Better Beer Festivals
by Reid J. Johnson
Bob - I recently went to a craft beer festival in the border cities of Baja
California. In some ways I found it to be just like any festival here in
the US but not so in other ways. It's those unique factors that I
believe would greatly improve the festivals throughout the country.
The festival had sea of hundreds of tents belonging to local breweries
and eateries, the complimentary taster glasses, the taps from which
IPAs, coffee stouts and saisons (aka cerveza artesanal) flows — all of
that is the same as it is in the States. But here's are some key
differences. Beer festivals in Mexico are really long, some going up to
12 hours! The Ensenada Beer Fest, held near the city’s waterfront,
started at 2 p.m. and didn’t shut down until well after midnight. The
Tijuana Beer Fest, which is held every summer, runs for two days
straight with hours listed as “all day.” And in Mexicali, the city’s brewers
organize a more intimate festival — that still runs from 4 p.m. until
midnight. A small entrance fee (around $7) gets you access to samples
from 50-plus brands at each fest, and individual tasters and full glasses
will set you back $1 to $2.50, payable to each brewery.
On this side of the border, beer festivals feature unlimited pours for
one price and don’t run longer than four hours. However, imagine if
there wasn’t so much of a rush to get through as many of the 100-
plus beers as possible in just three hours. What if the point wasn’t to
get your money's worth by quickly sampling as possible beers before
time runs out? What if your only concern was to casually wander from
booth to booth, taste only the beers you felt like paying for, talk to the
brewers and savor it all instead? That would be so much better in my
Mexican beer fest attendees are encouraged to pace themselves, sip
slowly and chat with the brewers, who are often pouring the beers.
There also isn’t the pressure to rush for samples from hyped-up
breweries or "rare" one offs eliminating the massive lines that places like
Russian River Brewing Company and The Bruery attract at festivals in
Education is also a massive component built into each of the three
Baja beer fests, both for attendees and brewers. Since most of the
breweries sprang from homebrew operations (or in lax-law Mexico, are
still homebrew operations), both groups can benefit from learning
more about process, flavors and how to make beers with native
Mexicali’s Beer Fest has an entire program of informal seminars hosted
from a makeshift open-air classroom in the middle of the festival. From
discussing women in craft beer to an ultra-scientific explanation of
yeast control systems, brewers from Baja, SoCal and beyond give
talks that attract notebook-wielders and passersby alike.
I went to Ensenada’s conference at the fest and it included discussions
on the history of beer in Tijuana and how to build your business on
both sides of the border. There was also a presentation on water
treatment and quality. Since I knew there was plenty of time to taste
all the beers I stopped and enjoyed the seminar. When's the last time
anyone really took time out of the short time available at an American
festival to actually go to one (if they even have any) educational
presentations that make the beer tasting even more fun.?
Now you might say that a shorter festival means less time for some
people to over indulge. My answer is that those people will likely drink
to excess regardless of the length of a festival.
Well Bob, hope I made some sense with all of this. I truly believe that
there would be fewer individuals who over-indulge at longer festivals,
longer by 3 or 4 hours that is. I realize it's a minority view but that
doesn't mean it's entirely wrong.
Thanks for listening and thanks for a great website.
Thanks for your article Reid. You've give me and our readers a lot to
think about. And that's what good articles are supposed to do!
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer/drinking/booze just as John did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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