Index Fest Review

Free for me, but worth the price of admission

I’m a pretty harsh critic of beer festivals. I expect some bang for my buck. I was stoked when a friend of mine called me the day of Index Fest and gifted me with a free VIP ticket. Do I want to come out and drink free beer and listen to live music? Ummmm, fuck yes I do. Index Fest is the rebranded Untapped Festival series taking place in Texas. The focus on amazing craft beer and talented local artists remains the same though, and there is an increased focus on high-quality food and local art.

Index fest taster glass with Friek Raspberry Sour
Friek Raspberry Sour – Odell Brewing – Sweet, tart, and above all else, tasty

Index fest seemed very well organized. The ticket booth was easy to spot and each line was clearly marked. I had a VIP entry which would have included early access if I’d had the ticket before the day of. Whatever. Beggars can’t be choosers. I cut past dozens of people waiting to get checked in as I strolled down the VIP lines. Girls gave the evil eye to their boyfriends for dragging them to yet another beer festival and being too cheap to spring for VIP treatment.

Once I checked in I was given a wrist band with a chip in it for scanning my beers. No tickets that I had to keep track of and potentially lose. Already off to a good start. I snatched up my commemorative plastic tasting glass and me and my buddy were off. He said I just haaaaad to try the Unfiltered Sculpin at the Ballast Point tent. Excellent first beer. After each sample was a poured, a volunteer scanned my wrist band and notified me how many I had left to try. Very convenient.

Index fest with a view of the main stage
Index Fest was a pretty big festival

Beer, food, music, and art

Thousands of people were in attendance, but it wasn’t overcrowded at all. I never stood in line for more than a few minutes to receive my sample. The volunteers were even great about moving along the Chatty Cathys who wanted to ask about ever subtle nuance of the two-ounce sample they were just given. They don’t work for the brewery dude. They don’t fucking know and they’d really love it if you’d go bother someone else.

Even the food tents were well organized and moved quickly. There were local artist scattered around the festival, but I have to admit they didn’t really register as I walked by. They seemed neat, but not really something I was interested in while slightly besotted.

There were over 80 different breweries present and 250+ beers to try. My wrist band only got me 16 pours though, so I had to be a little picky. I searched high and low for the rarest beers. Barrel aged this and dry hopped that. Seasonals, special releases, and collaborations abounded. As I sipped on my generous pour, tapping my foot to beat of some local band that just came on, I made the best discovery of the night. For $7 I could recharge my wrist band with 10 more samples. Let’s do this shit.

crowd of people watching local Austin band Local Native at Index Fest
Local Natives – an Austin band was the headliner at Index Fest

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the VIP area, but it had a lot of amenities well worth the price of admission. A beer tent that sold full beers, bathrooms, a huge lounging tent, and access to the side of the main stage. I hung around after I’d had my fill of beer just long enough to hear the most popular songs from the headliner before I bailed. I got the ticket for free, but I’d have gladly paid for what was possibly the best value at a beer festival I’ve ever seen.

Index Fest was well organized, had a ton of variety, and was flat out one of the best beer festivals I’ve been to. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Texas, then I highly recommend you attend one of the four more events scheduled for the year. If you don’t live in Texas, well what the fuck are you thinking? Just please don’t move to Austin.

For more details and future festival dates, check out the website.

crowd of people waiting for Austin bats to emerge from the South Congress bridge
Bat watchers on the South Congress Bridge

What Makes A Shitty Taproom

Your favorite watering hole has everything you could possibly want. Local beers on tap, gut busting bar food, and god-awful live music on the weekends. Hell, there are even board games with pieces missing on a shelf next to the bathrooms. So, if you can have all of your favorite local beers and more in the place where everybody knows your name, why bother to visit a taproom that only serves their small slice of the local scene?

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More often than not, breweries have a tap room connected to their production facility. With new breweries opening everyday, consumers have plenty of options. Supporting local business is all well and good, but why should I want to come to your taproom? Here’s a secret breweries, so pay attention, if another brewery has a better tap room than you, I’ll be visiting them and not you. Doesn’t matter if you make a superior product.

I can think of only a handful of genuinely awesome taprooms that I’ve visited. I’ve been to others which were super crappy fun time. I know good and well that for most breweries, a tap room is only a very small part of their business and revenue. Is that any reason to half ass it though? Just to be clear, not being an offender of the items on this list doesn’t automatically make you a great tap room, but it’s a damn good start.

You don’t know what you’re about

Are you a taproom, yoga studio, live music venue, dog park, or a trivia meetup group? Too much going on can make a tap room seem chaotic and unorganized. There’s a lot to be said for doing one thing and doing it well. That’s not to say that you can’t offer more than booze and a quiet place to contemplate why you can’t find a job with your Liberal Arts degree, but it shouldn’t compete with it. Just in case you’re confused on what the main focus should be, it’s the beer…duh. A brewery taproom is direct from the source and should be the best available. By all means, have as many extras as you want, just make sure they enhance and don’t distract. Have great bar food, but with a limited menu. Offer something besides beer to drink, but keep it simple. To many other options makes you less a brewery taproom and more of a hangout place that happens to serve beer.

You don’t have enough bartenders

Trying to save a few bucks are we? There’s nothing I love more than standing in a long line while I can overhear the guy at the front the line contemplating the subtle differences between Mosaic and Warrior hops. Or better yet, wanting to sample every single beer before making the investment of a pint. Meanwhile, the poor lone bartender is watching the line grow while Mr. Beer consults Untappd to see how many more IPAs he needs to unlock a new achievement. There’s nothing the bartender can do about it either. The customer is always right and deserves his full attention. Meanwhile, other beer enthusiasts are growing more and thirsty by the second and contemplating heading to the gas station for a sixer of the competitors beer that sprung for a canning line. So don’t be cheap and make sure you’re properly staffed.

Can I get some service please

The space isn’t planned out

How are people approaching the bar? Lines shouldn’t weave between tables or groups of standing patrons. There also shouldn’t be chair’s blocking the entire ordering area so that people have to lean in sideways to order a beer. Don’t mind me bud, watch the elbow as I lift these beers over your dream journal. Hey, can I use the back of your head to sign my ticket? Clearly marked out paths with multiple wells is by far the best. I fully understand that some smaller breweries are working within the bounds of the space they can afford. However, it doesn’t take a degree in architecture to take a minute and plan out a space and how people will likely try to get around it.

Your menu is confusing

One board. Front and center. CLEARLY LEGIBLE. If people get to the front and ask what you have on tap, you need to try again. Big and bold is the way to go here. Your wood burned custom tap handles with calligraphy font are just delightful. I can’t read them sideways from 10 feet away. Just to be extra clear. The board should read as follows: Name, style, description, ABV, and IBUs. Really, how are you messing this up?

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There are definitely a lot more reasons why your brewery tap room sucks. These are the main offenders though. Correct these and you’re well on your way to being…well, less shitty. Your beer still sucks though, and there’s probably not much you can do about that.

Fine Pint – Drink Better Beer

Beer is life. No, really. Some historians believe that beer fundamentally changed the course of human history. The cultivation of grains led to humans absconding the hunter/gatherer way of life in favor of agriculture. The tradition of drunken karaoke and cock blocking quickly followed. Arguably, no other discovery has had as much impact on your daily life as beer, whether you realize it or not.

wish you were here

Beer brings us together. Over a pint we grow closer to friends, reminisce about days gone by, plan tomorrow’s adventure, even drown a few sorrows. It’s social lubricant, liquid courage, and the perfect ice breaker all in a glass. Beer deserves our respect. Whether it be yellow and fizzy or contains subtle notes of vanilla and apricot.

Your local watering hole just wouldn’t quite be the same without a cold refreshing pint. You might as well get rowdy at the local library. As everyone knows, good stories rarely involve you being sober. So belly up to the bar ladies and gents. Order a pint, and get ready to dive in. Like I’ve already said, beer is far deeper than your glass would have you think.