GABF sells out in record time!
By now, most craft beer fans know the details. 49,000 tickets were sold between an initial Members-Only offering of 90 minutes and a public sale of only 45 minutes!
According to the BA, 5 years ago tickets were still available the week of the event. By 2011, tickets sold out only seven days after they went on sale. And this year, it took less than 2 hours total to sell out all 4 sessions.
Many people have tried to blame their inability to acquire tickets on TicketMaster, or even ticket scalpers who swooped in and hoarded all the tickets. Sorry, but no. Although some tickets are in the hands of scalpers (I just checked stubhub and they list 467 tickets total for all four sessions), it is likely less than one to two percent of all tickets. Something bigger than scalpers is going on here.
That “something” is a revolution in the beer industry. There are now 2,126 breweries in the US, the most in 125 years. In addition there are another 1,252 breweries-in-planning. That last number is the true story of the revolution. How so? Typically about half of the breweries-in-planning open each year. This time last year the number of breweries-in-planning stood at 725, while 350 breweries actually opened. So if the trend holds we will have over 2,700 breweries by mid 2013!
Check out the above chart. The number of breweries was a steady downward trend since 1890 (notice the bottomless pit that was Prohibition). Then in the 1980’s something happened. Pioneers like Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada, Jim Koch at Boston Beer, Fritz Maytag with Anchor, (the list could, and should, go on) were bucking the trend and taking some real chances. They were betting that people still wanted beer with flavor. And they were right.
All through the late 1980’s and into the mid 1990’s craft beer was booming. Then in the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s the “shakeout” occurred. At the time, this was seen as “the end of the microbrew fad”. But when seen over the course of 125 years, that “shakeout” was nothing more than a small blip on the map of ever-increasing interest in craft beer. (BTW – the shakeout is exactly when Spike and I started talking to bankers and investors about our ideas for Terrapin Beer Company. That did not go over very well in 1998. Or 1999. Or 2000. Or 2001. We persevered, but that’s another story for another day.)
So why are record ticket sales for GABF the sign of the beginning of a revolution in the beer industry? Because, even today, with 2,126 breweries in the US, craft beer still only accounts for around 5-7% of total beer sales. In certain key markets like Portland, Seattle, San Diego, and Denver, the number is much higher. As high as 20%, 30% plus. And where those cities have gone with craft beer; the rest of us are heading as well.
I absolutely believe craft beer is headed to 15% plus national market share in the next 10-15 years. Why? Because it’s part of a bigger trend. People are moving away from mass-produced items of all types and are supporting local farms and local foods. We are eating better breads, enjoying better cheese and drinking better coffee. And, along with that, we are learning about better beer.
So the GABF selling out in record time is just the beginning.
By the way, I have my tickets. Do you?