realizes that members are what continue to keep interest in craft beer up and interest in brewing and homebrewing climbing. As such, BA and AHA members are rewarded with the first opportunity to purchase tickets. 

Some numbers

Let's talk numbers on just the member ticket sale side. These numbers are meant to be approximations and nothing says that all members will purchase their available tickets. The are currently around 38000 AHA members (2 tickets purchase limit for the Saturday session and 4 tickets max for each other day) plus over 1700 BA member breweries (I believe a 4 ticket purchase limit for Saturday and I am unsure how many for the other days) until the member ticket allotment is gone. Just those numbers mean that a great number of the available tickets will go very quickly on just the members only purchase day.

Now open the ticket market to the general public (the one that supports over 2000 craft breweries around the country) and the tickets will not be there long.

 A Twitter Reaction

This StubHub ticket twitter post is a bit misleading as ticket were sold to members on 7/30. Most members (if they have the means) will buy what they are allowed knowing that they can sell any they don't need, alas StubHub. Even with the 867 tickets sitting at StubHub, we are talking about less than 2% of the total. I would think that that resale percentage would be about the same for a National Football League game (in a 50000 seat statium). 

There is no good answer to the ticket issues. We may be approaching the time in the US where a Oktoberfest style festival (multiple weeks) might be the answer. If members and the public can consume nearly 50000 tickets to just a 3 day festival in just over 200 total minutes, I would imagine that this type of festival would be possible.

This article is not meant to be any type of apology for the Brewers Association or the GABF. It is only meant to add a little perspective to what the ticket buying public may not realize.

 [Full DisclosureI was lucky enough to secure tickets to the Great American Beer Festival 2013. I am an American Homebrewers Association member and was able to purchase them during the member presale on 7/30. I will be a first time attendee.]

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