Tickets for the 2019 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) are still available a day after going on sale to the public, despite the event’s history of quick sell outs.
The slowdown in ticket sales for the Brewers Association’s (BA) largest consumer-facing event of the year, which takes place October 3-5 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, comes as craft beer volume growth has slowed to single digits over the last four years.
Only one of GABF’s four sessions this year — a Saturday afternoon members-only session — has sold out as of press time Thursday.
General session tickets, priced at $85, remain available for evening sessions each day, as well as tickets to the PAIRED beer-and-food event, priced at $160 each.
In a statement, BA marketing director Ann Obenchain said the national trade group, which represents the interests of small and independent U.S. beer companies, wasn’t anticipating a sellout for the 38th edition of GABF.
“As compared to previous years in the mid-2010s, wherein GABF sold-out within a matter of hours (or sometimes within minutes), we knew that immediate sell-out was not imminent when we added additional ticket inventory, starting in 2018,” she said. “This simply means that for the second consecutive year, we have had more tickets available than ever before, and tickets take a longer time to sell.”
Last year, the BA added 2,000 tickets across the the festival’s four sessions, increasing the total number of tickets available to 62,000 (15,500 per session).
Nevertheless, Obenchain said the BA anticipates hosting 62,000 attendees from around the world once the festival kicks off in early October.
“We know that the world of consumer events has evolved since GABF’s founding in 1982,” she added. “Today, attendees and fans enjoy more choice and variety in events than ever before, and ticket sales – especially for events that are months out – are slower because of that. With those trends in mind, we are also doing our best to meet attendees’ expectations, passions and pursuits to ensure that they enjoy their experience.”
Last year, in an effort to enhance the attendee experience beyond samples of 4,000 beers from 800 beer companies, the BA featured large-scale activations from Pernod Ricard-owned Jameson Irish Whiskey and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Those attractions included a 13,000 sq. ft. Jameson Caskmates branded barrel-aged beer garden and a 3,600 sq. ft. pop-up Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar, which featured multiple televisions showing live sporting events and thousands of free chicken wings.
Jameson made the biggest impression of any company during last year’s GABF week, with advertisements and promotions throughout downtown Denver. Inside the festival, thousands of festival goers crammed into the spirits company’s beer garden for samples and live music.
Of 2018’s two major sponsors, only Jameson will return in 2019.
A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson confirmed that the chicken wing chain, which is also the largest pourer of draft beer in the U.S., is sitting out the 2019 festival.
“While the brand won’t have a consumer-facing activation at GABF this year, we are planning to have our beverage team in attendance and will continue to support various BA initiatives,” the spokesperson said. “We are excited to see the latest innovation at the festival and we remain committed to being a top provider of craft beer across the nation, having increased the regional and local beer options in our markets to ensure we are offering our consumers the brands and products that they crave.“
To help fill the void left by Buffalo Wild Wings, this year’s GABF will feature a live music stage sponsored by the WinterWonderGrass bluegrass festival and ski/snowboard resort pass company Ikon Pass. The festival will also feature an area dedicated to fresh hops presented by the Washington Beer Commission, the return of the silent disco and other events, such as hot dog races.