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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Is the Holiday Ale Fest Too Popular?

Last year in my write-up of the Holiday Ale Fest, I kicked off with this observation:
Something's gotta give. Pio Square is a wonderful location, looking out as it does on the downtown buildings. But it's only wonderful if you can get a beer in less than 20 minutes (or say, two minutes) and aren't in constant physical contact with all 23 of your closest neighbors. I stopped off after work on Friday for a full pour of Jim (just to be sure) and returned at 11:30 on Saturday. Friday night, even at five straight-up when I arrived, was insane. It was so crowded and so loud that I had to text Sally to find her once she'd gotten (almost instantly) lost in the crowd on her trek to get us tickets; when I tried to call, I couldn't even tell if she picked up. Saturday was all right until about three and then almost instantly the lines went from ten-person affairs to behemoths that ran the length of the tent.
Preston Weesner, the impresario of the Fest, has done a fantastic job bringing in exceptional beers. Problem is, we're running up against physics here--bodies cannot be folded into other dimensions so they can all fit under the tent. Short of that, I fear Weesner's success at luring the masses in will result in something that looks like a Bombay train. My request last year was to move the thing. Admittedly, this cuts into the charm. I suppose you could also limit bodies in who get inside--but this would probably result in riots outside the tent. (In 2006, the tapping of Hair of the Dog "Jim" almost led to riots inside the tent). Perhaps stretching it out to five days will help. I plan to go on Saturday, so I can test this theory.

But if it's as bad as it has been the last couple years, I may have to rethink things in '09.


  1. Jeff,

    Why would you go Saturday? you know nothing is going to change, the only way to enjoy this with minimal crowds is at opening during the weekdays. You probably got invited to the media event anyway, why would you torture yourself in those crowds?

    Its not like the extra Wednesday will make much of a difference in the Friday/Sat/Sun evening crowds, those people will always go then.

    Do yourself a favor and go early during the week when you can really enjoy the fest and beers. Doesn't Fred suggest that you listen to your beer to truly enjoy it?

  2. I take Friday off work, get there at the open and leave by 3pm. Seems to work for me. DA Beers said nailed it, the evenings suck no matter what.

  3. i can't go any day except on the weekend so sucks for me.

    weekdays are bad days to have beerfests anyway - don't any of you drunkards work? i can't function the day after i pound Hair of the wouldn't fly for me to be incapacitated at work for half the week.

    they need a bigger venue. they rake in the dough so why not rent space like the Spring Beerfest? screw downtown, they should move it out to the east side.

  4. iggir,

    1. flexible schedules, but even on weekends you can show up at opening and get a short period of peace.

    Even other spaces get over crowded, i.e. OBF on Fri/Sat/Sun nights, and you need an indoors venue, so costs go up.

    And the Spring beer fest isn't very crowded because it blows. 95% of the beers they have at that fest you can get cheaper at Safeway. Lucky Lab barleywine fest is a much better spring fest, although it has become more crowded also.

  5. I'm going on Saturday in part because I've got a lingering cold, and I am not yet excited about a weekday fete. But like Iggi, weekdays when you work the next day aren't ideal. Still, it's an admirable move on the Fest's part.

    BTW, I will be there at the crack of noon on Saturday. Now that we're in hoops season, I've shifted to a Blazers cap. Say hi if you see me.

  6. They've also opened up an upper level where some of the more special beers were pouring last night: Jim 06, 07 and 08 as well as the New Belgium Grand Cru (ick) and a few others. It's at the top level of Pioneer Square where the umbrella man statue is (he is covered in a plywood box for his/your protection). Crowds were pretty manageable last night, which Preston said he added especially for "the beer geeks." More here:

  7. Wednesday at the HAF was a good scene. Not very crowded at all, but a nice turn out. It did appear to be a Beer Geek and Beer Snob haven, which is fine for me. No drunken slobs with Frat boy drinking attitudes. I can't stand that! Lots of guys sitting down and taking notes with their noses in a mug.... ;-}

    I agree the tent is maxing out the ol' Pioneer Square, but like others, I go at opening and leave early. I was one of the first 20 people in the door at 3PM and there was a nice line of about 50 people.

    It's too much to taste on one trip so, I'll have to go back on Saturday, but I'll be going at opening again.

    In regard to crowds and dealing with them.... Yea, Jeff can get into the ol' Media preview party if they have/had one. I wish "I" could get into the media party.... Don't know you have to sleep with to be considered a media guy??? Jeff, any suggestions??? ;-} I'll be writing about this in todays post on the DW site.

    For the general public, it comes down to priority and tolerance. If you want to really go to the fest and not deal with the big crowds, you have to get their early or during the week. Can't make that a priority? Don't want to call in sick or take the day off? I guess you get to tolerate the drunken crowds...


  8. Yea, Jeff can get into the ol' Media preview party if they have/had one.

    I didn't get an invite this year, I don't think. Or, if I did, it came during my New England trip, when I was profligately deleting emails. I might have mistaken an invite for a standard press release. Anyway, I probably wouldn't have gone, due to illness.

  9. I'm sorry Jeff....

    No invite? Who'd ya piss off? ;-}

  10. I deliberately scheduled vacation for the first two days of the fest, knowing there would be special kegs tapped on those two days, and thinking that the crowds would be more restrained… and Wednesday was a spectacular night - getting to try all three Jim's, Scaldis Noël, Cascade's Vlad the Imp Aler, Firestone Walker's Saucerful of Secrets and Parabola (by mistake… :D), along with a bunch of the regulars - with a fairly manageable crowd and reasonable waits to get a beer through the evening. It was glorious.

    Thursday, OTOH, was almost a complete disaster… the Allagash Curieux was gone practically before they opened, they never put Parabola back on, no one to whom I spoke knew anything about the Hitachino Nest XH, the Vanilla Oatis apparently was sent somewhere else (not that I even knew it was going to be there, but damn… what a tease), and the crowd was nearly as bad as Friday last year (though at least there wasn't an hour-and-a-half wait just to get into the tent). *shrug* To add insult to injury, I hit horrendous traffic on my way to Belmont Station for the Firestone Walker tasting, and was just about 2 minutes too late to grab a bottle of the XII… *grumble* If it wasn't for the $1.95 blackened chicken burger with freshly-fried Ruffles-style BBQ potato chips at McCormick & Schmicks at the Harborside (and the "taste" of the XII that the F/W representative saved for me, or at least I'd like to think he did), the night would've been a total bust… Full Sail's 21 wasn't a bad consolation pint either.