A Beer Lover’s Plea to Beer Event Coordinators

At a Recent Beer Event
At a Recent Beer Event

I have a few suggestions to beer event coordinators.  Just note that I’ve never been on the planning side, so all of my ideas are from the point of view of the patron.

I’m a beer lover.  I try all sorts of beer, and spend quite a bit of time and money finding great beers.  I brew my own beer, try exotic beers, and have a general appreciation for all things beer.

This brings me to the beer event.  In most cases, the main beer tasting event can last 3-6 hours, and has beer vendors who distribute locally where the event is hosted.  This part of the event, the main event, is great for folks who are new to beer or haven’t tried a lot of different styles or breweries.

In many cases, in addition to the main event, there is also an earlier experience (1-2 hours earlier) with fewer, limited tickets, sometimes labeled a “Brewmaster” ticket.  It is usually almost twice the price of the general admission ticket.  The crowd of people who attend this earlier event are folks just like me.  A lot of event coordinators advertise the “Brewmaster session” by stating things like “an extra hour (or two) of tasting” and “a better tasting glass”.  Unfortunately, to beer lovers like myself, this usually doesn’t justify the expense.  The reason for this is because we are looking for an experience.  Let me break down several ideas that could help turn this “Brewmaster session” into a true experience for beer lovers like myself.

First, the glass is much better than the standard tasting glass (which also needs to change to a mini-goblet or mini-tulip, instead of the mini-pilsner), but it needs to be a goblet-style or tulip-style glass.  Some of the events I’ve recently attended were handing out kolsch-style glasses, which are long and slender.  Most beer lovers prefer rounder glasses (globes or goblets), or tulip-shaped glasses because the beers we want to taste have better flavor and aroma and tend to taste better in these glasses.  Tactually, these glasses feel great in the hand and help us form a bond with the beer in the glass.  Or, if possible, allow us to bring our own glass, as long as it fits certain guidelines.

Beyond that, the extra hour isn’t as important, especially if we wait a long time in line to enter.  At a few of the recent events, by the time the last few “Brewmaster” patrons had entered, 20 minutes later the general admission began.  As a suggestion, try to speed up admission by checking ID’s and giving wristbands while people are waiting in line.  Also, if there are other items we could do ahead of time while waiting (filling out raffles, etc.), let us know so we can take care of these tasks before getting to the front of the line.  This way, a crowd of 500 can easily be in the event within minutes, allowing everyone to go try any special beers the vendors have.

Once inside, we would like not only a map of the vendors, but highlight those who are bringing special brews to the event.  As a matter of fact, many of the beer vendors can put away their flagship beers, and save them for the main tasting event.  Unless the beer is new to the area, almost everyone at the “Brewmaster” tasting session has more than likely tasted your regular lineup.  We want an experience, and new or interesting beers are exactly what we are looking for.  And why wait to serve special beers until later in the day?  The people who love your beer and will more than likely go out and buy it are here now, during the “Brewmaster” session.

Now, the point I want to make, if I haven’t made it clear, is that at beer events, we are looking for an experience.  We want to make sure we remember this event for a long time.  The way this happens is not through a magic glass or more time to get drunk, but by enjoying great beer with other beer lovers, and as a patron, we want to make sure you focus on that when planning your next beer event.

Got any other ideas?  Think I’m full of it?  Tell me what you think!

Samuel Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary

Utopias 10th Anniversary
Utopias 10th Anniversary

This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity.  A friend of mine had the chance to buy a bottle of the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias.  Before the beer is complete, it undergoes quite a bit of a process; in addition to the standard beer ingredients there are also several sugars added (i.e. maple syrup).  There is then a long fermentation time, utilizing several yeast strains, finishing with champagne yeast since it can handle the higher alcohol content.  After it is done fermenting, it clocks in at a whopping 29% ABV.  It is then aged in casks that previously held bourbon, rum, tawny port and ruby port.

All of this equals a very complex beer.  There were three of us who tried it, and each of us has different experiences.  One tasted a smoky maple flavor, another tasted a sweet vanilla and maple flavor.  For some reason, I tasted a bit of banana flavor, with a lot of strong vanilla hints.  It was very alcoholic, reminded me of a whiskey, and burned all the way into the stomach.  It was definitely not for the faint of heart, but for a beer lover like myself, it was great.

Have you tried Utopias?  What did you think?

Iowa City Brewfest 2012

Brewfest 2012!
Brewfest 2012!

It’s been a couple of weeks since Iowa City Brewfest, 2012, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the event.

With the “Brewmaster” ticket, we were able to enter an hour early, and many brewers had special or limited release beers.  Some of the more memorable ones included:

Overall, I was impressed with the high quality of the unique beers, but a bit disappointed by the low number of special beers.  For example, in the past, New Belgium and Boulevard brought beers either not yet available or a special barrel-aged beer, but this year both brought their widely available beers, from their Lips of Faith (New Belgium) and Smokestack Series (Boulevard).

Overall, it was a very good experience, but with the “Brewmaster” ticket, which has been very valuable in years past, it wasn’t quite as memorable.  My only hope is that the larger breweries recognize what a great beer hotspot Iowa City is, and start saving some of those memorable beers for us!

Did you go to the Iowa City Brewfest 2012?  What was your take?

Iowa City Brewfest 2012 is Saturday

Welcome to Brewfest!
Welcome to Brewfest!

Just a reminder that the 2012 Iowa City Northside Octoberfest / Brewfest is this weekend, with the Brewfest on Saturday.

It looks to be an exciting year, since the number of Iowa breweries has grown in the last year, as well as a few new out-of-state breweries (Schlafly, Founders, Tallgrass Brewing, and Green Flash to name a few), not to mention the new Backpocket Brewery in Coralville.

The most recent addition to Iowa’s shelves is Stone Brewing out of Escondido, California.

Hope to see you there!

An Evening with the Basic Brewing Guys

Basic Brewing Guys
Hanging with the Basic Brewing Guys - (from left to right) Steve, me, Andy, James

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Northwest Arkansas.  While there, I had the privilege to meet up and hang out with the guys from Basic Brewing, my favorite brewing podcast and video podcast.  You may remember last year I had a chance to chat with the guys about the spontaneous homebrew I had made.

To begin the evening, we met up at Tanglewood Branch, where I had a chance to finally meet James, Steve, and Andy in-person.  While at the pub, I had a chance to try the porter made by the owner/brewmaster, J.T. Wampler.  After we finished our beers, we decided to head over to the Fayetteville square and enjoy some pizza from Tiny Tim’s Pizza and West Mountain Brewing Company.

West Mountain was a quaint restaurant that had been a pizza place for some time, but just began brewing at the end of 2011.  While there, as we were enjoying the pizza, I tried the Rye Pale Ale and the West Mountain Saison, with the saison being my favorite of the two.

After we had finished our meal, Steve decided to call it an evening, but James, Andy, and I went back to Andy’s home.  James had brought a few of the beers he had purchased while at the Great Taste of the Midwest the previous weekend in Wisconsin.  Additionally, I also wanted to see Andy’s automated brewing setup he had (along with the barrel he had just purchased; see the Basic Brewing Radio archives for more info).  While checking out the brewing setup, we split the Berliner Weiss James had just made (7/26/2012 episode of Basic Brewing Radio), along with a couple of New Glarus beers – the Thumbprint Saison and the R & D Sour Ale.  After a while, we realized it had gotten late, and we decided to call it a night.

Over the course of the evening, I had a chance to sample some great beers and enjoy great company.  I hope the next time I get a chance to visit Fayetteville the guys are available again, so we can have another great time.