That rabid demand reached a tipping point in June 2011, the year Zien was forced to implement the online ticketing system. In years prior, the release events for the barrel-aged varietals were still first come, first serve; normally around 200 people would arrive at the brewery to pick up a couple bottles. But it was that year the release began to feel less like a friendly gathering of beer drinkers and more like a circus.
"That’s the day that instead of getting 150-200 people, we had over 650 people show up," said Zien. "The brewery turned into a rock concert. We were understaffed, there were not enough bathrooms for everybody, we needed security. People outside started getting testy with each other."
Beer collectors had flown in from Chicago to snag a bottle. There were multiple accounts of people hiring homeless people to wait in line with them to increase the amount of bottles they could take home (AleSmith limits the number of bottles one buyer can claim).
“In 2011, AleSmith released the 2009 batch of Barrel-aged Speedway Stout before they started using an online ticket system, so you had to buy your tickets at the brewery," one of Southern California’s finest beer bloggers, DontDrinkBeer (he asked not to be named), said in an email. “They announced that beginning at 8:30am, they would issue [a limited number of] physical tickets to people waiting in line, first come, first serve. Those tickets allowed you to buy the beer when you returned when they opened the brewery for business at noon."
People were sleeping in their cars, lining up at 4am because the Speedway release was only about 1,000 bottles and limited to three bottles per person, according to DontDrinkBeer. "By 6am, it was already a shit show... and when more than 200 people were in line, it started getting wider instead of longer, and cutting was rampant," he said.