Friday, March 23, 2012

My Problem With Beer Festivals

The day before the "inaugural" New Orleans International Beer Festival I felt it important to discuss why I don't usually go to beer festivals. I know, sounds like a dick thing to do but you'll understand. I promise. And hopefully agree. A lot of people have been asking if I will be attending tomorrow and are pretty shocked when I tell them no. Then they ask why.

I need to tread lightly here as I am friends with many of the people that put on the events/sponsor the events/donate or sell beer to the events and I promote their events every year. My intention here is not to bash any of the beer festivals that take place here in Louisiana but rather I hope to address what I don't like about the current culture of beer festivals here and what I think the future of beer festivals should be.



Since the New Orleans International Beer Festival is tomorrow we will pick on them. The price is $50. That's $40 plus the $10 you will pay in service fees to Ticketmaster. That's general admission. According to the website here is what that will get you: Souvenir 2-Ounce Sampling Mug, Full Color Festival Guide, Unlimited Sampling of 150+ Craft Beers, Live Entertainment, Games and access to the Samuel Adams Brew University Tent with Seminars such as Cooking with Beer, Brewing 101, Pairing Beer with Food and More! You can pay $75($85 after fees)for Zea VIP tickets which gives you: entrance into the Festival 1 Hour Early to Take Advantage of Exclusive Beer Tasting Experience, access to the VIP Lounge, exclusive Beer Selections Not Available to the General Admission Ticket Holders and complimentary Food from 2pm - 5pm plus all the other stuff you get for paying the commoners prices. And then, if you are responsible and have a designated driver they have to pay $20.

I don't know about you but $50 is a lot of money. Oh sure, I can afford it but the question is why would I want to pay it? Out of the 200 beers(not homebrewed) listed on their website there are only 12 I haven't had before. That means I have had 94% of the beers they are serving. Why would I pay $50 to try 12 beers? It just doesn't make sense. And in my opinion the designated driver should NEVER have to pay.

This goes for every beer festival that I have been to here in Louisiana. I can go for maybe 1 hour try a couple of beers and then I am done. If I'm lucky there are homebrews there or some of the local breweries have done something special on cask. And yes I know, not everyone has been able to try all those beers. But do you really think you will be able to try them all in 4 hours? Okay so maybe I shouldn't have said that because now some dumbass has just said, "Challenge Accepted." I heard it. Plus, if I want to bring my wife(who doesn't drink and is always my DD) I have to pay for her entrance as well. So now I am out another $20.


Anyway, events like this lead to people drinking until they puke or drinking so much they eventually puke then pass out. It certainly doesn't encourage responsible beer tasting. It creates more of a "I need to get my money's worth" attitude. I don't know about you but I can't stand being around drunk people. I'm not a big fan of crowds as is but now a crowd of drunk people. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl. In my opinion the beer festivals need to change their way of doing business.



Last year I experienced the future of beer festivals and it was awesome. New Orleans on Tap. A "pay as you drink" system. You buy tickets and trade your tickets for beer. And you can get two different sizes of beer. You just pay more tickets for a larger size. Genius. And they still had live entertainment and food available also. For someone like me this is perfect. I can buy $20 worth of tickets and have a great time and sample some great beers. Doesn't hurt my wallet and I don't feel the need to get my "moneys worth". Oh and my wife doesn't have to pay anything unless she wants food.

This is the future of beer festivals. And yes, I know it won't stop people from getting drunk and stupid but it may lessen that number and also may change people's perception of what a beer festival is for: the enjoyment of beer not the abuse of it. Let the Beer Buddha bashing begin.

Cheers!

The Beer Buddha

9 comments:

rainoftoads said...

I agree and that is one reason why the lovely beer bitch and I will be going to 'Hogs for the Cause' on Saturday instead.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Mostly valid points, to the experienced beer geek.

However, consider the real target market for such a festival: Not everyone is an experienced beer snob such as you or I. I'm at the expertise level where I don't have to pay to get into most such festivals (as a journalist, entrusted not to abuse the privilege), but it took a lot of such festivals to actually get said expertise. And every year, there's another crop of young people who just turned 21 and/or discovered that there's beer out there that tastes good and is good for something besides getting drunk. A $50 tab can be cheaper than a beer-education course at the college.

And it really does matter who is putting on the festival. The Brewers Association of Louisiana is going to put on a different festival than the Brew at the Zoo fundraiser, which will be different from the New Orleans Alternative Newspaper Beer Fest, which will be different from the Cajun Real Ale Fest, which will differ from the Beer, Bourbon & Jambalaya Fest. (Yes, all five are variations on my local beer festivals this year. And yes, I'm surrounded by THAT many beer fests.)

Sure, your mileage may vary. But we're also getting older. I can walk into a local with 100 taps and have trouble deciding from that embarrassment of extreme riches. (Hey, you kids, get off my lawn....)

The Beer Buddha said...

Alexander,

Great point and yes I usually do not have to pay since the promoters of the events are very kind. My point was being that I think a pay as you go system would benefit everyone more than a large sum up front and free for all. And we do not have that much beerfest awesomeness that you do up in Baltimore area!! We are getting there though!

Cheers!

BB

Travis said...

I would think that one of the purposes of a local beer blogger is to visit such events and report. Let us know what's good, what's bad. Talk to some of the brewers and reps and let us know what's coming perhaps.

BTW, Crescent City Homebrewers is listed. However, for some reason, we aren't pouring. We will be there with a booth. And flyers.

Unknown said...

A few thoughts after being at half a dozen NorCal beer festivals in the last month:

1. DD ticket is spot on. Most the places here the DD is either free, or just $5. This is even more convenient when the event is right off of a reliable public transit system (DIPA fest is blocks form BART, other events have free shuttles to a hub). When I've been on banding duty, though, it seems like less than 1% of attendees use this option, but I'm glad its there.

2. The longer festivals make me drink more responsibly. Those 2 hour WYES events feel like sprints. When you have 4, 6, or longer, you can pace yourself better without that "getting your moneys worth" from clouding your judgement. Also, the more food options available, the better.

3. Tickets are a reasonable throttling mechanism, but work better for high gravity extravaganza. The DIPA fest (which seems to be turning into the TIPA fest) works on tickets, and I can definitely see it keeping people from drinking too much before they realize how potent 10-15% beer is. On the other hand, if you bought 15 tickets and you're pretty toasty on number 5, all of a sudden you have tangible goal to use them all.

Unknown said...

A few thoughts after being at half a dozen NorCal beer festivals in the last month:

1. DD ticket is spot on. Most the places here the DD is either free, or just $5. This is even more convenient when the event is right off of a reliable public transit system (DIPA fest is blocks form BART, other events have free shuttles to a hub). When I've been on banding duty, though, it seems like less than 1% of attendees use this option, but I'm glad its there.

2. The longer festivals make me drink more responsibly. Those 2 hour WYES events feel like sprints. When you have 4, 6, or longer, you can pace yourself better without that "getting your moneys worth" from clouding your judgement. Also, the more food options available, the better.

3. Tickets are a reasonable throttling mechanism, but work better for high gravity extravaganza. The DIPA fest (which seems to be turning into the TIPA fest) works on tickets, and I can definitely see it keeping people from drinking too much before they realize how potent 10-15% beer is. On the other hand, if you bought 15 tickets and you're pretty toasty on number 5, all of a sudden you have tangible goal to use them all.

hinesacl said...

I see your point, but won't people be less adventurous if they have to pay as they go? I'm on the other side of these things as a brewery rep at a VERY small brewery and I don't think as many people would even give us a shot and kind of "find" us under the pay as you go system.
$50 may seem like a lot, but these things usually sell out. Most of them are for charity up here in Georgia. Generally, if they are not charitable...we don't do them.
Maybe you've just outgrown big beer fests. That's cool. Go to cool events at Avenue Pub to try things you haven't had. Of course, when you get to that level of expertise...usually you are paying about $9 a pop for 330ml. Sooooo....you can pay one way, or you can pay another. My advice is to do what you are doing. While all the rookies go to the mob and discover good beer, go to your local pub with your wife and a friend and enjoy what you like. Fests aren't for the pros...they are for the amateurs.

ccnole said...

Well said! As someone who just started following your blog since I'm moving to NOLA soon, I hope there are some decent beer fests in the area. I agree with your assessment of fests like this, we have plenty like that here in Tampa which are drunk fests with a lot of average beer. But there are some that really do it the right way like Hunahpu's Day at Cigar City. They use the ticket system ($5) in exchange for beers which are poured in 12oz, 8oz, or 5 oz depending on the style/strength. For example, beers like Zombie Dust and Table Saison would be 12oz, stouts and sours in 8oz and rarities like Heaven Hill Dark Lord, Deliverance and BA Hunahpu in 5 oz. Even with these small pours most people would share their pour with friends because you wanted to try a lot but didn't want to spend $5 x 40 beers. Best part is that small sips combined with a multitude of food trucks on site, I didn't need a DD. You pace yourself by tasting an ounce or two, discuss the beer with friends, and move on.

bierfesten said...

hey buddha, your post came up in my daily email from Google on Craft Beer. Interesting to read your thoughts on Festivals. DD's should have a nominal entry as other commenters have stated $5-10 is fair.

I definitely think that its as 'we' as beer drinkers get more experienced we have tried many of the beers, so as you point out you want to try about 12 instead of numerous others. Which precludes to me its more of an amateur event aimed at 'new' drinkers,esp if there are 'Tents' or 'sponsors' involved. I too avoid those festivals, even if offered free tickets. I find festivals are about experiencing 'new' styles of beer, and seeing what brewers are trying to offer as seasonals or limited releases.
As you point out for $75-95 you can buy a lot of nice beers in a pub that serves good beer, but for many its the experience of 'festival' atmosphere. The pay at door types are the better events in my opinion as when you have to handle tickets/tokens it gets rediculous. But some states/provinces have to have tickets/tokens for payment per portion of beer as the law.

Now that i'm back in Australia few of our beers ever get over 5% and Sierra Torpedo is $90/case and months old is as good as it gets for me. So I would go to your festival as i'm in a drought here.

Good article.