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Austin Beer Fail
April 3, 2012 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Over the weekend, Austin had a beer festival. It was a disaster. An apology was offered on facebook. But it looks like this wasn't the first time the organizers tried this game.
posted by jkolko (103 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
The hyperbole is something:

THIS WAS THE WORST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE YOU BUNCH OF CLOWNS. I am disgusted that I paid money to be involved in this. I hope everyone involved with planning this rots in hell for a millenia.
posted by jkolko at 2:39 PM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Makes me glad I live in SoCal:

Oakquinox!
posted by Huck500 at 2:47 PM on April 3, 2012


Yow. Them Yelpers are pissed.


(And not in the good way.)
posted by darkstar at 2:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yow. Them Yelpers are pissed.

And unintentionally hilarious:

"The food was kinda OK, but it could have been a bit better and more of it."

The food here is terrible! And the portions! So small!
posted by Hoopo at 2:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [46 favorites]


That is one awesome looking VIP tent!
posted by Big_B at 2:57 PM on April 3, 2012


Makes me appreciate the Music City brewer's festival more I guess.

Also, wow:

Meanwhile, the same organizers saw their L.A. Beerathon cancelled over the weekend in Los Angeles after they failed to obtain any basic licenses for the festival...such as a liquor license.

"The organizers do not hold any licenses authorizing them to sell alcohol," said John Carr, a media-relations officer for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "Selling alcohol without a license is a misdemeanor in California."

The only silver lining in the Austin Beer Fest / L.A. Beerathon scandal is that the organizers appear to have learned from an earlier lesson while hosting the similarly fail-tastic Houston Wine Fest: Don't call your organization a 501(c)(3) charity when you haven't been approved by the IRS.

posted by ghharr at 2:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe the organizers should hop a plane to Belgium and check out Zythos Bier Fest to see how it's done. Entry is free, you rent a fairly generous sized taster glass for a nominal fee (like 3 euro?), then all samples of the glorious nectars are 1 euro each. I went last year, for two days in a row. It is my own personal Happiest Place on Earth.
posted by medeine at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I went to Top of the Hops, and had a great time. It's not that hard, people.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:09 PM on April 3, 2012


it doesn't look like they're trying to set up any sort of quality beer fest...they've figured out how to rent cheap venues, charge a lot for parking/tickets/refills, provide grocery store beers, then do it all over again somewhere else.
posted by camdan at 3:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


One star is an extreme understatement of how bad this event was. I am truly shocked that the police onsite did not arrest the event organizer for robbery ..... that's exactly what it was.
Wow, and here my biggest complaint about the Portland beer festivals is there are too many people going "Woooooooooo!" at random intervals.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guys. BEER. FESTIVAL. What were you expecting.
posted by falameufilho at 3:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe the organizers should hop a plane to Belgium and check out Zythos Bier Fest to see how it's done.

It sounds a lot like the organizers don't really care about how it's done. They care more about siphoning out the maximum amount of cash while providing the minimum amount of experience.

On preview: Or, what camdan said.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2012


Sounds like someone forgot to Pre-Game...
posted by jefficator at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


What were you expecting.

I dunno, interesting beers from international importers, a few seasonals from established brewmasters wanting to strut their stuff, a few craft brewers operating out of a shed that I've never heard of. Maybe a specialty pub or two. Beerheads having Serious Conversations about the relative benefits of Crystal or Chocolate malts. And people going Wooo! every now and then just from the sheer joy of being there. You know, the good stuff.
posted by bonehead at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [36 favorites]


Guys. BEER. FESTIVAL. What were you expecting.

Ottawa used to have one on the lawn of City hall. Good food, good beer from both major breweries and local micros, and this guy in lederhosen who chugged beer while standing on his head. The only complaint I had was that the cups they give you were tiny so you'd wind up spending a ton on drink tickets -- when I look at a beer festival I see it as a promotional exercise for brewers, so I'm guessing this goes entirely to the organizers and serves to discourage people from getting really loaded. Well, IT DIDN'T WORK, SUCKERS! All you gotta do is make nice with one of the microbrew places and you get all kinds of free refills.
posted by Hoopo at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2012


Maybe the organizers should hop a plane to Belgium and check out Zythos Bier Fest to see how it's done. Entry is free, you rent a fairly generous sized taster glass for a nominal fee (like 3 euro?), then all samples of the glorious nectars are 1 euro each. I went last year, for two days in a row. It is my own personal Happiest Place on Earth.

According to their non-pology, the festival itself couldn't profit off the sale of beer at the venue they chose. Which kind of makes it hard to run a beer festival.
posted by muddgirl at 3:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Real Ale festivals I went to in Britain were very good. The entrance fee was not that much, and there was a massive selection of beer, even at the winter mini-festival. My only (not quite) complaint is that beer was only sold in 1/2 pint or full pint glasses, but I'm both a lightweight and interested in tasting lots of beers - I would have like to have been able to get 1/4 pints. That said, they were pretty good about giving you a little taste before you committed to as much as a 1/2 pint.
posted by jb at 3:20 PM on April 3, 2012


Sadly, because of scheduling conflicts, we were unable to attend the outstanding Washington Beer Cask Fest that was this past weekend in Seattle. We've been twice before. It's well-organized, not insanely crowded, and has an absurd amount of excellent beer on offer.

So it would seem, falameufilho, that it's not necessarily difficult to have a good beer fest.
posted by rtha at 3:22 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Friends of mine went and have been venting their fury on Facebook for days.
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


in bed
posted by gnomes at 3:24 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've been to plenty of good beer festivals, too. It's not actually like finding the Higgs boson--sure, it requires planning and organization and setting realistic expectations and making good relationships with vendors, absolutely none of which these folks seem to have thought was important, but ultimately it's a big party/conference, which people organize successfully all over the world every fucking day of the year.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the organizers aren't even very good at being scam artists: They've done some things that may open them up to litigation. The real challenge is to offer a mediocre experience that gouges and infuriates customers without *technically* lying to them.

Amateurs. I suggest they consult Universal Orlando Resort before trying this again.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Compare the Yelp responses to the American Craft Beer Festival, an event that's local to me and that I've attended and enjoyed.

The idea that nobody should be criticized for thoroughly fucking up something that, though complex to execute, happens without incident all over the place all the time when people know what they're doing, seems bizarre to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


darkstar: “Yow. Them Yelpers are pissed.”

Aren't you being redundant here?

I trust Yelp reviews only slightly less than I trust Fox News. Does anybody have a link to a source on this that doesn't absolutely suck?
posted by koeselitz at 3:32 PM on April 3, 2012


Like maybe the last link. Thanks, I'll show myself out.
posted by koeselitz at 3:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the apology is taken down? I don't see anything
posted by jcruelty at 3:33 PM on April 3, 2012


> I'm both a lightweight and interested in tasting lots of beers

Same here, which is why I like the system used at the Cask Beer Fest rtha linked to (and probably other beer festivals, but it's the only one I've been to). You get handed a small glass and a pile of tokens when you walk in. Each beer costs one token, and you get a reasonably amount of beer -- but not a drink's worth. Even a lightweight like me gets her money's worth and gets to try a great variety of beers. It's even acceptable to pour out beer if you want to save room for a different one.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2012


San Antonio manages to pull off, essentially a beer festival every day for 10 days once a year.

I trust Yelp reviews only slightly less than I trust Fox News. Does anybody have a link to a source on this that doesn't absolutely suck?

Well, there's a Facebook page, of course, with some pretty telling pictures of endless lines and booths that aren't set up an hour after the start time.
posted by muddgirl at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let me get this straight: You pay $35, then $10 more to park, and then stand in line in the hot sun for a 2-ounce spritz of beer?

And people bought tickets for this?

Wow, Texas is weirder than I thought.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guys. BEER. FESTIVAL. What were you expecting.

Understand that in the US, we don't actually produce anything, much less a beer festival, for a cultural motive any more. Most events these days are funnels crafted in order to gently relieve you of your money whilst providing a few hours of recreation under the guise of a unique experience.

You can name your event anything you want as long as the pitch sells tickets. After that, feel free to oversell and under-deliver as there'll be plenty of equally soulless vendors willing to help you along the way in exchange for a cut.

Americans have been socialized into having low expectations for anything mass-produced, and anyways, who's going to remember that last year's GOOD TIMES DRUNK BABES BEER FESTIVAL sucked?
posted by jsavimbi at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


They care more about siphoning out the maximum amount of cash while providing the minimum amount of experience.

Yes, as jsavimbi notes, this is the USA. It's all about extracting the largest profit from the least effort.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:44 PM on April 3, 2012


I guess you can find a way to twist anything into a complete indictment of America, huh? I've been to plenty of beer events in America that were just fine and almost certainly were done out of a love for beer, food, and/or music than money.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


I guess the apology is taken down? I don't see anything"

It's there hidden under the fold. Click on "...See More" under the status update that starts with this exchange:
“What is this beer?”
“What do you mean?”
“This beer, I’ve never heard of any of it.”
“It’s all craft beer, and it’s kind of the point of the festival.”
It's not so much an apology as a throwing under the bus of anyone but the promoters.
posted by jamaro at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I couldn't resist a grin at all the "Lone Star" reviews on Yelp.
posted by kurumi at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the looks of the photos on the "Austin Beer Fest Sucked" Facebook, it really looks like a ramshackle event thrown in a state fairground parking lot.
posted by wcfields at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess you can find a way to twist anything into a complete indictment of America, huh?

No. It's a description of the standard business model here. It says nothing about the rest of America. Your good beer festivals are deviations from the standard model.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:51 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been to a huge number of beer festivals, and only ONE that really sucked. Which strangely had some of the same issues as this one.

Last one was held at the local huge expo, where yes, parking was $10. Or you could take the free beerfest sponsored shuttles from the local light rail to the event. I did the latter and had a great time. Although I don't remember how I got home.
posted by Big_B at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hope the promoters of Sherbrooke's first beer festival this summer are taking note. It's within walking distance of my house AND I WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
posted by Kitteh at 4:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, as jsavimbi notes, this is the USA. It's all about extracting the largest profit from the least effort.

God knows no one else on the planet does any such thing! USA! USA!

jsavimbi's statement was just silly. No one, anywhere in the country, produces anything unless there's a profit, and it's guaranteed to be shitty? Come on.
posted by rtha at 4:08 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is such a tragedy in so many levels. urp
posted by jabberjaw at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me get this straight: You pay $35, then $10 more to park, and then stand in line in the hot sun for a 2-ounce spritz of beer?

Not only that, but for mainstream beers in bottles that you could buy much cheaper at any supermarket in town, evidently. No wonder they were pissed.
posted by darkstar at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2012


And I have to say: there's something a little incongruous about having parking serve as one of your profit centers for a beer festival in the first place. I mean, it's basically saying the only way we make money is if we plan on encouraging folks to drive drunk.
posted by darkstar at 4:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Wow. This really made me appreciate out local beerfest. In Tucson it's one of the largest fundraising events for a charity (Sun Sounds Foundation) Free parking, larger than 2 oz glass, live music all night long, organized games, free local food vendor samples and more beer tickets that I have ever been able to use. It's not a huge festival, but it's always a good time. I don't believe you could even "purchase" alcohol if you wanted to, it's all on the ticket system, and you can't buy more tickets.
posted by lizjohn at 4:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My only (not quite) complaint is that beer was only sold in 1/2 pint or full pint glasses, but I'm both a lightweight and interested in tasting lots of beers - I would have like to have been able to get 1/4 pints. That said, they were pretty good about giving you a little taste before you committed to as much as a 1/2 pint.

It used to be (and might well still be - I haven't worked in a pub for years) illegal to sell draught beer in anything other than pints or half pints in Britain, for obscure ancient reasons.
posted by dng at 4:36 PM on April 3, 2012


I mean, it's basically saying the only way we make money is if we plan on encouraging folks to drive drunk.
If you give them enough to get them drunk, that is.
posted by Night_owl at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2012


Woooo! Brewgrass! In your face Austin! ASH-ville! ASH-ville! Wooooo!
*waves shirt around head*

The preceding was done mostly for fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit's entertainment.

Also: is anyone else getting a snow plow ad on that last link... for a Houston TX blog? Yeeah, that... may not be your target market.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google Offers gave a blanket refund to everyone as of this morning due to the amount of complaints.
posted by jcking77 at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2012


Wow. I knew people that went in Houston last year, and reported what a clusterfuck it was. It's pretty brazen of them to pretend that "no really, not our fault that it happend
posted by uberchet at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2012


Compare their logo (from the last link) to the logo of this homebrew forum. The forum has had their logo for at least 4 years.

And, being in Michigan, I feel sorry for people without access to our Michigan Brewers Guild festival.
posted by revgeorge at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow. I knew folks who went to the Houston fest last year, and were righteously pissed. It's amazingly brazen that they went over to Austin, pulled the same shit, and expect people to believe them.

What jackasses.
posted by uberchet at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Revgeorge, it appears that your link to the homebrew forum is borked. But tipped off by your comment, I just spent thirty seconds googling and found this forum, which I suspect is the one you're talking about. Good catch! The Austin Beer Fest clearly stole their logo. Booooo!
posted by darkstar at 5:14 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ooof. I used to wrangle volunteers for the Boston BeerSummit. The amount of work that goes into these events in order to get them right is astounding. It's not just a matter of getting a bunch of beer dropped off into a venue!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2012


> The amount of work that goes into these events in order to get them right is astounding.

Exactly. In Portland it happens so frequently because it happens so frequently: everyone here knows the drill, there are smaller beer gatherings for some sort of dry hopped beer tasting or whatever that all parties involved are experienced at it. Making a big beer festival happen is ramping it up a lot, but still the breweries know what to expect, the organizers are experienced, and so on.

Maybe some PDX beer geeks should just start a service training other beer geeks on how to do their own festivals.

But also, I don't know how strong Texas's brewing community is, last time I was in Houston I knew there where a scant few actual brewpubs, it was either large breweries or out of state microbreweries, which means no boots on the ground to hash out the details, or large breweries just wanting their own tents, and so on.

If I were going to work on a beer festival in a place like that, I'd try to do small ones once a quarter, with limited ticket sales and better pricing (Washington Cask Beer Festival has two sessions, $35 a pop for 10 3oz tastes, with option to buy more tickets, max 250 people per session I think) in order to optimize the logistics before trying to tackle anything that needs a venue with dedicated parking. Also put it next to mass transit whatever you got.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:31 PM on April 3, 2012


> Understand that in the US, we don't actually produce anything, much less a beer festival, for a cultural motive any more.

There are tons of beer festivals that exist so that people can try amazing beer. Not to make money. For the brewers its about marketing and networking, for the organizers its about strengthening the local beer community, and for the participants it is about sampling amazing beers.

None of the folks I know who participate in such enterprises are in it for the profit. They are just stupidly in love with hops and barley.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


But also, I don't know how strong Texas's brewing community is, last time I was in Houston I knew there where a scant few actual brewpubs, it was either large breweries or out of state microbreweries, which means no boots on the ground to hash out the details, or large breweries just wanting their own tents, and so on.

There's a decent number of in-state microbreweries too. We're not Colorado or anything, but we get by. But you're right about brewpubs. Here in Austin there are a bunch of bars that sell bottled beer from various micros around TX, but I can only think of two actual brewpubs. I don't know if there's some quirk of TX liquor law behind this or if it's just sort of how the local beer nerd scene turned out.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:42 PM on April 3, 2012


Shit, Peoria has a better beer fest than this. The expo grounds that they hold it on are kind of ugly and I get tired of the noise that builds up in the big concrete barns after a while, but there's an excellent assortment of beers, including such local microbrews as there are, and they even have booths for local homebrewers to strut their stuff. And, IIRC, parking is free. Plus the sampler glasses (they do run out, but not that quickly) are 4 ounces. It's done as a fundraiser for the local Jaycees (in other news, the Jaycees still exist) and although I'll be skipping it this year it's honestly one of the better annual local events.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:42 PM on April 3, 2012


Let me get this straight: You pay $35, then $10 more to park, and then stand in line in the hot sun for a 2-ounce spritz of beer?

And people bought tickets for this?


Presumably they would have been a lot less likely to buy tickets had they known about the $10 parking and the 2 oz sample size, neither of which pieces of information was available in advance as far as I can tell.
posted by naoko at 5:43 PM on April 3, 2012


Here is a direct link to the actual apology.
posted by mkb at 5:44 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Washington Cask Beer Festival has two sessions, $35 a pop for 10 3oz tastes,

And in my experience, most of the brewers weren't really keeping track of who tossed a token in the bucket and who didn't. I've always come home with a lot of tokens, and it ain't because I didn't drink my weight in beer.
posted by rtha at 6:00 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


We were not told of the parking fee and were lied to on the size of the tasters.

Most times I asked about a beer and the person working the booth would just say "I'm just helping out. I don't know anything about it."

Yes, Yelpers are prone to hyperbole, but any of the facts (45 minutes to park due to there only being one person taking money, long lines, grouchy staff, expensive beers) can be verified by people there.
posted by jcking77 at 6:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


the hell are people doing driving to a beer festival in the first place?
posted by entropone at 6:04 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and selling beer for $7 and requiring you to purchase them with $1 beer tickets that came in blocks of 20 was cute little way to siphon money too.
posted by jcking77 at 6:06 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


more of a Beer Carnival, really.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:17 PM on April 3, 2012


About the logo thing, both of those logos are based on this stock image so I think that's not actually as slimy as it looked at first.
posted by mendel at 6:24 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Every so often (over a lifetime) some friend says it would be really fun to put on a festival of some kind, and occasionally they go through with it and it is a reasonable success, or they look into the enormity of it and give up, but a few never do anything but also never let the dream die, they just keep dreaming up ways of how cool it will be and how much money they'll make, but never lift a finger, and I am always grateful for this, because as described here the festival that was put on in Austin turned out *exactly* as I always imagine those dreamers' festivals would turn out.
posted by davejay at 6:44 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know if there's some quirk of TX liquor law behind this or if it's just sort of how the local beer nerd scene turned out.

One outrageous quirk in the liquor laws is that you can not buy beer directly from a brewery in Texas. Not a keg, not a growler, not a six. It has to be sold through a distributor. I live maybe a mile from Austin Beer Works (is that the right name? They make Pearl Snap?) and they sell empty growlers but you have to go to a bar somewhere to get them filled, killing my fantasy of WALKING to get a growler of deliciousness straight from the brewer. If you take a tour they'll let you sample (generously, as I understand) but you can't take any with you.

Additionally, a brewpub can sell beer on site, but can not sell elsewhere - so no retail expansion. The fact that there is as much good beer as there is (and there is some terrific beer) in Texas in spite of such byzantine and unfair legal crap is faintly miraculous.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


the hell are people doing driving to a beer festival in the first place?

Could be a group of people with a designated driver. That may be a bit too charitable, I realize.
posted by jedicus at 7:18 PM on April 3, 2012


Another argument for Washington Cask Beer Festival as an example of how a beer tasting festival is done right.

I'd never been to a beer tasting festival before, so I was at first discomfited by the small tasting glasses and system of tokens. Fifteen minutes later I was one of the doofuses randomly shouting "WOOOOO!"

I think the main complaint last year was that there were too many IPAs, which I can agree with even though I like IPAs. It was just a perfect storm and clusterfuck of lovingly, expertly crafted IPAs all vying for your attention like some kind of wanton, insatiable harem of perfectly bittersweet lovers endlessly teasing and parading... It was terrible, I tell you! Terrible!
posted by loquacious at 7:35 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


All that fantastic beer, sitting out in the sun in their poor little boxes! Cases of 90-Minute baking in the heat!!!! FOR SHAME! HAVE YOU NO DECENCY???
posted by Big_B at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Houston had a surge of brewpubs in the 90's when the state changed the law to allow them. Sadly the last one closed last year, though I hear a new one may be opening soon.

There was only one microbrewery for many years, Saint Arnold's, which produces great beer and is growing steadily (disclosure, I'm an investor, and a fan) but recently there has been 4-5 micro-micro breweries popping up that are producing pretty good product.

There's more variety of good local beer than ever before. Which makes this screw-up of a festival even more of a shame.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2012


I don't know what to say about these folks. I mean, let's face it, I'm a big ole beer nerd. Obsessive think about it more than is healthy sort of beer nerd.

When these guys first announced the LA Beerathon (they do one in NY too), I was really hoping it would fall on it's ass. Seriously? 26 bars with a beer apiece in a town where you have to drive places is asking for the universe to slap you upside the head.

I understand, that they believe they weren't selling beer and therefore didn't need to get a license from the ABC. However, smart money says that once you're collecting gobs of money and publicity trumpeting your event all about booze, you'd be doing yourself a favor to talk to the humorless part of the government that can shut your ass down in two seconds because you forget to initial a form. People forget that LA was a hotbed of Anti-Saloon Leaguism and Aimee Semple fans.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2012


I think the main complaint last year was that there were too many IPAs...

I know what the words mean, but not when you put them in that order.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the fest's Facebook page:

Bob Corona
Beer...what could possibly go wrong?
about 5 months ago

2 people like this.
Kathie Crawley Beer + Texas rednecks=fun, baby!! lol
October 23, 2011 at 8:30pm · 1


(OMINOUS COMMENT IS OMINOUS.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:37 PM on April 3, 2012


Nthing the this-makes-me-appreciate-the-local-beer-fest-so-much-more sentiment. Here in Saint Louis I've never paid to park, tickets are about $25/day I think, which gets you a wristband, and that's it. No tickets (except for food). A great selection of FREE BEER, live music, and excellent local restaurants setting up in a tent with beer-complementary food at a reasonable price. Lasts all weekend. Unfortunately only once a year.
posted by hypersloth at 10:26 PM on April 3, 2012


Presumably they would have been a lot less likely to buy tickets had they known about the $10 parking and the 2 oz sample size, neither of which pieces of information was available in advance as far as I can tell.

Yeah, when I bought my ticket, I was promised a 12 oz souvenir tasting glass and told that I'd get 6 tastings free. It was implied, if not stated outright (the Austin Beer Fest site appears to be down now, so I can't check), that a tasting was a fill of the 12 oz tasting glass.

My friends and I waited in lines in parallel and then got enough 2 oz tastes for the group, so we managed to sip a fair number of new-to-us beers (favorite breweries: South Austin Brewing Company and Jester King), but overall it was pretty disappointing.
posted by aneel at 10:36 PM on April 3, 2012


If any of y'all are ever up Fort Worth way, Rahr holds tours/tastings every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon. I'm not a huge beer aficionado but they're always fun and there's good food and good music too.
posted by kmz at 11:09 PM on April 3, 2012


I was curious about the LA event until I saw the price. I would never be able to drink my way through $55 worth of beer without landing in the hospital. And wouldn't want to be around people doing the same.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:59 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is a direct link to the actual apology.

Both this and the Facebook link in the post requires logging in. Is there a mirror somewhere?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:26 AM on April 4, 2012


It used to be (and might well still be - I haven't worked in a pub for years) illegal to sell draught beer in anything other than pints or half pints in Britain,

Time that the half gill and quarter gill measures made a comeback IMO.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:39 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the text of the apology email:

*

“What is this beer?”

“What do you mean?”

“This beer, I’ve never heard of any of it.”

“It’s all craft beer, and it’s kind of the point of the festival.”

“Well, I don’t sell that.”

“That’s what we need though, that’s what the people will be coming for.”

“Hmmm…I don’t know.”
Our mission was to hold a beer festival that focused on exposing craft beer to a large audience, and to give that audience quality entertainment while they learned about new beer. The breweries would not be charged to attend, and all they would need to do is bring a tent and send a representative to answer questions to the guests. To bring that many beers to one location was going to take a massive effort, and would require all breweries, distributors, planners, and the city, to work together and cooperate for the greater good. To watch as arrogance, unprofessionalism, and unavoidable modifications made by others, slowly chew away at the most crucial of details in the idea is a feeling that is truly heart-shattering. Most importantly it is with great disappointment we begin our apology, explain what went wrong and why, and the changes that will be made when we, like so many now successful festivals, pick ourselves up, and try again.

The first time I set foot in Austin, Texas I fell in love with its beauty. Years later, after I became of legal drinking age and found my way to craft beer, I was shown a new side of Austin, and met people who knew how important it was to drink good, quality beer, and the brilliant minds who found the perfect combination of biology, chemistry, and a gourmet touch to produce amazing beers. We wanted the guests to try as many of those beers as possible, and not just from Austin but from the entire world, so that everyone could share in the experience of craft beer. This idea was presented and thought to be understood by all involved, and perhaps it was, we may never know.

“Now, what’s with this sample thing?”
“People need to be able to sample the beer that way they know if they want a full pour, it’s the whole point of having all these beers.”
“Well I’m not paying for that, you should pay for that.”
“But…you’re the one selling the beer.”

Beer Issues:
We, The Austin Beer Fest, did not sell the beer at the event, we couldn’t. A year ago, when we sought our venue, only one was available, and that venue had an exclusive contract with a business that had the license for the food and alcohol, and had legal claim to sell all food and drink, and collect all sales at that venue. This meant we would have to contact all the breweries and distributors and front a massive coordination effort, select which beer should be picked, and the business that had the license would buy it, sell it, and give us a share of zero percent. We were fine with the idea, as long as we could have hundreds of beers available, and people could experience these beers, we would do whatever it required to make a good impression with our guests. We knew that if we could please our guests, we could move closer to the center of the city, and truly perfect our vision. As of March 30th 2012, we had confirmed and published a list of 562 beers with an accompanying map, but by 2pm the next day, we learned that no-shows and edits to our beer selection without our knowledge decreased that number to below 300. We truly apologize for this, many changes were kept from us, because it was assumed that since a previous archery festival was unsuccessful at the venue, a craft beer festival in one of the biggest craft beer cities in the world would not attract guests either. If any logic can be salvaged from that assumption it must be small and damaged. When setting up it was apparent that despite our multiple attempts to inform the business that had the license that we are expecting a very large group of guests, we were ignored, craft beer was deliberately underestimated, all due to ego and pride. By cutting our beers, they cut off the breweries by second stage from the rest of the festival. This action left the breweries no choice but to move closer to main stage, so they would not be forgotten. But the bands that had a stage built for them on the grass had all of the surrounding food and beer abandon them, and they were left to play for no one. A limb was severed from the festival without our knowledge, and to the performers who played on though you were isolated from the activity you have our deepest respect and apologies.

Equipment & Supply Issues:

March 28th - we order extra equipment since we had local breweries who wanted to participate on short notice and we would do anything to keep them from being excluded.
March 31st - We’re looking for the equipment on site. No one can find it.
April 2nd – FedEx informs us our equipment is in Tennessee. It was supposed to be an overnight delivery.
To the breweries that did arrive at the festival, you have our thanks, and our absolute most sincere apologies for any troubles you may have experienced. Unfortunately, due to the laws imposed by the TABC, it was illegal for any of you to bring equipment to dispense beer from your kegs, and the business that had the license did not have, and refused to purchase, drafting equipment to tap all of the confirmed kegs. A compromise was made, to have some beers changed from draft to package, and we (The Austin Beer Fest) would purchase all of the drafting equipment needed, the business that had the license would get their beer sales, and we would make everyone happy. By the day of, we were short equipment. The lack of equipment was embarrassing, and we are sorry we failed you. We were told by business that had the license there would be a freight truck full of ice, and there was, but not until 4:30. For those of you who had to wait and risked spoiling your beer, we are very sorry, we know how sensitive beer is to temperature, and we apologize for any stress or delay caused by that incompetence. Also, it was disheartening to hear about brewery reps illegally pouring and giving away beer that was not theirs to give, getting drunk, and/or being ejected by security. Your brands deserve better than that from their representatives, and we hope it didn’t cause damage to your brand in front of guests.

Food Issues:

“We want there to be food at the event, can we bring any outside vendors to sell food we want there?”
“No, you can’t do that. We’ve got all kinds of food.”
“Well, this is a little different from the carnival food for the rodeo, because people are going to want beer foods that go with the beer, especially for VIP. You can bring out some good quality, right?”
“Don’t worry about it.”

Of course we were worried about it, and with good reason. We expected hot pretzels, bratwurst loaded with sauerkraut, crawfish, tacos, kabobs, and barbeque. But our emphasis was ignored, and we were presented with a shadow of what we pictured, with a presentation that looked more abandoned than festive. This was absolutely unacceptable, and we apologize for the disappointment we are sure was shared by all. To accompany this “good food”, was the business that had the license’s “TABC certified” staff, who knew nothing about how to physically pour a beer, and positioned seemingly disoriented and unkempt employees stationed in the most crucial of areas. The business that had the license decided on the day of that they did not want to pay for the already confirmed beer when it was delivered, which caused trucks to sit in the middle of the festival, instead of off-site as implied by pre-approved and discussed map design. To have a professional business perform in such a ridiculously poor fashion is inexcusable, disrespectful to the guests, and we apologize sincerely.
PARKING ISSUES:
A parking catastrophe occurred when an unknown guest was spotted by parking staff cutting the chain off of one of our gates, allowing a flood of cars to follow him in thinking it was an official entrance and create hours of back-up and traffic congestion in our lot, and the surrounding streets. It took several hours to resolve, and we apologize for any inconvenience or confusion caused by this inconsiderate action. The parking staff tried their best to resolve the situation, though people were speeding by them, with several incidents of parking staff almost being struck by vehicles, only to be turned around by the officers waiting by that gate. Please stop and listen to staff when at any event, endangering people’s lives to save driving time is counter-productive.

The bottom line is simple, this was our event, and in the end, we were responsible for the outcome. As of April 1st we have contacted our attorney with the problems we were forced into by mandatory affiliates, and have begun legal action against the proper parties. All proceeds from this legal action will be used to throw another festival at a different venue, with free admission, and a healthy compliment of craft beer for the people who wish to attend and accept our apologies for an event that turned out nothing like we planned. That said, only half of our drafting equipment was recovered, which is unfortunate as it was provided to breweries to use for the festival, not to keep, we’re sorry if we failed to explain that. If you would be kind as to return it to us, we will be glad to take it back, no questions asked, so that we may have many draft selections available in the future. Besides the proceed funded event, we would like to try again with several major changes that we will implement for our future events, such as a change to a non-contracted venue that will allow full control over beer selection, quality, and presentation, with no worry of having the rug pulled out from under us. If you had a chance to enjoy the entertainment, we believe you would agree that when given control of an element, like we had with the stages and music, we can produce quality. All we ask is that we are granted a second chance next year, as all of the breweries, bands, and The Austin Beer Fest staff brought their best, but when red tape and exclusivity grants the rights for outside forces to make changes, we all suffer. We apologize for the delayed response, we had much to mend and discuss. Any accusations of deliberately avoiding the issue or any negative feedback is false, we have removed nothing from our media, we have nothing to hide, violence and vulgar negativity are contagious, and irrational. We needed to re-group and get the facts before making a post based off emotion. In order to do so, we needed to disable comments in order to give us time to respond. Please write info@theaustinbeerfest.com if you have constructive criticism or issues. This is now a legal matter, and we are dealing with it accordingly, and due to this we can’t go into complete detail on every part of the event. We do not expect people to understand our frustration and how upset we are that this happened, but know we are taking a proper course of action. Thank you for your time.

With absolute and sincerest apologies,
The Austin Beer Fest

posted by jkolko at 5:44 AM on April 4, 2012


“Well, this is a little different from the carnival food for the rodeo, because people are going to want beer foods that go with the beer, especially for VIP. You can bring out some good quality, right?”
“Don’t worry about it.”


Did they just not worry about it? Or did they ask specifically what food would be available, sample it, and sign detailed contracts?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:57 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just over on facebook reading this apology. I don't even know what to say.

A good apology would be about a million words shorter. It would say "We vastly underestimated our ability to organize a festival of this size. We should have started smaller. We apologize."

Instead it's full of talky noise about how the licensed vendor at the venue wouldn't listen and made changes without their knowledge or approval, how someone else did a thing that broke something, someone else did something else that was bad, blah blah blah.

So, yeah, what the corpse said.
posted by rtha at 6:13 AM on April 4, 2012


For those of you who think a beer fest is a ridiculous concept doomed to fail -- there's a twice-yearly (?) beer fest here in the Triangle region of NC that's hugely popular. I think it's approximately the same price, but people love it and go in droves every time.
posted by statolith at 6:45 AM on April 4, 2012


There was some hope that the archaic regulations against craft beer would be overturned judicially, but no such luck.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on April 4, 2012


rtha: " A good apology would be about a million words shorter. It would say "We vastly underestimated our ability to organize a festival of this size. We should have started smaller. We apologize."

Wouldn't have been good enough. They seem to have logistical problems at nearly every level of the event -- a short apology would satisfy no one. I think they needed to address as much as possible in this one statement, or they would be hounded by angry vendors, entertainers and attendees. And probably lawsuits.

It wasn't the size of the event. They weren't prepared for crises or the unexpected. And in many situations apparently had no alternative plans in case something went wrong. The size of the event just exacerbated how badly things went wrong.

Instead it's full of talky noise about how the licensed vendor at the venue wouldn't listen and made changes without their knowledge or approval, how someone else did a thing that broke something, someone else did something else that was bad, blah blah blah."

Yes, but.... it's actually understandable, and what went wrong makes a lot more sense to me now. Which is positive. My wife plans conferences and events for a living, and I've run press for (other) conferences, shows and events. The amount of red tape one runs into when dealing with vendors and venues, especially when food and alcohol are being served, can quickly become a huge obstacle. From signage to crowd control to parking to liquor licenses. If they didn't have the experience or staff to deal with emergencies, (and it seems really obvious they didn't) it's easy to see how a simple logistical screw-up can snowball into a total disaster.

They didn't check on their fedex shipments. (They also didn't have backups to whatever they were shipping -- or ship it far enough in advance that they could have covered their asses when things went south. Their planning seems completely haphazard. They didn't go over everything in fine detail with the venue. Were the essential elements laid out in a written contract? They didn't understand the licensing laws. They weren't forceful enough with the licensed businesses, or apparently communicative about what they wanted. "Don't worry about it" is a wholly unacceptable answer when you are relying on someone to provide an essential service during event.

Much of what they describe was completely avoidable, if they'd had experience.

They said several times that they accepted full responsibility. That's positive. But the underlying lesson I hope they learned is to have extensive backup plans for the unexpected.
posted by zarq at 8:00 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops. Typo: "Which is positive." should be "Which is their preparedness, or lack therof."

I was moving things around and cut and pasted poorly. Sorry.
posted by zarq at 8:02 AM on April 4, 2012


Much of what they describe was completely avoidable, if they'd had experience.

A beer festival in a nearby city isn't 'experience'? This wasn't their first rodeo, which is why I find their 'apology' pretty unconvincing. Sure, throwing a big event like this is difficult, but as you say, the problems were 100% preventable. Anything beyond 'we fucked up, contact X for your refund' is superfluous.
posted by muddgirl at 8:21 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Much of what they describe was completely avoidable, if they'd had experience.

Agreed. That's what it boils down to. That the venue apparently changed things up at the last minute without telling them is not their fault, but more experience would have given them the knowledge to have multiple backup plans (also, corpse's point about how they told the vendor what kind of food they wanted, but they didn't do a menu tasting and approval process? Really?). And the last-minute shipping thing is just pure foolishness, especially at this time of year - it's tornado and severe-storm season, and FedEx's hub in Nashville often gets hit with delays because of it.

At the beer fest in Seattle, they limit ticket sales and they don't even pretend to offer food (the first year we went they didn't even have water, so lines for the water fountains were looooong; last year, they had free bottles of water available at the merch tents). Hotdog carts set up outside, which seems to make everyone happy. And the event is right in the city and stupidly easy to get to on public transit, which obviates the need for arranging parking.
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only silver lining in the Austin Beer Fest / L.A. Beerathon scandal is that the organizers appear to have learned from an earlier lesson while hosting the similarly fail-tastic Houston Wine Fest: Don't call your organization a 501(c)(3) charity when you haven't been approved by the IRS.

ghharr has the whole story right there: they're hucksters.

Done.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:24 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to their non-pology, the festival itself couldn't profit off the sale of beer at the venue they chose. Which kind of makes it hard to run a beer festival.

muddgirl ...?

Beef festivals don't typically make profits by skimming profits off beer sales. Heck, beer isn't even sold at most PA beer festivals (presumably our fuktup beer laws are to blame). Profits are made by selling tickets, pure & simple.

And the vendors are there for PR. I still hunt down beers I've met from such events; high price doesn't deter me when I know what I'm getting is worth it.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:26 AM on April 4, 2012


I didn't mean that the festival should have been taking a cut of every glass. I meant that, according to the exclusivity rules of the venue they chose, the festival organizers couldn't be involved in any part of the beer contracts. Reading the non-pology, I wonder what, exactly the festival organizers were responsible for, outside of collecting ticket sales. Promotion, I guess.
posted by muddgirl at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2012


Sounds like they should have been involved in the coordination, but kind of forgot about that part.
posted by Big_B at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2012


IAmBroom: "Beef festivals"

Heh. Although I guess that's what a rodeo is.
posted by mkb at 10:02 AM on April 4, 2012


muddgirl: " A beer festival in a nearby city isn't 'experience'?

On some level yes. But in event planning / running conferences and events, experience can also be measured by how many crises you have weathered. There were many things that weren't prevented in this situation, which could have been with forethought. There are other things that could have been prevented if they had experienced them previously and knew how to address them going forward.

Fedex, as rtha says, is a good example. Let's take the example of a show vendor, traveling with their booth and assorted materials. They generally don't ship so that their materials to arrive the day of an event. They have them arrive several days before, and either store them at the venue with the permission of the people running the show, or at an outside location. This way, if something breaks during transit, or if something is lost or stolen, or if the wrong thing is shipped, they have enough time to correct things.

Vendors who have done say, one, two or even four big shows may not build that buffer of time into their shipping schedules because they haven't had anything go wrong to date. They may not be expecting a shipping issue. But when and if it does, they'll get caught flat-footed. I've seen this happen time and again at conferences and shows.

We learn through our experiences, and sometimes that takes a major screw-up, or knowledge gleaned from the cautionary tales of others.

This wasn't their first rodeo, which is why I find their 'apology' pretty unconvincing. Sure, throwing a big event like this is difficult, but as you say, the problems were 100% preventable. Anything beyond 'we fucked up, contact X for your refund' is superfluous."

This statement addressed the vendors, the entertainment (bands) who played the venue, the attendees and perhaps their licensed partner, too. Would a blanket statement without explanation work for all of them? Possibly. But saying nothing more than "We fucked up, we're sorry" would probably invite a ton of lawsuits. And it wouldn't begin to address the damage to their image from this event's screwups.

By releasing a detailed statement, they're getting out in front of the situation. There are advantages to that.
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2012


Maybe I'm a Luddite, but Facebook doesn't seem like the place to hash out the legal resposibilities for the festival failure, or to explain to vendors that Everyone But Me is responsible for the massive hit to their reputation.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2012


Or whatever their intended purpose was. If they're afraid of legal liability, they could leave off the 'we fucked up' part and just say "We understand that fans and vendors are disappointed. Contact XX for a refund."
posted by muddgirl at 11:39 AM on April 4, 2012


muddgirl: "Maybe I'm a Luddite, but Facebook doesn't seem like the place to hash out the legal resposibilities for the festival failure, or to explain to vendors that Everyone But Me is responsible for the massive hit to their reputation."

Again, that wasn't the only purpose of the note.

Facebook was where attendees (and probably vendors) were interacting with them. And can continue to do so.
posted by zarq at 11:41 AM on April 4, 2012


muddgirl: "Or whatever their intended purpose was. If they're afraid of legal liability, they could leave off the 'we fucked up' part and just say "We understand that fans and vendors are disappointed. Contact XX for a refund.""

The people who are trashing them on Yelp and to the press clearly want an admission of culpability. Ignoring that would be a bad idea.

Perhaps this is just my own bias as a publicist, but in their place I'd be trying to salvage my brand's image by admitting culpability, explaining how it happened, and showing that this would never happen again -- so that future events wouldn't be torpedoed by this one. Saying only "We know you're upset. Come get your money back" would give a signal that they don't give a damn about what happened and are uninterested in trying to change it.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on April 4, 2012


A commenter on the FB non-pology (thanks muddgirl, I like that) writes:

"The WORST is that I actually paid to be a part of the beer pong tournament, that was a whopping $100 for a two person team. It took us TWO HOURS to even find someone who knew anything about it. When we finally found it, they had already signed teams up and begun bracket play. WTF?!!! There was ZERO information emailed out, given when you purchased the tickets AND they said the $100 entry fee DIDN'T include entry into the Beer Fest."

Seems that even the things that should have been well within the promotors' control were not taken care of.
posted by jamaro at 12:20 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The WORST is that I actually paid to be a part of the beer pong tournament, that was a whopping $100 for a two person team. It took us TWO HOURS to even find someone who knew anything about it. When we finally found it, they had already signed teams up and begun bracket play. WTF?!!! There was ZERO information emailed out, given when you purchased the tickets AND they said the $100 entry fee DIDN'T include entry into the Beer Fest."

....I feel like that's what you get for being the kind of person who is willing to shell out 100 bucks to pay beer pong.

But then again, I'm a teetotaler.
posted by OsoMeaty at 6:42 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Presumably there was a prize that made it worthwhile. I can only imagine what the trophy would look like for a beer pong tourney. Five frat guys passed out around a card table?

Hmm...maybe I'm thinking of the trophy for something else, entirely.
posted by darkstar at 8:05 PM on April 4, 2012


"The food was kinda OK, but it could have been a bit better and more of it."

The food here is terrible! And the portions!


Yeah, except they said it was OK, not terrible, and it should have been better as well as bigger.
posted by John Cohen at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2012


This is the text of the apology email

Many thanks for pasting it in, jkolko!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 11:20 AM on April 11, 2012


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