It’s official. I’m announcing that we, the authors here at taphandle, will be attending the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Please don’t start hating on us already because you are jealous, or get really excited and think you might get tickets to go with us – because they were sold out in less than an hour, but more on that later.
We’ve been talking about going for a few years now. But we’ve either had other obligations or just kinda talked about it in a dreamlike state. Over 2,000 beers…a dream, right? Until now! The tickets arrived in the mail today, so it’s starting to feel real! About a year ago we committed to 2012. We’ve been training. Diligently. Can’t you tell? So, the fact that it’s only a couple months away is nearly unbelievable.
Obtaining tickets to what is apparently one of the hottest tickets in town, I feel the need to celebrate. With a beer of course. Wouldn’t you be disappointed if I didn’t? I’m lucky as all hell. Not only did I get tickets to each evening session, but as members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), I also scored tickets to the coveted members only session. Barely! The shenanigans associated with buying tickets this year were beyond frustrating (If you haven’t heard about it, there is some background here and here). So, I’ve cracked open a bottle of Good Life’s Descender IPA to help me relax. Since I’m attending the festival in all its glory (and other stuff), I figured this beer fit the occasion perfectly.
I’ll probably regret saying anything, because if you read any articles about how insanely fast the tickets to the event sold out, you know there are a lot of really pissed off people out there. And honestly, we are too. Although we were able to score tickets to all the evening sessions, that was only after 45 minutes of being told that a terms and conditions box was not checked, even though it was. And not all of us were able to obtain tickets to the Saturday afternoon members session. Given how long we’ve waited to attend GABF and the fact we probably won’t attend for at least a few years, if not more, it is disappointing.
That said, I don’t agree with spewing hateful things toward GABF and the AHA (visit their facebook page if you want to know what I am talking about):
- The legitimate issues with Ticketmaster are not controlled by GABF or the AHA, and they responded and tried to make the members session right by cancelling non-members tickets and re-releasing them. It might not have been perfect, but hell, the fact they did anything shows that they were trying to do right, showing their respect and care for their members, the homebrewing community.
- Not to mention, running an event, especially one this huge, and running it well, is very difficult. Extend some credit. Also, these people are pissed because its a great event and they don’t get to go. Not because the event sucks.
- And the only way to avoid selling out this fast is to grow and potentially compromise the event even more (bigger, more crowded, more expensive, having less control over their vendors, etc.). Which I am sure many of these same people would bitch about as well. I can just hear someone saying they remember when there were only 100 beers and not many more people than that (which I am sure was awesome, and better in some ways). Popularity isn’t going to wane; it has grown tremendously over the years, and it is only going to continue to grow. Even with the scalpers and douche bags buying tickets, most of the sellout was because of how popular craft beer and the event are becoming.
- And lastly, this isn’t the experience I have had in the craft beer and homebrewing communities. For the most part everyone is welcoming, friendly, and helpful. I hope the bitching and rude comments are not actually from members of these communities. Or I hope it was in a moment of fury and they’ve moved on or decided to turn their energy into more positive and constructive feedback. Too much of this could do serious damage to such a solid community.
I also don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the folks whining about “how they’ve been for 10+ years in a row…but not this year.” I didn’t realize this was a family reunion that involved and was exclusive to a specific group of people – oh wait, its not. It’s an event, open to the public, and the original intent was to spread the news, share the art and love, and get more people into craft beer and homebrewing. Clearly its working. And it shouldn’t be limited to the same old crowd – it should be a mix of old and new to really grow and enhance the community and the experience. What about sharing the love with new brewers, new homebrewers, fresh faces, letting them experience an event that you clearly love and enjoy. As much as we resist, things change. Especially great things. Think about the breweries that have opened and grown over the last decade, some because of awards and visibility, that today you would not be enjoying if it weren’t for the GABF (and at times, its growing pains).
All that said, I agree there was a debacle associated with Ticketmaster and their system selling tickets. I dealt with it first hand. I wanted to pull my hair out or put my fist through the wall when Ticketmaster kept telling me to check a fricking box that I could see was already checked. And GABF should learn from this and make some different decisions. First, don’t use Ticketmaster. You can support a small, local business that can provide better service to your customers. Consider increasing the size or the number of sessions. Provide better communication upfront. People think there are 50,000 tickets to each session, but there aren’t. This could help avoid some of the nonsense and negativity surrounding ticket sales this year.
But overall, I think people need to relax. Yeah, I get to go this year. Maybe next year I won’t. But that may mean that the couple that met at GABF will be able to celebrate their anniversary there. Or it might mean that someone who lives in a beer desert (not my problem) will get to go and be introduced to a ton of new beers and styles. Or it might mean that the new homebrewer might be able to learn something really cool from an experienced, and lauded, professional brewer.
But for now, my tickets are in hand, and I can forget about all this nonsense, and focus on the over 500 breweries and over 2200 beers that will be at my fingertips come October. I’m starting to think about my approach for each day – stick with a style and try it across all the regions? explore certain regions? hit a set of popular breweries that we don’t get normally? what’s the right amount of beer and water to optimize my drinking capacity?
If you have been to GABF and have any tips, please share!! And if you are headed to GABF, let us know what you’re strategy is, or if you will be serving up your beers, let us know what you’re serving that we should try!!