|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
The Kennett Square Incident by Vince Capano
To the craft beer lover the spring season shouts out one beautiful word:
“FESTIVAL”! I sometimes wonder just who the genius was who created
that first beer festival. It took a true visionary to think it was possible to
get twenty or thirty breweries together, charge a single, low fee, and then
simply open the gates and let the sampling begin. For the sake of
argument let’s just say it was Ben Franklin’s idea. Hey, considering all the
times he’s been misquoted on cheaply made t-shirts and all the bad beer
brewed in his name, birthday or otherwise, giving him credit for beer
festivals might not be historically accurate but it sure seems fair.
At most festivals good beer and good people always seem to go together.
Using the protective cover of literary license I probably could have said “at
all festivals” but the mighty call of truth does not let me do so for I cannot
omit the undeniable facts of the infamous Kennett Square incident.
Kennett Square is a tidy, historical town in eastern Pennsylvania that runs
an outstanding beer festival each year. They pitch several tents worthy of
Barnum and Bailey and bring in an array of brews ranging from Jersey’s
Cricket Hill to California’s Stone. Even more, they welcome the festival
goer with a smile. Nice place, nice people. Mostly.
Their most recent festival, as always, went on rain or shine, which was a
good thing since rain was the operable word. That day a morning wet mist
quickly became a drizzle, which became a steady rain which became a
monsoon. Lines of beer lovers patiently waited for the gates to open as
they struggled to stay dry under strategically placed tents along Main
Street, the only path to the festival. The tents fought valiantly against the
continued onslaught of a rainstorm suitable for several arks. However,
every so often Niagara like cascades of water would slide off the tents
edge. The bulging canvas and shaking tent poles served as a clear warning
of what was to happen for most of us but not for all. Every few minutes
an unsuspecting beer fan was treated to a Super Bowl like drenching not of
Gatorade but of rainwater. In defense of these poor souls it was obvious
that they had been at several pre-festival warm up stops and nothing short
of several bolts of lightning could get their attention. I’m willing to bet that
a few didn’t even realize it was raining.
As I reached the entrance I was given a sampling glass and pointed toward
one of the three interconnecting pouring tents. It was a short run through
some giant puddles and around several port-a-johns to the first tent. The
dash was made even easier since the johns had no lines. Instead, those
desperately in need of a comfort stop had queued up under the tent
nearest the johns in wide bands of disorder, each waiting to sprint
frantically once they saw the green “open” sign appeared on their
destination's door. It was a 20 yard dash using roller derby rules. Olympic
sprinters would have trouble keeping up with some of these guys. I can
only imagine a gold medal never felt as good as victory in this race.
By the end of the first hour of the festival over a thousand beer lovers had
entered the grounds. Elbow to elbow they huddled under the tents wisely
eschewing the open area drinking spots. While that kept both their clothes
and beer dry it also meant prodigiously long, serpentine lines that only
hinted at occasional movement. Some lines in the main tent stretched to
pouring stations on the far opposite side, some curled around to other
tents, and a few fell into the ageless P.T. Barnum trap as they headed to
“the egress” Then again, in the context of beer names today Egress just
might have been a good one.
Everyone was now practicing the overcrowded festival ritual – get a beer
then immediately go to the back of a line, any line, even if that new line
just might wind up at a beer you’ve already sampled. After all, sometimes
any beer is better than no beer. Then again, being forced to taste the
same beer at a festival is even worse than having some restaurant serve
your selected malted beverage in a frosted glass - and thinking they're
doing you a favor.
Then it struck me. Why not start at the sampling table, look at what’s
being served, and follow the line to the end? Starting at the finish to get to
the back to reach the front seemed to make sense ( although admittedly
not now when re-reading that sentence – let’s see if the editor keeps it in).
My scheme worked perfectly. I was on a roll, three different lines, three
different samples. I then decided to walk to the left corner of the tent
knowing that most likely there would lay yet another oasis of a new beer to
taste. Lines crisscrossed, twisted, began, stopped, and splintered along my
trek. I was facing a human labyrinth worthy of a true beer hunter. Closer,
closer I moved, always being careful to say “excuse me, just looking.....just
looking.” While that never works with Harry, the suit guy at The Men’s
Shop in town, I hoped it just might with semi-inebriated festival goers.
I continued to methodically claw my way toward the pouring station’s
identifying sign when about a quarter of a mile away (ok, about 25 feet) I
heard a screeching, shrill, voice yell, in decibels that are illegal in several
countries in the world, “You're a line cutting SOB (dear editor, I’ll save you
the trouble of using the abbreviation of what she really said), get your ass
to the end of the line. And when you get there, drop dead you bum.”
Being an ever honest, beer professional who recently donated to the Beer
Festival Code of Conduct campaign I couldn’t imagine who she was talking
to. I looked around, shaking my head that anyone would even think of,
never mind actually, cut a line.
Again came that detestable voice only now so loud that grown people
began to hold their ears in pain. “Don’t look around you piece of slime
(actually another “s” word, but slime should give you the central idea.) You’
re cutting the line.” She then pointed a long, twisted, Wicked Witch of the
West finger directly at.....me.
All eyes turned toward me. I’d have one chance to respond and one only
before the fickle crowd moved in on me in true vigilante fashion. However,
being a beer gentleman I couldn’t descend to her level, tempting though it
was. I now squarely faced the dreaded "humina...humina...humina”
moment. I looked down searching for inspiration. There it was, the last
legible page of my tasting notes had the answer. I turned toward the
woman and said “you Old Peculiar Blithering Idiot Arrogant Bastard. Wipe
that Moose Drool from your Dogfish Head."
As the cheering slowly quieted I turned away, politely thanking the many
who begged me to take their place in line. I had touched the heart of
countless fine beer people.
Oh, and a final word for that false accuser - may you go to a beer festival
where all lines lead to Coors Light.
|The Kennett Square Incident