Monday, May 15, 2006

Festival season

We are about to do our last couple of beer fests, ever. When we first started our brewery, we did all the festivals we could. You know, on the road, promoting the brewery. It's been exhausting at times although we do enjoy seeing other brewers and friends. For the past few years, we didn't feel like we were introducing our beer to a new audience. So we decided to do only charity events. You would think that good causes would attract good beer drinkers. Why? Well, the ticket prices are usually higher and the events seem to attract better breweries. But I don't really think that's true anymore. I think that the majority (there are exceptions) of the fests attract drunks. Most of them want 'our light beer' or just something really cold. My wife's got a stare that could freeze them. To be fair, there are some good fests. The BA fests are well run and there are several in the Philly burbs that are good as well. The thing is, I'm just tired of them. Offering food and lodging to the participants are great but in my opinion, offering to pay for the beer sends a better message. Even if it's a charity cause, it demonstrates that the beer and the brewery are important to the success of the event.

The other thing is, most of even the well-run fests are no longer sampling events. They are merely opportunities to get pie-eyed on 35 dollars. I don't know, maybe I've just gotten grumpier and crotchety in my old age. I just long for the days in my myopic memory, when festival attendees asked about the beers and styles and also asked me to pour a smaller sample so they could enjoy the rest of the fest responsibly. Or maybe that was a dream I had last night.


At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Donavan Hall said...

We had an extended discussion last night at our homebrew club meeting about the recent beer festival here on Long Island. Most the club members volunteered to "work" for the festival by pouring beer. Most of them worked as volunteer bartenders for the three hours and fifteen minute "festival" before the fire marshal shut the event down. One of the guys in our club said that he got the impression that very few people cared about what kind of beer was being put in their glass and nobody wanted to talk about beer or the art/craft of brewing. As you say, people appeared to be there for one purpose, and it wasn't the appreciation of good beer.

I was one of the lucky ones. I decided that I would rather attend the festival than "work" the event, so I bought my own tickets. By the time my wife and I made our way through the queue and presended the $90 worth of tickets we had bought two months prior, we were told that the event was full and that nobody else could come in. It appears that the festival organizer sold about 2000 more tickets than he had space for in the venue. Interesting, if not suspect, business model.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous physics geek said...

I had the same conversation with some friends while at the GABF last year. Some dullards staggered by exclaiming how the entry fee was much cheaper than going to a bar. Ugh. I spend a lot of my time at the beer fest talking to the brewers about different aspects of brewing. Most of them started off like me, as a homebrewer, so we have lots to discuss. Along comes someone who wants "whatever's the strongest". And he's not a barleywine judge, either.

Anyway, I've learned to take the good with the bad. I still enjoy the beer festivals, but I've learned to avoid some of them, which have become just what you described in your post.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Autarch3820 said...

I couldn't agree more. I've been to beer festivals from coast to coast and too many breweries just send beer. So not only do I end up with captain drunk behind me in line, I also can't talk to the brewer (or even an employee) about the beers. Part of the problem is the large glasses; anything more than an ounce is just too much for a taste. If you want more, fine; but unless you ask for it should be one ounce only. The other problem is there are just too many people there, have more sessions or just turn people away.

I hope the solution doesn't end up being higher ticket prices, but if it works it might not all that bad.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger threemouthbeer said...

What i read from this article reminds me of a conversation with a brewer in my country. He is one of the very few brewers in Taiwan. We are all beer enthusiacists though we come from very differents backgrounds.
I spent some of my free time volunteering to work for him cause he shares his respectful and sincere attitude with everyone including those who don't even give a glance at his craftbeer.
Because of this fact we all come up against, in my opinion it always worths contributing our thoughts to help people understand the spirit behind the art.
Jia yo(an encouraging expression in chinese)

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Festivals are complex things to do. You want to introduce interesting beer to as many people as possible, and you want it to be entertaining to a variety of different kinds of people. Obviously the beer geek shouldn't even think of getting tanked at these things, but some of them do anyway. Guilty Beer Advocates shall remain nameless. Then there is that faceless mass who paid the entry fee and are over 21. We can't filter for them. It isn't possible given our democratic society. So, what can work? Charge more money thereby discouraging the riff-raff, and also have more money to give to charity. The past several festivals Brewtopia gave thousands of dollars to City-Meals-on-Wheels with which they can assist in helping the elderly, a big passion of mine. Several thousands were also provided to the NYS Brewers Association because, well, the festival was held in NYS and the industry certainly needs advocates lobbying congress. Lets hope the money is used wisely. Another thing we can do is get small glasses. Yeah, people will get pissed off, but a max 3 oz pour is enough for a taste, I don't care what anyone says. Sure, the biggest overpouring offenders happen to be the big brewers of the world, but still, small craft brewers are also guilty of trying to drain their kegs. At Brewtopia, The Great World Beer Festival, the Homebrewers Guild had a free booth so people could see what that could be like. According to Phil, one of the captains at the Guild, membership tripled as the result of the festival. We are proud of that.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger pschar said...

All I have to say is: B(

Oh yeah, and I wish you the best of luck - don't go too far away.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger inventom said...

Man you guy should come out to teh midwest for a few fests like the great taste of the midwest in Madison WI or the Quivies Grove fest in Verona Wiconsin or the michigan brewers guild event. see what they do find a way to filter out the Pie eyed firrel up crowd. one or two ounces in sma; expensive glasses. make it a walking event Kill the a--hole who oversold his event. Make some Progress to educating the tastebuds adn life will improve.or is this just a rosy eyed midwesterner speaking hope to a thick skinned east coast crowd ?

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just went to the World Beer Festival in Raleigh and I have decided its my last, at least for alittle while. when I forst went about 4 years ago, it was great. Not too crowded and the brewers were there to tell you all about their beers. Now its a dog and pony show at each of the big brewer's spots and who get get the best cleavage to pour their beer. Then the college kids come along and get ticked off when the brewer will only pour to the 4 oz line on the glass instead of filling the 8 oz glass. Lets do the math... 100 brewers = 300 beers * 8oz = 1 smashed crowd and 0 chance of sampling a great beer and remembering what it was!

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Smoove D said...

I'm a craft beer enthusiast, but not a beer geek. I also like to get a solid buzz on. I think the festivals provide a great way to be introduced to new beers and have a good time doing it. Of course, towards the end education goes out the window and cleavage becomes more important, but not everyone has a super high level of commitment. As for glass size, I feel that as a festival attendee, I deserve a full size glass to add to my trophy collection of festival glassware that I proudly display.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said...

I fully agree. I limit the brew fests that I attend to the smattering of quality events, such as the Oregon Brewer's Festival.

There are still "Drunkard Donnies" that show up, but there is a plethora of good discussion there, if you seek it out.

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