Snallygaster Beer Festival, Washington D.C.
The week of the event was calling for serious rain, but we had bought tickets and were driven to try these beers. Fast forward to Saturday the 12th and the weather was looking grim and we figured that being hurricane season on the East Coast there had to be some shelter. So we suited up in our rain gear and headed into the city to get there right as general admission began. Unfortunately our late notice caused us to miss the VIP ticket availability, but surely the beers would still all be there we figured. Unfortunately that could not have been further from the truth. As we hurried to get to the tent for the Founders CBS and Perennial Barrel-Aged Abraxas, we were informed that not only were they gone but they had sold out in a matter of minutes. After recovering from the disappointment, which was not a total surprise, we managed to settle in a groove and get our hands on plenty of new and interesting samples.
So rather than continue the narrative, here are our dislikes and likes about the festival.
- Beer Availability- I won't exactly call it bait and switch, but if you are going to advertise that you have these rare beers then by all means have them available. Even if we got VIP tickets, there was a good chance that we would have missed out. I really can't say who is at fault for this egregious lack of supply; the brewers or the festival itself so let us make a suggestion to both. Brewers- If you know that you have this rare beer that people cannot get or have to make pilgrimages to obtain, then why not make sure there is enough for everyone?? I would love to hear a business justification outside of furthering the hype and mystique, because I cannot imagine that they did not have enough on hand to make sure that theoretically most people could have a chance to try it. These beers are are not cheap so I cannot imagine you lose money by providing more of it. Snallygaster organizers- You are advertising mythical beers at this event and you know what beers are in demand. This is reminiscent of those ridiculous car ads where they advertise one vehicle at an unheard of price to lure you in. It's not like you did not know people want Founders CBS so why not insure that you can provide them the best exposure to rare beers at a festival that claims 300 beers. Having 300 beers does nothing if a good percent of them are not attainable. So please, in fact pretty please, make sure you have enough of the rare beers you are touting to ensure beer drinkers of all sophistication can experience the pinnacle of tasting at your event. That is how you build repeat business.
- Weather Accommodations- I know that you cannot pick the weather, but seriously it is hurricane season so pouring rain should not be a surprise to anyone. To add insult to injury, the bands and beer vendors were sheltered under tents. If you were so concerned for the exposure to heat or rain for these contingents, why not provide a few tents for the paying customers that make the event possible? It reeks of oversight or disregard, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Seriously though, it would not hurt to set up some tents for your patrons to get out of the weather. You may end up selling more beer and food.
- Space Planning- This is a minor complaint and I am sure that you are limited in your options in D.C. However, if you are going to spread your beers out so much at least try and group them by style to make for easy identification and tasting. I get that having everyone lumped together causes crowd issue, but at least grouping like beers or brewers by region would make it easier to work through the options.
- Beer Variety- Yes this seems contradictory to above but hear me out. Next year I would purchase VIP tickets to get in earlier, however not having it did not stop me from trying a great variety of new beers. For most beer drinkers there is bound to be plenty there to enjoy even with the big name beers sold out. There was a strong local representation as well as some names that you typically do not see in our market. That is the type of selection that draws us back, knowing that we can try beers our best beer bars cannot get.
- Pricing- It's for charity, it's craft beer and in D.C. so you have to expect to pay some premium. Given that, the standard admission purchased a mug and a decent amount of tasting tickets and additional tickets were reasonable. Beers were pretty much priced accordingly so there was plenty of opportunity to choose all over the value spectrum.
- Food- The food selection was great. I did not sample any food as I was on a beer mission, but there were plenty of delicious dishes being served up. Ethnic fare was available along with more traditional dishes.
- Servers- The servers at the beer tent were awesome. If you had a question they were knowledgeable about the products and made recommendations among the offerings. They knew the beers and were friendly and engaging. Having such capable staff at a festival is refreshing as you don't always get that in volunteers.
The night commenced with a cab ride home and a few hours vegging on the couch before the inevitable beer slumber. All in all we got our money's worth and enjoyed the festival. It warms my heart to know that my beer drinking can do such good things for others in the name of charity.