Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

May 13, 2008

Beer Issues:

Party’s Over

As the interest in craft beer skyrockets, it’s time for fest organizers to adjust to the crowds.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Another month, another craft beer fest debacle.

The latest offending venue was Dark Lord Day, Three Floyd’s once-a-year holiday whereat consumers can get their greasy mitts on the Munster brewer’s Dark Lord, a barrel-aged, coffee-infused imperial stout, rated on BeerAdvocate as the best in America (at least at the time of this writing). I should say right off the bat that I wasn’t there—the parent folk refused to loan me the car for the second year in a row (“Why do you want to go to a thing called ‘Dark Lord,’ anyway? It sounds … evil!”). But if you read the forum and blog posts around the internet, you’ll see that a good time was not had by all. Not by a long shot.

The problem wasn’t the fest itself, or—shut your mouth—the beer. It was the crowds. Not that the crowds were riotous or rude—although the words “frat boys” has been thrown around a lot in the aforementioned posts—it was just that the crowds were immense. As in, five-hour-wait-and-not-get-a-beer immense. A similar occurence—albeit on a much smaller scale—happened at this year’s Bockfest at Capital Brewery, an event that I actually managed to sneak out of the house to attend. The beer didn’t run out, but attendees were allowed only one pour of the Blonde Doppelbock, the very beer we were there to celebrate the release of, and an average wait in line (or “mob” would be a better term) for a beer was between 45 minutes to an hour. But if half the people they had throwing fucking beads off the brewery roof had been pouring beer instead the whole fiasco might have been avoided.

Selling tickets ahead of time to hot beer events might seem like a solution, but you run into the same problems. Even though this year’s Night of the Living Ales—open only to those who purchased tickets ahead of time—wasn’t even close to the madness of Dark Lord Day or even Bockfest, there was a lot of rumblings from attendees about how jammed the lines were and the lack of space to just sit and/or congregate away from the taps. And then there’s the Great Taste of the Midwest, the premier fest in the region, whose tickets went on sale at 11:00 a.m. on May 4th and sold out at about 2:30 p.m. of the same day. Brave souls waited in line for five fucking hours to get them. Yikes.

I’ve always said that beer fests are some of the best-organized events I’ve been to. This shouldn’t be surprising, since brewers—and especially home brewers—tend to be people who have their shit together. But it should now be obvious (painfully, in some cases) to fest organizers that a new threshold has been reached in the interest in craft beer. Eventually the gargantuan crowds will ebb as craft beer’s trendiness fades, but for the time being brew fest planners need to take a hard look at their facilities, supplies, and staff when putting together their events. I offered some vague suggestions after last year’s Great Taste, but I’m not a professional event planner—indeed, if I had a job, I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing about beer night and day.

I’ve always said that beer fests are some of the best-organized events I’ve been to, because brewers—and especially home brewers—tend to be people who have their shit together.
Exacerbating all this are the carpetbaggers, the scum of the earth who swarm over these events to profiteer from craft beer’s increased popularity and—more importantly—media exposure: the fuckers who buy Great Taste of the Midwest tickets with the sole intent of scalping them for a profit or the sonsabitches that horned into the Dark Lord lines to snag brews for reselling on eBay. These people are scumbags who deserve nothing less than to have sanitized, stainless steel homebrewing spoons shoved up their asses and rotated—slowly, mind you—at least five times.

You can help fight this slimy phenomenon by refusing, under ANY circumstances, to buy scalped fest tickets and to NEVER buy beer from an unauthorized reseller (a practice, which, by the way, is totally illegal). I’m not actually urging you to beat these people up if you come across them or performing any spoon insertions (and rotations), but if I were to hear about these occurences I probably wouldn’t be all that upset. In fact, I’d probably have a beer.

Obviously we aren’t going to see the death of brew fests. On the contrary, we’ll probably see more fests crop up as craft beer’s appeal peaks. But as the crowds expand and a higher percentage of said crowds attend for reasons other than trying and talking about great beer, the atmosphere of some of these events could change—maybe for the worse. Some beer dorks might decide it’d be better to stay home and drink some home brew or maybe gather with their fellow dorks to sample their own collection of craft beers. Although this may not break fest organizers’ hearts, I would like them to ask themselves why they’re putting these events together in the first place. Is it about the size of the crowd, or is it about the beer?

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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