Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Utah Beerfest Recap

Well it looks like the critiques have been coming in on the second annual Utah Beerfest and they've for the most part been less then kind.

And deservedly so. Many people had to wait in huge lines for a chance to snag a small mug of beer, some not getting a chance spend the tokens that came with their ticket. That sucks, but it's not necessarily the fault of the festival's organizers.

I've been to a lot of beer festivals around the west, some done well - some not so well. This one was done well - and I'll tell you why. They learned from what didn't work last year, they listened, gathered feedback and implemented what what they could.

The problem with the beerfest is the state of Utah. This market (Salt Lake) is too big to have a beerfest of such limited size. The last beerfest held in Salt Lake was over four years prior to 2010's fest, and in that time beer, or should I say craft beer has exploded in popularity.

In a market of similar size you wouldn't see problems like massive lines for beer, because you would have at least triple the number of breweries in attendance. That won't happen in Utah because of the brilliant 4.0% limit on draft law.

Many out of state breweries would love to attend a Utah Beer Festival, they're just not willing to go through the expense and bullshit to attend. No brewery in their right mind would send hundreds of cases of bottles from out of state, when they could send two or three kegs instead.

What I'm saying is, don't blame the organizers (City Weekly) they did a fine job with what they had to work with. The Wasatch Front is just to damn big to have a beerfest of such limited size. One possible fix could be to spread it out over two days with less tickets for sale.

What do you think? Is this about Utah's limitations or something else?

And on a side note. The breweries were amazing. The quality of the beers were as good as you'd find in the finest beer markets. Thanks to you all for such great craft beers!

Cheers!

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess I see your point. I was there on Saturday standing in line for 1h 25m for a chance to try the Moab/Park City brews. There were little things that the organizers should have done such as list which breweries would be at which tents (1-3), make sure the lines were matching with the tables (stood in line for 45min in the Classic Unita line only to discover that it was the Organic line), and providing the prices (tokens) for each beer on their website instead of getting a sheet the day.

Perhaps Utah and Beer festivals are not meant to mix...

Anonymous said...

I stayed away this year. I just didn’t see how they could fix the thing even if the organizers listened and tried to change things. Sounds like I made the right decision just by looking at that picture.

Until laws change and organizers get a handle on pulling these off, I will be content with traveling to regional brew festivals.

Anonymous said...

I call bullshit. Don't blame Utah. Yeah, the laws suck so we can't have outside breweries. But the fix is simple: TWO tables per brewery instead of one. That way there's TWO Epic lines, TWO Uinta lines, etc. Face it, City Weekly failed.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I believe the law argument either. Utah has a lot of Breweries compared to many other states. It doesn't matter who was at fault. The event was terrible and a rip-off. A lot of people won't be going next year, including me.

Steve Koonce said...

Nobody totally failed, but everybody sort of screwed up. First off, Anonymous number 3 is right, there should be two or three lines per table. Also, I don't understand why six breweries had to huddle under one tent, when two others had their own tents. Why not spread that out and put one Epic table in tent one and another in tent two. Another way to solve the lines is almost too disgusting to imagine, but lax the laws on kegging over 4% beer for beer fests. Hell, they have gun show laws that lax the laws for guns, so why not for beer!

Douglas said...

Yes, I suspected this and I stayed away for this reason. I've seen it happen before. Look, the problem is NOT that we can't get out of town breweries due to the 4% law on draft. The problem is that 1) the multiple breweries involved don't bring enough beer 2) there are not close to enough distribution locations 3) not enough space in general. This is EASY TO FIX. The sponsors must focus on requiring that enough beer is brought in, that more locations are serving and find a larger space. Of course, Tracks will being less that Uinta, this is to be expected. But as a whole they must get enough beer brought in. Huge lines are easily fixed by more serving locations and more beer. This was so predictable. I really think everyone involved wants to do well and that the motives are good. But look at the map of the location for this festival, does it look like enough space for a beer festival in a major city? Of course not. Mikey is dead on that SLC is too big for a small festival like this but I disagree that the main problem is no out of state breweries. We just need more beer and servers, this can be local or from Zimbabwe it doesn't matter. One other point: if they can't get more beer and a bigger location- limit attendance.

Anonymous said...

From the other side of the table I noticed a few things.

-If we have fewer breweries then we need more taps pouring, three or four for every one beer type. That alone would have speed things up three of four times faster. We need the effect of a fifty brewery showing.

-Next a line for each beer. People would come up and stand there debating, trying to decide what to get while everyone behind them waited in the damn blistering heat knowing what they wanted. So a single line for five types of beer doesn't work.

-Yes, we should be able to pour draft samples of high point at these events. Write your rep.

-Do one glass size 8 oz. After a few beers people forget about tokens and what gets what size pour. Bogged it all down. We wanted to knock it out, not figure the tokens purchase of six differently priced beers. Hand ticket-get a beer

-Yes more shade!! Nothing worse than giving out a great beer only to have it light stuck seconds later.

Best thing, we showed the state what a great craft beer scene we have in Utah. Thanks everyone.

Douglas said...

^ I find it insanely hard to believe that a beer can get 'light struck' over a few minutes It takes way longer than that I thought. Otherwise good points.

Anonymous said...

The breweries brought enough beer this year. We just could get it out fast enough. More serving locations and give us the whole block next time.

Anonymous said...

People would get back in line, in the sun, with beer in hand, waiting to get another beer. They should have been able to go sit down in the shade and enjoy.

Matt said...

CW will have to earn my trust again. I'll have to hear some REALLY good reviews next year to go the year after that. I'll supprort local by buying their beer at the liq store and bars but, I suspect, probably never again at the Beer Fest.

Matt said...

I also wanted to mention that all volunteers and servers worked hard and did an amazing job.

Ed said...

I think Mikey hit the nail on the head: The demand for this type of event is much bigger than the supply. So on the occasion that this type of thing is "allowed", then yeah -- there'll be a crowd.

Of course more lines/taps would help. But logistically, that's probably easier said than done. I would assume the brewers are already losing money on the deal as is.

Hate to even suggest this, but: It would probably help to have a big-ass macro tent, for the people who want that. I 100% appreciate that the festival is supposed to be all about the local brewers -- and all of the advertising made that pretty clear. Yet, for whatever reason, you still have people showing up expecting the kind of "beer fest" where you chug Coors Light out of a boot until you're shit-faced enough to start fights... and they just get in the way of what is really going on.

Wouldn't hurt my feelings if there was a whole separate event for that -- just dreaming ;)

Anonymous said...

Ed, I seriously doubt brewers are losing money. Actually, I have a feeling they made a killing. Brewers go to beer festivals all the time - and they don't do it to donate their beer. They got an average of $5 for every 12 ounces they poured, which is steeper than liquor store prices. Why don't we agree to talk about the things CW could have done right this year instead of giving them a scapegoat for putting on a shitty event for two years in a row? As for "easier said than done", all they have to do is put another table up under the tent and have two more volunteers with an ice bucket. Stop making excuses. This event was terrible, not because of laws, space constrictions, number of breweries or not enough supplies. It was terrible because CW chose not to learn from last year's mistakes.

Plang said...

I wasn't able to make it this year, but based on the comments and the picture, maybe that was a good thing. I knew it was going to be crazy-packed by just looking at the map of the location - they really needed the entire block and not just 1/3 or it. I think City Weekly is just trying to make due with what they have. That's fine, but unless a larger venue can be had, then this whole thing should be reconsidered for next year.

Most of the comments I see posted make penty of sense - one tent per brewer, one line per tap, etc... This is all predicated on space.

Really, what is the point of this beer fest? Is it just to have beer or is it to showcase local beer to those who may not take the time to find out on their own? If it is specifically to push local beer, then the breweries need to be more involved in event planning and maybe help to get a bigger location. There are more than five breweries in this state; get them all involved. If the point is to just have a beer festival, well that's all on City Weekly to fix if they want this thing next year.

As for the state - we know the dumb rules. People just have to learn to come up with work-arounds.

Ed said...

What I meant by "easier said than done" is that there it would take more time and money to "Just get more people to serve more beer".

I don't know how the math worked out, but I'm pretty sure brewers do festivals for the P.R., not so they can buy another Ferrari. And having attended the festival, I know the average price of a 12 oz. pour was not $5, and I really doubt all of that went straight to the brewers. And did you actually expect the prices to be the same as if you were buying a bottle off of a shelf and taking it home? Oh, man...

Anonymous said...

The breweries don't make a killing. They sell the beer to the event organizers at the same wholesale price they give every other retail establishment. What they get is marketing and hopefully by putting out great beer, and a more personal connection with their consumer following. Not a killing at all.

Matt said...

So they're selling a lot of beer at wholesale? That's hardly a donation. I'll concede the point on "a killing" but either way, the breweries profit, whether in fact or in PR (and therefore not a loss). I was not expecting liquor store prices, thank you Ed, but I was also not expecting that my first beer cost $15, that I'd have to wait in line 40 minutes to get it, and it wasn't because of the laws, it was because of poor planning.

Anonymous said...

I have worked both years at this festival (volunteer). City Weekly deserves some criticism (mostly for last year but they fixed what they could), but get real. It way improved over last year and the one place it didn't was the beer lines.
The long lines for the beer were not the fault of City Weekly. All the breweries knew how many people to plan for but they went cheap and City Weekly gets blamed for trying. Some beer ran out so you know they didn't plan because city weekly has to buy the beer, not them. If you want more people pouring beer go cry to the breweries who never supplied enough taps or people. All they had to do was supply one more pour person per brewery and the lines would have not been a problem.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the brewers faults...mmm hmmmm. Never have I seen so many ungrateful drinkers in one place at once. Stay the fuck home & drink yr pbr & canadian host instead of showing off yr lame ass tattoos u copied from an episode of Miami ink. Smaller lines fr true beer heads.

Anonymous said...

Almost all of the breweries pouring draft still had beer and plenty of it. This is not their first beer event. It didn't help that the cops forced every brewery to stop pouring at 5:30 only to find out that was total crap at 5:50, but many started breaking down. It's up to the organizers to determine space. Every table had multiple pourers with only one person served at a time. It's better sure, but to blame brewers for bad thru-put because of token confusion and one person at a time lines. I bet every brewery would have love to have a whole tent, many pourers, and the whole block. I saw plenty of full kegs ready to be tapped. Face it the DABC no doubt had their say after watching last years and they got their lines in place, anything to make it hard to get a pint.

Brannie said...

I have a hard time believing anyone was at the festival the whole time was unable to use all their tickets. I arrived an hour late and still went and bought ten more tickets. The lines did suck; honestly they were worse than I had anticipated. But I still had fun. Why? Cause I knew it wasn't going to be a major drink fest and got to spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends talking (yes, in line).

Unfortunately a Utah Beer fest can never be like the Mountain Brewers Fest in Idaho falls - we will never have the brewer to drinker ratio of an event like that.

City weekly tried - they had a lot of volunteers and employees keeping it organized. I wouldn't be surprised if they just give up after this years backlash, but I think that would be sad.

Anonymous said...

I was there all day working my tail off for a local brewery and just so y'all know, we were only given three (3) passes for employees (we did request more) and one table for pouring. We were pouring bottles and neither the three employees nor the one table were nearly enough to accommodate the crowd from the minute they opened the gates. And then there was the confusion with full pours (12 oz) and the fact that the souvenir glasses they had for purchase were 16 oz. Why not simplify by providing a 12 oz glass to begin with???
I feel CW did a much better job at organizing it this year and as with any large event, you learn from your mistakes and try to do a better job next time around.

Anonymous said...

I took the plunge and did the VIP tent. It was a great experience. I would highly recommend this experience if it is offered again. At one point we left the tent to stand in line for 40 min at one of the tents for an item that was not being sampled in the VIP tent. It seemed to be not as much as a free for all feeling that last year had. One can only hope that this is a learning experience for all and it only gets better.

Malty Goodness said...

Seriously, many, MANY whiners. I've been to brew festivals in Portland, OR and I can tell ya, if our brewers were allowed to pour EXCLUSIVELY from kegs, the lines would likely have moved quicker.

Even still, it's only their 2nd festival! I missed last year but from what I've heard from friends, this year was an improvement - even if only a slight one.

And please, all you that are threatening to avoid next year's fest, keep your promise. I'm sure I'll enjoy it more without you.

Ricky H. said...

So,

Interesting perspectives from everyone. I am not going to speculate if the breweries made any money or who was to blame for the positives or negatives of the festival. I just want to say that I am pleased this event happened again this year, it was a bit better than last year and I hope it keeps expanding and getting better in each subsequent year.

If you had such a bad time, don't go and make the line shorter for me and all my friends who came. The event seemed to be a success, and obviously needs a larger space with more people pouring more beers from more breweries. I had a great time and fully plan on going to all the upcoming fests. I spent all my tickets plus some and I showed up at about 3:30. Patience is an important virtue, especially at a beer fest. If I wanted to pound a lot of beers in rapid succession I would have stayed at home and drank a few gallons of home brew.

---Ricky H.

Anonymous said...

Malty Goodness - I don't see the problem with people making a financial decision based on the value of the event. Based on the number of negative responses, I think the larger issue here is whether or not this year's event has alienated so many patrons that next year's will be a loss. Or maybe there won't be a Beer Festival for you to enjoy without the "whiners". Whiners or not, people speak with their wallets - do you really think there would have been any change for the better from last year if there wasn't fear of attrition? Maybe you don't want things to change and don't care if the event sucks, but don't crap on people who care enough to voice their opinions.

Douglas said...

Most of the feedback here is quite useful and from the site we are on it is obvious everyone here wants a good beerfest in Utah. It's unfair to say that people with complaints should just shut up and stay away. After all, Mikey created this post for the exact reason to discuss the festival- good and bad. No need for anyone to be defensive here.

Anonymous said...

1000% agree with douglas.

Anonymous said...

Utah Beerfest: you just ruined it. Tokens, really! If I wanted to pay for beer I would just go to my local liqueur store or pub. Utah spoils everything. No wonder your tourist industry is suffering. Have you been to the Utah’s Oktoberfest at Snowbird. Lame, lame and really lame!. And I’m not just talking about the cost or beer selection, but the food is horrible! And they keep you corralled.
I’ll just stick to real Beerfest like the Great American Beerfest in Colorado and Oktoberfest in any other state except Utah. Watch my money go to other state while you dumb these events down in good old Utah.
The sad story, is Utah does have some great brewers.

Anonymous said...

Utah Beerfest, FAIL!

Anonymous said...

Ricky H:
Did you see someone post that they "wanted to pound a lot of beers in rapid succession"? The point of beer fests is that you get to sample a lot of different beers. I'm glad you had a good time, but let me ask you: how many beers did you get a chance to try? I got to try three. Instead of three twelve ounce beers, I wish I could have had twelve three ounce beers. Waiting in twelve lines, however, would have taken anywhere from 6 - 18 hours (ie longer than the festival). Regardless, I suspect that you already understand that your implication is false, and your straw man argument was fabricated only to paint dissenters as having a drinking problem, because you are annoyed by their dissention. Not helpful.

Ricky H. said...

Anonymous (A common name when it comes to criticism),

You've won a gold medal in the conclusion jump. I said, if I wanted to pound a lot of beers I would have stayed at home. I'm sorry if my comments came off as insulting the intentions of you or your opinions. At this year, and last years, fest I overheard a lot of people complain that they weren't drunk in typical frat-boy manner. Those are the people who should stay at home and shotgun pbr so I can get another glass of Uinta Labyrinth. It is a safe assumption that if you read this blog you are the type of person who SHOULD be at a fest like this. I apologize if my post insinuated anything different.

As for how many beers did I get to try? I spent all 10 tickets and picked up a couple more, and I only did the small pours. So about 12 beers in total, in 2 1/2 hours. I'm sorry you only had 3, that would have been very frustrating. I used two glasses at a time and used waiting in line to sip and discuss the beers with my companions.

I understand everyone's frustrations at the fest, as it is a poor fest considering the quality of others around the country. However I feel the event has improved. Douglas was right when he said "It's unfair to say that people with complaints should just shut up and stay away." I don't think people should shut up, that's why I was voicing my opinion. I do, however, feel like it attracted a number of people who would be happier doing keg stands before then next U of U football game.

I've always voted with my wallet, if I like an event then I encourage it by spending money there and if I dislike it I don't show up. To sum up, a mismanaged event that slowly improves is better than no event at all. With that right attendees and alterations to the distribution of the beer the event could be awesome.

---Ricky H.
And I really am sorry if I offended anyone, Anonymous or otherwise.

Ed said...

Agreed. I doubt this applies to many people who visit this blog, but surely we all overheard people in line complaining about how they weren't already hammered. And of course, no one should "just shut up", but maybe some people should accept that a craft beer festival will never be their bag, no matter what changes/improvements could be made. People complaining that they could have gotten drunk faster and cheaper at home probably should have. No public event could ever win on that criteria.

On a side note -- With all of the tears, I forgot to whine about my own biggest gripe: No soft pretzel vendors! At a beer festival, mind you. Come on! How can I ever trust you again, City Weekly?