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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I HAVE A MINOR COMPLAINT: The Fruit Beer Fest's Sweaty, Cramped Quarters

This past weekend we had the latest incarnation of the Fruit Beer Fest, one of the year's best. It was, sadly, still located in the exceedingly cramped parking lot in front of Burnside Brewing. Before we get to the old man's whinge, the requisite throat-clearing: the FBF is sneaky good. It poses as a regular fest, but doubles as a symposium on the myriad ways fruit can be incorporated into a beer. Each year envelopes get pushed a little further, until at this year it seemed like half the beers were barrel-aged wild ales typical of something you'd find in Moeder Lambic. Ezra Johnson-Greenough, the founder and an ecumenical drinker, has increased cider's participation in the fest. Everything about the tasting side of the fest is great.

The location, however, is perhaps the worst in the city. I traipsed down on Friday, the first day after a cold snap when the temps toppped out at about 75. Nevertheless, the sun had baked the surfaces of the locale--concrete all, including pavement and surrounding walls--turning it into an oven. Light knifed off the hard surfaces and created a blinding glare. Even with the sun getting ever lower in the sky, there were precious few patches of shade to be found.

The fest floor--a pen, really, fenced in with chain-link--is so small that the long lines running off the pouring stations blended into the crowd, making it a chore to even know where to stand. (Creating, perversely, open jockey boxes that people at the rear of the line didn't realize were free.) Oh and: there was no place to stand. You sort of do a slow waltz with the crowd as the fluid dynamics of people standing in line or trying to get to a line sent us on a perpetual move, a half-step at a time.

I know Ezra and the organizers are aware of this, and I understand there are challenges to hosting fests. Nevertheless, as a fest-goer, these are not my concerns. My concern is spending a pleasant few hours enjoying excellent beer in the company of friends. The excellent beer is at the Fruit Beer Fest, but not the pleasant few hours. A victim of its own popularity, the fest must grow or lose cranky old men like me. (And before you say it: there weren't nearly enough of us to fix the problem with our absence.)


  1. Also, no VIP entry despite advertisements to the contrary.

  2. My complaint? The timing. How many of the beers at the fest do you think used real fruit as opposed to extracts or purees? Before you answer that, ask yourself how many of the local 2015 fruit crops were ripe and ready to be used in these beers? I'm guessing that number is zero. Therefore the brewers have to either use 2014 fruit, or frozen fruit, pureed sterilized fruit, or extract. Beers using 2014 fruit won't have the same degree of fruit character as when they were only a few months old / on the fruit. I propose a "real fruit" beer festival, to be held in the fall, AFTER HARVEST.