By: Joe Gunn
In theory, beer festivals should be fantastic. They offer a great opportunity to sample and learn about a ton of beers in a concentrated amount of time, and to meet a million people who share your love of them. They usually have at least a handful of exciting brews you’ve never heard of and occasionally some big time stuff that you can’t buy. If you have a thing for beer reps, it’s like an orgy. They’re all hot, sweaty, and hung over, and can all fake a smile for six hours. Now, just like everything else in the world, these fests aren’t perfect. I actually think they’re usually well-organized, so I don’t think they need a gigantic overhaul, but could definitely use a couple of tips from a guy that knows everything. These are some of the things that I would do…
Charge more. My overall impression is that people find the price of these things to be too high. I say double it. You know how I can tell that entry is too cheap? Because there are 8 million people at each one. I say, double the price, let in 65% of the people, and use the extra money to actually buy the beer from the breweries as opposed to asking them to donate it. You would end up with way better beer, in a way better setting. Nothing ruins an event like people.
Make it cool. Not Arthur Fonzarelli cool, temperature cool. I swear, I‘ve been too hot at every single beer festival I’ve ever been too, including an outside one in the snow. Indoor ones are the worst, but that might be an impossible situation. What kind of air conditioner could defeat a thousand fat guys breathing on each other on all day? As far as outdoor ones go, we need more tents. Anything that will allow you to hide from the evil sun will do. Trees, domes, artificial clouds, anything. You have to remember that a lot of those fraternity kind of guys go to these things and the last thing you want is them drinking outside in the beating sun all day. Makes them publicly urinate. At best.
Have some at amusement parks. How great would that be? Every ride would have a couple breweries and waiting in line would be awesome. The obvious puking situation would be an argument against it but you could always shut down rides like the dreaded Gravitron. Attendance would have to be huge so maybe it’d be a national one that would rotate around the country. Bumper cars would be illegal.
Stop pouring like sissies. A couple of my aforementioned ideas would have to be in place for this, but eliminate the one ounce pour. It’s so frustrating. People stand in line with a tiny cup for ten minutes like a bunch of crazy people waiting for meds, only to receive the perfect amount of beer to actually make you crazy. Don’t give me the line that you’re trying to be responsible. You’re inviting 50,000 people, some in cars, to a park for unlimited booze and not enough water. If you get over that moral hurdle, you don’t slow down at the next one.
Feed the asses. I’ve always thought food was an overlooked situation at these things. It used to be just giant plates of cubed cheese. White and yellow. Overall, the food situation at these fests seem to be improving, but it’s always kind of a pain in the ass. Everyone is standing around with tiny plates, with stupid tiny napkins, while some groups hold tables for their phones. The food should be cheap because I think there’s some kind of mental block that exists for people spending money at an all-inclusive event. Bacon seems to be a popular food sold at beer fests, so that’s good.
All in all, I think these beer fests are pretty good. I go to the Lansdale one every year, and it’s great. The train drops you right off at the door and it feels like there is one porta-potty for each attendee. The Philly Craft Beer Festival, which is sometimes referred to as the Sausage Festival for its guy to gal ratio, at the Navy Yard seems like it gets better every year. The one at the Zoo must be nice because you can laugh at all of the animals. The best one I’ve ever seen is “Night of Great Thirst” in a tiny Belgium town called Eizeringen. It’s a lambic festival that takes place every two years. If you’re planning a trip to Belgium for beer, it’s worth planning everything around this event. We just missed one so you have 20 months to plan it out.