Great American Beer Festival Turning Into Great American PR Disaster For Ticketmaster

Drinking beer is supposed to be fun. Drinking beer with several thousand other people who also enjoy drinking beer should be even more fun. And yet, the folks at Ticketmaster have been doing all they can to make it as complicated as possible for beer fans to go to the Great American Beer Festival.

The mess began earlier this week, when Ticketmaster accidentally blocked members of the American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association from buying tickets for the GABF’s members-only Saturday session but also opened up these tickets to the rest of the general public.

Not surprisingly, this resulted in a feeding frenzy, as non-members scooped up tickets they should not have been able to buy.

Ticketmaster then had to figure out a way to void all those tickets and find a way to make them available only to the people who should have been able to purchase them in the first place.

But the story is not over.

This morning, the 49,000 remaining tickets went on sale to the general public. While the event has been selling at a faster pace over the years, it still took an entire week for all those tickets to sell out to last year’s GABF.

But every ticket to this year’s celebration of suds was gone within 45 minutes of going on sale on Ticketmaster.

While event organizers have spent the morning bragging about the rapid sell-out, those who had hoped to buy tickets are crying foul, saying that ticket brokers got the best of Ticketmaster’s system.

“Is that what the AHA cares about?” asks one beer fan on the AHA Facebook page. “Selling out? Well then you’ve done well. You’ve sold out your members and real beer fans to ticket master. Sell out is right.”

Adds another, “Well now I guess I need to buy scalped tickets, since I already have plane and hotel booked…”

But a rep for the Brewers Association says the quick sell-out is a reflection of people suddenly realizing they didn’t want to miss out on the fun:

“Demand for tickets outstripped supply, simply put…. Like a lot of large events, like the Super Bowl or big-name concerts like Phish shows, simply more people were online all at once than the quantity of tickets available…

“I think people looked at last year’s one-week sell-out and said, ‘I think I’m going to get tickets earlier this year.’ And that resulted in a blazingly fast sellout.”

As for whether or not the GABF will use Ticketmaster going forward, the rep hedges: “We are in a process of gathering feedback about this year’s ticket sale and I don’t think I have anything to add to that.”

Great American Beer Festival tickets gone in record time [Denver Post]

Thanks to Gene for the tip!
Beer lovers frothy over ticket sales mess []


Edit Your Comment

  1. eccsame says:

    “Like a lot of large events, like…big-name concerts like Phish shows”

    Phish would not be my go to for a “big name concert”. I mean, isn’t that basically the same stadium of people traveling from town to town?

    • bkdlays says:


    • MMD says:

      What, exactly, makes you the barometer for what a big name is or isn’t?

      • eccsame says:

        “Phish would not be my go to for a “big name concert”

        See how I used “my”. As in belonging to me. As in opinion. Outside of questioning every post I make, do you have any?

      • TerpBE says:

        Generally I would say if you walk up to 10 random people and say, “Can you name one song by ____?”, more than one should be able to give you a correct answer.

  2. Upthewazzu says:

    I went last year and it isn’t all that great. They sell about 15,000 too many tickets so it takes forever to get a beer once everyone is in. Also, most of the beers suck. So there that.

    • sixsevenco says:

      Most of the beers suck? What exactly are good beers in your eyes? I got a ticket, and I will be going. As a homebrewer, I’m looking forward to drinking some outstanding beers.

      • Upthewazzu says:

        It’s all relative to your tastes, but I thought most of the brewers were trying to “out-hop” one another. Not sure why or where this trend started, but it’s pretty annoying. I don’t need 6000 ibu’s in my ale or stout, thank you very much.

        • poco says:

          This. Thank you.

          I’m so tired of over-hopped beer.

        • Gambrinus says:

          That’s true to an extent, and is why I’ve started to shy away from IPAs. I still like hoppy beer, but it needs to have more going on than just hops. After all, Stone’s Ruination IPA is pretty much the logical extreme.

          But most vendors have 5 or more beers that they’re serving at GABF, so it’s easy to find something different. I often will pick one style of beer to focus on for the event. It’s also great for finding new styles that you’re not familiar with…I got absolutely obsessed with bourbon barrel-aged beers after one year.

          • ECA says:

            The FUN PART??
            who has the power to MAKE, Distribute, Sell, BEER?
            Having a limited number of persons DECIDE what you like, and distribute it across the nation??? SUCKS..
            I wont even mention BEER that costs over $1 per bottle..

        • sixsevenco says:

          Fair enough. I agree that some IPAs take things to an extreme that tastes awful. I’m a big fan of Odells 5 Barrel. Crisp, floral and citrusy, without punching you in the face.

          Given how hoppy beers will overwhelm the palate, I’ll be focusing on different styles…

    • Just a Boring Computer Guy says:

      I would also agree with sixsevenco, as I went last year and there were all assortments of beer. I didn’t feel like IPA’s or PA’s were the dominant factor and this is coming from a guy who won’t drink either as I’m a stout, porter, sour, & wheat / unfiltered what type guy. It’s a fun festival , but the ticket master thing was a nightmare

  3. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    There’s this local bar that has 200 beers on tap. It’s pretty nice and they have quizzes and lots of stools at the bar. Plus, they’re never sold out.

    • Coffee says:

      The next time I wander through Maine, I’ll give you a jingle and you can see how far I can get through the list alphabetically before I grope someone’s dog.

      (Trick question! The answer is zero beers.)

    • SavijMuhdrox says:

      there’s this building near me that has all kinds of beer inside, just sitting on the floor in some cases.. If i go and pick out some different types of beer, they ask me for some money and let me take it home with me.. it’s great. i really hope it catches on.

      so, won’t a quick glance at ticket re-sellers confirm whether or not scalpers got ‘the best of everyone’?

      • Versonymous says:

        I second the motion for someone to look for evidence…

        I hate the ticket brokers so very, very much.

      • DuckNCover says:

        But who would look into it? I got the impression the people behind the festival don’t care much. The tickets are sold, that’s all they care about. Though I found the rep’
        s statement kind of arrogant:

        “I think people looked at last year’s one-week sell-out and said, ‘I think I’m going to get tickets earlier this year.’ And that resulted in a blazingly fast sellout.”

        Yeah, I am sure that’s it entirely.

  4. Silverhawk says:

    I went about 7 years ago, and have been wanting to go again since then. But after reading about this fiasco, I can only imagine what a madhouse it’ll be now. It was really busy and packed then. My friend and I showed up a couple hours before our session to get in line, and it was around the side of the convention center then. I think they’re overselling the event, and I would agree with others, I think brokers scooped up the tickets – that’s the only explanation for it selling out before I even had a chance to read my email.

  5. I'd Buy That For A Dollar! says:

    As a regular guy who regularly gets crapped on due to his non-VIP status anywhere…I offer you a song on my “World’s Smallest Violin.” Go rent out the Moose lodge and throw your own beer fest.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I remember reading about this beer festival. It used to be a place for afficionados to go and be intellectual about beer (I’m probably exagerrating, but that’s the basic gist) but has quickly ballooned into a booze-fest for people to get hammered.

    I think even the festival organizers don’t like what their festival is turning into.

  7. Versonymous says:

    So has anyone gone out to the thieving scalper’s, errrrr, “brokers'” sites to see how many they have available? I mean if there are 10,000 tickets available from “brokers”, definitely foul play. If they are hard to find even when checking the brokers… Congrats on a successful event!

    Seems like there is finger pointing with no evidence.

    • Gambrinus says:

      Actually, yes. There were hundreds of tickets on Stub Hub for triple face value before GABF even announced the sell out.

  8. Gambrinus says:

    45 minutes? I was sitting at 10:00 reloading the page (the sale did not actually go live at 10:00, and took several minutes to show the non-“Members Only” tickets), and they were sold out within 5 minutes. Last year it sold out in a week. Obviously the scalpers took note of the increasing popularity and decided to hit the site hard. Ticketmaster always seems to have major problems with scalpers…I think they have the site figured out.

    Very disappointed as me and my friends have gone for something like the last 8 years in a row. How does a company like Ticketmaster that does nothing but rip people off by selling tickets not even manage that right?

  9. Just a Boring Computer Guy says:

    As a fellow AHA member , I admit that the ticket master thing was bit of a pain . Several of my friends who are also AHA members didn’t get the members only session, due to demand (Which later they investigated and found only 21 non-members bought tickets at that time).

    Further , though I agree that scalping is a pain, it can’t be helped at such a large event with the current ticketing providers. Considering each AHA member were allowed to buy 2 x per session (total 8, though some people claim it was only 4). That means that even if I didn’t want to attend all 4 sessions , I could of profited from selling them online (I’m only going to 2 sessions as I wanted others to enjoy the event too). It’s estimated that 2/3 of the AHA/BA members are going to this event (one of the main reasons people join AHA) and to at least 2 + sessions. Considering AHA is 40k + That’s the majority of your tickets sold already

    Then whatever doesn’t sell to members goes to public, which is considerably small compared to the original numbers. As Craft brewing has become more popular so has the demand for such festivals. I know I told several of my friends who then proceeding to tell their friends about my past years experiences . This led to almost all of them to attempt to purchase tickets.

    Out of the amount of tickets sold , several hundred isn’t that bad for scalping . Though I do see a few users on StubHub selling over 65 + tickets. Since there is a built in limit to how many you can buy , I wonder if ticket master is granted to sell through their child company stubhub. It seems mighty fishy , but at this point there is really nothing we can do.

    I know a lot of people called for the protest of GABF by not buying scalped tickets, but unfortunately people always buy them . Last year they were going for 150 , this year 165 +. I bet next year 200 + , and the demand will be even higher

  10. ECA says:

    Something to consider..

    Is there a location that can beheld that would AT LEAST hold most of the PUBLIC that enjoy any certain event?

    1. the Suppliers would like to have a idea of the number coming.
    2. there really isnt any REASONABLE priced location for large events.
    3. an event in Europe happened in russia for a Popular music artist, and became an outdoor IN the city show.. 3,000,000 from around Europe came to the event.

    do we have any location that can hold an event of 1,000,000 attendants?
    this is not even 1% of attendance of all USA people.
    TV is the way to get MORE then 0.1% of the USA to SEE an event, not to participate..but you STILL have to pay for the event. which is interesting.

    but if you want to participate?? there is NO location that will allow it, or is available. Unless you want to do it in the desert..but even THAT(look up burning man and its problems) have had problems.

    • IndyJaws says:

      I’d think you could fit close to 1,000,000 people into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, especially if you could use the track and all of the infield.

  11. ahecht says:

    The stupid part is that this is incredibly easy to fix:

    1. All tickets must have a name on them, and ticket holders must present ID at the door
    2. Tickets can be transferred to someone else through ticketmaster, but there is an annual limit as to how many tickets you can transfer (12 per year sounds reasonable).

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Whoa, hold on there Tex, that sounds way too logical and “good-ideay” (I made up a new word). You know TM has no interest in fixing this problem.

  12. meredith says:

    Hold on, here. There is a ton of misinformation. First, members were not blocked from buying tickets to the members-only session during the pre-sale. Ticketmaster failed – it was not registering the tick box needed to approve the terms and conditions, which meant most people could not move forward in the buying process. People were still experiencing this malfunction after 90 minutes (over an hour after TM had been informed of the problem), and by then, enough people had been able to get through that members-only tickets were sold out.

    To get around that problem, many people used the TM mobile site to buy tickets. This site did NOT require a person to input a member number, which is normally required during the pre-sale. It was later determined that 21 tickets to the members-only session were sold to non-members, and these were offered again for sale to members-only this morning at 9am MDT.

    Also, there were not 49,000 remaining tickets that went on sale to the general public this morning. The 49,000 tickets include ALL sessions – 4,000 for the members-only session and 15,000 for each of the 3 evening sessions. Since the 4,000-ticket members-only session sold out without an hour on Tuesday, it stands to reason that, over a 2 day pre-sale period, members bought up a good portion of the remaining 45,000 tickets as well. Especially since many people, myself included, are flying to Denver for the festival specifically and therefore attending more than 1 session.

    No one has stated how many tickets remained for the general public, but I would bet that it was less than half the original number. MANY members said they bought tickets to another session after they couldn’t get tickets to Saturday afternoon.

    In addition, it is very possible that GABF was forced to use Ticketmaster as they are the only ticketing agency the Colorado Convention center is allowed to use. I have not confirmed this, but it would not surprise me.

  13. vliam says:

    Looks like we have an early entry for next year’s Golden Poo award.

  14. necrosis says:

    Here is the thing. When cutting the landline phone one had tons to gain. Walking around with small computers always connected. No need to be home to get in contact with someone.

    On the other hand cutting cable has everything to lose. Mostly because cable companies are run by these old farts that don’t want to get with the times. Tons of channels that still require a cable account of some sort. HBO, NBC with the Olympics. The list goes on. Not to mention the pathetic internet you get today with bandwidth caps and stupidly expensive speed plans.And until that changes I do not see people in mass dumping cable.

    When it came to cutting ones phone line most of that decision was in the hands of the user. When it comes to cable its in the hands of big business.