Beer Festivals Kind of Suck

Your city is throwing several huge craft beer festivals this season! Every local brewery you’ve already tried before will be giving samples of beers you don’t really like as well as a few “experimental” beers that aren’t very good. You spend your hard earned money on the VIP tickets which gets you entrance an hour before the other peasants as well as a shitty t-shirt that’s between sizes and has every square inch of the back inked up with the entire brewery line up. You wait in line to be served foamy one ounce pours that cost a single precious ticket. Better choose wisely, you only have 10 and it’s a cool $20 if you want 10 more. Having a blast yet? Yeah, me neither.

Beer festivals, by and large, are hardly worth it. They’re over priced, the lines are crazy long, and rarely feature anything I can’t pick up at the bottle shop down the street. Oh hey, my third favorite food truck is here though. So it has that going for it, I guess. What do other festivals have going for them that ones centered around beer just don’t? Well, for starters, usually lots more of what the festival is featuring. Go to a music festival and you can rock your face off at 4 different stages. My local ice cream festival should come with an insulin shot for the price of admission. The hot sauce festival will have you howling for a week every time you go to the bathroom.

The greatest of all beer festivals
This Beer Fest is definitely worth the price of admission
(Photo by Johannes Simon)

The straw that broke the camels back for me was the most recent fest I attended. $40 for admission, a shitty plastic cup, and 10 tickets for 10 two ounce pours. So 20 ounces total, or less than two full beers. At $2 and ounce, it had better taste like liquid gold. Oh, and some “special” beers required two tickets. I totally get that some festivals are better and some are worse, but they’re only slightly better and can be a heckuvalot worse. Not to condone over drinking, but a $40 bar tab is a hell of a night.

The other big beef I have with beer festivals, is that brewers don’t always attend. They send their representatives, or it’s some Joe Schmoe volunteer looking to score free booze. Why am I standing around in the heat to get thimble fulls of beer if I can’t even discuss the subtleties of stale piss water with the guy who actually made it? I really don’t want to play 20 questions, I just want to give props to the men who work hard so that I can enjoy myself. If I don’t like the beer, I give constructive feedback. I don’t blast them.

So how do we fix the problem? I’ve read articles on beer festivals saying that if the majority of breweries featured aren’t local, then that’s a bad sign. I tend to disagree. People do travel for beer festivals, true, but I’d wager that demographic is by far the smallest percentage. I’m a local going to a local beer fest. I can have any of these breweries anytime I want. Mix it up! Please, show me something new, I’m begging you. Distribution laws are slowing catching up with this century, but by and large, they have a long way to go. If there were a lineup of breweries that were hard to get, I’d gladly hand over my first born.

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Another issue is the amount of beer I’m given. States often mandate the amount you can be served at festivals, so there’s little to be done about the number of tickets you can give me. Can I buy a full beer if I want? If not, that usually means someone didn’t spring for the right permit. Pay the extra and file the paperwork. I know you’ll up charge me for it, but maybe I wont mind if I can walk away with an honest to goodness full beer in hand.

I also feel like some sort of food should be provided. Doesn’t have to be much. Cheese and meat samples, pretzels, beer nuts. All solid choices and would help to soak up the booze. It’s generally a good idea to eat when you have alcohol. Standing in line to pay too much for a food truck then stand around for a half an hour waiting on my meal is one way to sober me up I guess. Then again the beer isn’t gonna drink itself, and those lines are pretty long, too.

All that being said, I’m planning a trip to Denver this October for the Great American Beer Festival and I can’t wait. Even considering the things I don’t like about beer festivals, inexplicably, I usually wind up having a good time. How is this even possible with so many cons? Like so many things in life, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I got to spend the day with friends. I got to eat at my third favorite food truck and the band that was playing has a kinda cute singer and she didn’t exactly suck. Any day drinking beer and enjoying life beats the hell out of most everything else.

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