Posted by: Scott | February 17, 2010

Strong Beer Fest | Part 2

Remember when I wrote about the greatness of beer festivals? Well, they can also kind of suck. Here are some reasons why enjoying a beer at a brewpub or in your home is sometimes better than at a park with a bunch of drunks.

The Bad

1. Sample limits?! (Disclaimer: This doesn’t apply to every beer festival.)

Forcing attendees to pay $35 for only 15 samples of beer seems a bit counterintuitive to yesterday’s thoughts about beer people. Rumor has it the state liquor board imposed the sample limit after last year’s festival got a little too rowdy. Supposedly the people at the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild (who run the festival) were unhappy about it too. So it goes.

Perhaps "ungodly lines" should have been Bad #1.

Did the limit actually work? I have my doubts. People still got drunk — perhaps more drunk than they would have without the quota. But 15 samples (which became 30 samples when my friend and I started sharing each) was more than enough to cause

2. Total palate annihilation

In general, beer festivals punish your taste buds, which stinks because the whole point is to actually taste new beers. After a few strong ones, however, your palate is usually beyond the aid of bland foods and water. At this point you’re not tasting a beer at its best; you’re tasting a half-there shadow of its former flavors.

This is the result of a phenomenon called palate fatigue, which, depending on your sources, means that either your taste buds are getting tired, or your brain is. I lean toward the former because my tongue always feels less responsive after a few drinks, even if you wait several minutes between them to clear the flavors from your mind. Plus, clearing the mind becomes more and more difficult as

3. You get drunk

Those dainty 4-ounce cups can get you pretty damn intoxicated. Plus, I think the sample limit contributed to drunkenness. Strong beers sneak up on you quickly, and many attendees might have stopped earlier if they hadn’t found a few more samples on their wristband. Either way, it didn’t seem to work as planned: As we were leaving, we found two fellows passed out on the sidewalk. Hopefully no one attempted to drive away in such a state (or in the slightly improved state needed to stand up and open a car door).

Drunk enough to get temporary tattoos. And to advertise for Kirkland, apparently.

Don’t get me wrong; a slight buzz can make the festival more fun and relaxed for all, but a real beer lover comes for the beer and the way it tastes, not for the effect it has on the body. Drinking irresponsibly is never OK. Besides, another side effect of everyone getting all besotted and unfocused was that

4. Breweries stopped giving a crap

Some of the breweries did not show their best faces at this beer festival. In fact, a few names on the guest list didn’t show any face at all (either that or Avery found a superb hiding spot). I did manage to find Dogfish Head, the Delaware brewery that topped my list of the five best American breweries, but they might as well have called in sick. No World Wide Stout. No 120 Minute IPA. (Both are 18% beers.) The strongest beer they brought? Their staple 90 Minute IPA, a 9% bone thrown at Arizona beer lovers. Next to that I saw the 7% Punkin Ale and, finally, the Chicory Stout at 5.2%. In beer terms, that’s not strong. That’s good old-fashioned vanilla regular. And, given that both the Chicory Stout and Punkin Ale are year-end seasonals, Dogfish Head’s sad showing makes me think they (or perhaps their regional director?) decided to use this festival as an excuse to get rid of their leftovers. Not cool, guys.

To be clear, I’m not angry about beers with lower alcohol content (even though they clearly didn’t follow the rules). I wasn’t there to get drunk. But Dogfish Head charges $1-$3 a bottle for the beers they brought to festival, and I’ve tried them all on numerous occasions. The World Wide Stout and 120 Minute IPA, however, both retail for almost $10, and I’ve only ever tried each once.

There you have it. A festival with ups and downs. I’d give it a B- overall. Well, I guess that’s all I have to say about … oh wait, I almost forgot to mention the PURE UNADULTERATED INSANITY.

Tomorrow: The Ugly.


Responses

  1. you pretty much nailed the negatives. fortunately, i think the positives outweigh them. and i really want to meet up with you for the portland one at some time in the future.

    • It’s a freakin’ date. I can’t begin to imagine how awesome a beer fest in Portland must be.

      And I agree; generally the positives do outweigh the negatives.


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