An open letter to beer festivals

Dear Beer Festivals,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love beer. And I love variety. And the social aspect is great, as is discovering new beers from breweries I’ve never bought a bottle from. I just don’t feel like I’m getting as much out of you as I could be.

Sometimes the venue is too small or too hot. Sometimes (like this summer), the whole event is so poorly run that it’s not worth waiting another hour in line for. And it’s always expensive, because even at a “no-limit” event, I can’t try anywhere near enough beers to justify the price. Some events are amazing, and they’re what has kept me going back. But honestly, I’ve had more fun lately at good brewpub restaurants – even some chains.

I know, it sounds like blasphemy. But they’re just really good at what they do.

By most measurements, this weekend’s LA Beer Fest was a Good Event. Lots of vendors with lots of choices. A mellow hipster crowd, and just a wee bit too crowded (midway through – there was plenty of space early). I had a pretty good time, and drank some amazing beers. But it also had a lot of problems I’m seeing across the board at these things. There was poor line/ticket management, and anyone who observed it for a few minutes could have snuck in, no problem. Promises were made about food that didn’t come to pass (this is a very common issue). The event, put together by big-names BevMo and Golden Road brewing, wasn’t mentioned on either’s website, and the ticketing agency (and its URLs) were so sketchy that I almost didn’t buy. And the “VIP” expereince, which is a common upsell at these things, was once again limited to getting in early, despite promises of special tastings and exclusive features and other fun things worth paying a 25% premium for.

In the end, I can’t get too mad at any leisure event. No one’s forcing me to attend, and as far as beer goes, I get what I expect. But even that’s not enough lately, so I think I’m breaking up with you. Maybe we’ll get together sometime in the future, but a dozen friends with a bottle each of something they like, or 4-6 of us at a 100-tap brewpub with a tasting menu is looking much, much better to me lately.

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