Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Midwinter beer festival—you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling:

David and I attended the first Midwinter beer festival at the Radisson hotel in Covington Kentucky last year so we were really looking forward to it this past Friday.

Last year there were only two Saturday sessions, one earlier in the afternoon and one later. This year, a Friday session was added. We were planning to go on Saturday, but had some scheduling conflicts and ended up at the Friday session.

We have to be honest here—we were very disappointed in this year’s festival.
To fully understand why we were disappointed, you probably would have to have seen last year’s festival. It was very much a beer-geek convention. Last Friday, by comparison, was an all-you-can-eat sizzler style beer buffet.

The biggest change we noticed was that someone had body-snatched the actual brewery vendorstaff. Some of the bigger and some local breweries— Alltech, Christian Moerlein, Barrel House, HH and I think Warsteiner too—they had their own staff there, that actually worked for the company producing their designated beverages, but they were the exception.

more Vanilla Porter, please

Mt Carmel was curiously missing, and I was disappointed they didn’t attend, especially being a local brewery. I had a few questions for them and want to learn more about their brewery. Anyone know what’s going on there?

The other booths were staffed by volunteers from the area. The Cincinnati Rollergirls volunteered as well. I appreciate that everyone volunteered their time, however, one of the biggest plusses at last years festival was talking to the vendors.

They knew their beer, told us about their company, and if you were deemed worthy, let you try the “special” bottles under the counter. On Friday, some of the volunteers had actually tried the beer they were pouring, some had not. Some simply read me the label of the beer when asked about it. For example, when I inquired about Kasteel Rouge, I was told that it…er… had cherries in it?

Correct, but hardly helpful.

I specifically remember the Dogfish head booth last year—our positive experience there led us to try more of their beers and now we are big fans.
The absence of that this year is almost insulting. I want to know where the vendors went. What’s the story? Is it too expensive? Did they run at a huge loss last year? Were they all stuck in traffic?

Last year, many of the more unique breweries had their own microtap equipment. This year, many just had bottles. Not very well stocked bottles, either. We got there at around 7:45, and Dogfish Head was already out of the two beers they advertised being there—Palo Santo and 120 minute IPA. All they had was 90 minute IPA, and when we left at about 9:00, they were out of that too.

Also, there were cigars and whiskey being sold. Odd.

The Cork and Bottle logo was everywhere. David and I are largely suspicious that the fact that the beer festival was basically bought out is responsible for the supply issues and the kidnapped vendors.

The positives were that the food was in much better supply than last year. Last year it was the food that was understocked and it was gone in about 20 minutes after it was brought out. This year, cheese coneys and meatballs were available without any problems.

The band was good, though a little overboosted. They played “Born in Chicago” right before we left, which made me happy.

David and I sampled a few of our favorites, BBC had Jefferson’s reserve, which David loves, so he went with that.

I had a Warsteiner Dunkel to start.
After I finished that I went with the Double Bastard.
I tried the Spaten Dark, which I thought was OK. I still prefer Optimator out of them all.
I tried the Christian Moerlein Helles, Matilda, and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
I had some Dogfish 90 minute after being disappointed that was all they had.
David tried the Delirium Nocturnum, and I had the Delirium Tremens. David also tried the Kasteel Rouge and Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal stout.
I tried the Three Pistols and Brekenridge’s vanilla porter.

I’d had all the beers that I tried before with the exception of the Spaten Dark, which is new.

A few of my friends attended on Saturday and they said that only an hour and a half into the event, the festival ran out of glasses and in addition had the same problem as Friday, with under stocking the actual beers themselves.
They said it was very crowded with more people that seemed to just want to get drunk—and were succeeding.

I really don’t understand the glass problem. Whoever’s in charge of ticket sales should know how many tickets were pre-sold, and how many tickets are still left. Some people might drop their glass, or accidentally throw them away, or take a few more that they are supposed to, so it’s only smart to over-order a little.
If you have extras at the end of the night, you can always sell them to people who are leaving. It seems that this is very indicative of poor planning. Either that, or this was deliberate and they knew that they would run out of glasses, but didn’t care.
oooh lala, David

blues does make me happy

David and I tried a lot of different beers, but we really missed the vendor element. I’d say once I went to Dogfish and found out they were out of beer, my spiral of disappointment began and I couldn’t really get out of it. David and I got more and more disappointed and left early.

If no one can explain to people about what they are drinking—and to give them credit, some of the volunteers tried very hard—then those there to try new beers cannot appreciate it properly.

I know that a lot of people had a really good time at the beer festival, and for 35.00 it was a good value. However, I feel like it was bought out and turned into a generic all you can drink party. A party with better food than last year, but that overlooked two major elements in the planning—the people and the product.

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I try to be honest, fair and keep a good sense of humor in my posts--I would appreciate if you follow the same policy with your comments.