Beer opportunists... Do you ever notice how a good thing gets corrupted by opportunists milking it for all its worth? It happened in the early oil industry, where everyone with a rig and ground to set it on, drilled a well and in the process overproduced fields, ruining the hydrodynamics and driving the price of oil into the cents per barrel range.
I see the same thing happening in the craft brewing realm. The brewers are not to fault, the distributors are. Here in Houston-Galveston metroplex there have in the recent 6 months, been a rash of so-called beer festivals. What they are are a thinly disguised scam to bilk erstwhile beer afficionados out of their hard earned cash.
Here is how it works... A promotional company sets up a "festival" at some available location, a hotel convention center (Galveston) or a grassy area outside a dying mall (West Oaks Mall). They invite the local distributors or sales reps to "showcase" their craft beers. The attendees are asked to shell out anywhere from $20-25 for a ticket and get 24, 2 oz servings. That comes to about a dollar an ounce. A pint of craft brew at you local pub ranges from $3 to 5. Do the math. That comes to tops $0.31 an ounce. So the promoters are charging 3X the price of retail for beer samples.
To heap insult to injury, they also offer a VIP pass for another $15 or more that enables our afficianado the honor of getting in 15 minutes to an hour early to beat the crowds and to maybe have a private seating area to rest your dogs after standing in the growing lines. Finger food may or may not be included in the extra price. The event I attended in Galveston was a travesty. I paid the VIP price of $60 and nearly had to come to blows with a collection of cows who had parked their big asses in the VIP area like it was their own private living room. The food was lousy. The hotel at the Moody Gardens should be ashamed. The finger food was on a par with the frozen appetizers available at your local Sam's Club. Additional offerings were available at $7 a pop for a hotdog, and $10 for a burger.
I attended another at West Oaks Mall. The price was lower, but a common and to my mind more aggregious thread ran through both. The majority of the so called craft-brew reps were nothing of the sort. They were merely volunteers, probably sent by Specs Liquor warehouse or the local distributor to pour samples.
These people knew less than nothing about beer and more than one admitted to me that they were not even beer drinkers! I heard one clown tell a patron that a belgian triple was like an IPA. WTF!?? Still others didn't know the difference between a lager and an ale, a bock from a stout. I could go on about the total lack of knowledge of these people by why bother.
I did discover one way to tell the real reps from the pretenders, the size of their pour. The pretenders have been instructed to pour 2 oz and by god thats what they do. Some even hold the cup up like they are administering cough syrup to their sick kid. No more, but certainly less.
The real reps, don't give a **** and pour your sampling cup full or nearly so. It helps to have a wife or girl friend at your side wearing a low cut top too. I noticed the size of the pour is directly proportional to the amount of boobage on display. Just a note.
So why does this light a fire under my chapped ass? Because, these things don't do their stated purpose. They do not educate the public about beer. They only make money for someone. I went to my first event with good intentions. As an avid home brewer I thought I might take notes on any that caught my fancy, I even took pen and note pad. After a few minutes, I gave up trying to get information. I sampled a bock and naively asked the pourer if the beer was made using a decoction mash. I might as well have asked her if she knew how to perform brain surgery.
She admitted she didn't know the last thing about beer and personally didn't care for it. I spent the rest of the day just trying to get my buzz on, like most of the attendees apparently. I did the math later and realized how I'd been hosed. I spent around $120 bucks just on tickets and my wife and I got 24oz of beer, a 15 minute head start and really, really crappy finger food. Oh and access to about 8 beers that the general public didn't get. Big whoop.
I did the math and we paid $1.68 per ounce for our beer! The sad thing is I was already familiar with most of the beers there. When you add in the cost of our lunch, gas to and from Galveston and other sundries, we were looking at probably close to $250 to taste beer with which we were already well acquainted.
In my college days I studied remote sensing, that is interpretation of satellite and aerial photography. I graduated and got a good gig with Phillips Petroleum. At the time it was booming, what with the US launching new satellites every couple years with newer and better sensors. The problem is those in the industry oversold it. We promised we could do too much with it. Remote Sensing departments were springing up in every major oil company like mushrooms after a rain. After a while those in industry paying the tab looked at what had been promised, the price, and what had been delivered. That was the death knell.
Overnight companies slashed and cut reducing departments of 40 to 4 or 5 or cutting them all together. Now most of the work is done by small private companies on a contact piecemeal basis.
I fear the same thing will happen to the booming craft beer industry or at least the promotional segment. I see promoters making money and not much else. Attendees are being misled about what they are sampling by unknowledgable flacks. People get smart eventually and this kind of thing will leave a bad taste in their mouths much like some of the beers. They will in turn tell their friends and the intent of the original idea will be subverted. Miller and Bud drinkers will not be "converted", their preconcieved notions will only be confirmed.
I overheard one man make some negative comments about Sierra Nevada Pale ale as he poured his sample out. I am sure he was a Miller or Bud man and had been lured to the event not knowing quite what to expect. I am sure he did not leave happy, since Sierra Nevada PA was probably one of the more benign beers being offered. I doubt the guy will attend another and his sojourn into the world of beers outside Light American Lagers being summarily terminated.
If someone had bothered to explain to the man the differences in the beers, or the event organizers provided a handout with a brief synopsis of beer styles, ignorant attendees would not stand in line for 10 minutes for 2 oz of beer that they can't stand. Maybe it makes too much sense, or would somehow subvert the money making business model the promoters have put in place.
It is January 2011. These two festivals were in the Fall of 2010. Already this month I see adverts for two beer "festivals" in my inbox. One is for a combo chili-beerfest in Galveston. Kind of like surf and turf I guess. If one is good, then both together must be awesome. I'll have to pass on these and any more in the future. I predict they will probably die a slow death as people realize what a scam they are. I don't know what kind of a model that other cities use for their long ongoing beer festivals, but we need to find out and adopt them.
I fear the same thing will happen to the booming craft beer industry or at least the promotional segment. I see promoters making money and not much else.
I think its just a sign of the times. The promoters know they are going to burn out the market eventually but don't care. They are going to hose the public for as much as they can and ride the market till they run it into the ground.
Just like you said with the early days and people putting a well on any ground they had, the marketing people see a chance to make money are really don't care the long term damage it causes.
But back to the subject of beer, I think the vast majority of people that attend these events really have no clue what beers outside of the mainstream Budweiser or Miller should taste like. Most of them that get in there and taste a "real beer" that isn't mass produced supermarket shelf stuff won't like it because they are a "bud light man" and have the belief "that's what a real beer should taste like"
And the problem is the marketers know that and sell it as a drinking event for the masses rather than something for beer aficionados because there is way more money in it for them.
After going to one event and seeing just what you described, I've decided to stick to small friendly places like the Hans' Bier Haus in Rice village. Its allot cheaper and friendlier than having to fight with the idiots that just want to get lit at those events.
Well they are at it again. They have come up with a creative festival ticket structure and it spells $$$ for the promoters and an empty wallet for you. After the initial 24oz of beer for $27 dollars, thats two $14 12 oz bottles if you are bad at math, you can purchase additional tickets for $1 that will get you another 2 oz per ticket, or less if its "high octane" or expensive beer. Thats only another $6 for a $12 oz beer. Need I remind people that Specs and other places sell the same beers for 72 oz for around $8 thats a mere $0.11 an ounce. So who does the other $.89 cents per ticket go? I went to two of these things, and thankfully I passed on the debacle last year. As an avid beer drinker and brewer, I did not see any beers at the last two I attended that I hadn't already tried, or for my own reasons didn't want to.
I think they are a money grab targeted at the credulous and due to the ignorance of most of the servers, actually do a lot to mislead would be craft beer customers. Unless they have implemented some kind of training on beer for the servers and provide the attendees information cards on the beers themselves, I have to continue to pass. I can purchase or brew a lot of craft beer for the $100 I would probably end up spending, and not have to wait in one line to do it.
First post here... can't remember how I got here though....
I'm approaching my first anniversary of home brewing. Around Sept of last year I graduated to all grain.
My neighbor and I home brew and get our bulk grains from Brian over at No Label Brewing in Katy. Kind of buying it on the side as he doesn't have a bunch of people asking to buy grain.
Anyway... I was disappointed that I missed a big beer event last Fall. Forgot which one it was, but I was reading after-the-fact that it was poorly orchestrated. Fast forward to this coming weekend's event, Texas Beer Fest.
$30 per head to enter, ( additional $38! for VIP 'upgrade'), and 12 food/drink tickets with a 12oz pour costing 6 tickets ($6).
NO THANKS.... I know this is not a 'let's get wasted for cheap' event, but geez, $60 for my wife and I to get in? Prolly another $75 in food and drink? Nah....
I'll be about $135 closer to my Barley Crusher that I can use till I die instead of go to TBF. (I'm completely self-sufficient to do 10 gallon all grain batches except my neighbor has the grain crusher... got to go begging him to crush when I want to brew )
that's a texas brew fest for you. I feel the same way. Texas (well more so houston, austin is doing great) is struggling to get into craft beer. yeh yeh there are places on washington ave. and midtown that have a good selection.. but there's 6 million people in town, and that's two small areas.. I call that struggling. Brewers from big labels out of state aren't going to waste their time coming to texas, because they know this. Sam C. from dogfish head travels all over the states to beer events, but he'll likely rarely if ever come to houston. Because of this, you have joe blow working the booth. or, it's a texas beer. They may have an actual rep, but it's texas beer, at this point, most craft brew lovers have had every texas beer several times over, so you aren't getting to try anything new. I'm not going to pay $30 to get into a festival when I see the same stuff: no label, karbach, southern star, St. A, and a few austin brews. Wife and I went to a houston festival a bit back, was at Brenners on the bayou. It was like $40 ea.. they did have food to sample, but, again; St. arnold, independance, rahr, southern star, etc.. outside of texas, there was new belgium, dogfish head, and stone.. that was it IIRC. At least it was unlimited sampling.. This whole 'you get 12 samples' is BS. That should be no more than $10.
Anyway, I live in Denver now, and there literally is a beer event every weekend within 60 miles. I'm going to one next weekend just a couple miles from my house (way out in the suburbs), and it's $15 ea. to get in, unlimited sampling of beer, wine and local food. (I actually got a groupon, paid $15 for a pair) The weekend after that is one across the st. from my house, it's a little more at $35 ea. but again, unlimited samples of beer and food.
While both of these festival feature beer mostly from Colorado, CO has so many breweries, it's unlikely you've had every one. There are 35 breweries at this small event out in the suburbs.
Then of course here in a couple months, I'm going to GABF. $55 a ticket, but unlimited beer samples for 4 hours, over 550 breweries.
Give texas time, (well, maybe a lot time). Support the craft beer. If you go to a bar with crap on tap, talk to the manager, suggest they put some local beers on tap. This may bring more awareness to the movement, and will maybe allow more festivals to happen, making it possible to have many small ones instead of the 1 or 2 huge ones that are overcrowded and a ripoff.
The 4th biggest in the US city has a single digit number of breweries, it's pretty pathetic really. Way too many bud light drinkers. There are about 4-5 breweries within 5-7 miles of my apt waaaay out in the suburbs.. as many as the entire city of houston.
How Beer Fests should be done! This past Saturday at the Catty Corner Ice house, the CCSD (Connoisseurs Club of Smoking and Drinking) held NovemberFest 2012, hosting 4 Brew Clubs. For $15 you got all the great home brew you could handle and all the wurst and brotchen you could eat. There were 51 different beers, wine, meade and non alcoholic sodas. Of course beers predominated. I can say, that while I did not like some of the beers, it was based more on a stylistic preference (I like heavy barley wines when the outside temp is in the 50's not the current 80's) I did not taste a bad beer. I think you could stack the offerings up against any commercial craft brews available in Houston or at your local Spec's. There were a few too many stouts and barleywines, and too few pale ales and IPAs. There was only one IPA if I can remember correctly. The offered meads were on the dry side for my taste, I'm a sack mead maker and I prefer mine a bit more sweet. Servings were generous, with no lines. Complimentary cups were 8 oz and you got nearly that on every pour. I had to as for <shudder> less, as I wanted to make it through as many of the beers as possible and I thought 19 pints in one sitting might be too much for one sitting. There were no nanny state reps pouring cough syrup sized servings to be sure. Everyone in attendance were adults and knew how much they could consume. We need to have more of these events, to drive the money grubbing distributor "festivals" out of business. They should be hanging their heads in shame looking at the comparison of what a few enterprising home brewers can do, compared to the distributor backed promoters. If you missed it, you really missed something.
THAT is how you do a festival. Bit of a line to get in (showed up right when doors opened, took about 20 min. to get in.) But those 20 min. didn't go unnoticed.
There are long lines at the suspected booths; russian river, dogfish head, stone..
but there are thousands of beers to try, so I didn't waste my time in those lines. There was NO shortage of booths with just 1 person deep, many w/o anyone there at all. That's where we directed our efforts. 1 oz. pours, I had maybe 50-75 of em? I don't even know. I'd gladly spend the $55 again next year.