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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Doesn't Sound Like Fun

See if you can identify the event:
Brewers travel from all over the country (and the world) to attend the festival and promote their craft. But as many, many brewers have expressed to me, both this weekend and at past festivals, they don’t really want to spend a lot of time on the festival floor because it tends to devolve into a semi-drunken shit show, especially at the weekend evening sessions. Seasoned festival veterans long for the brief moments in between the raucous screams that accompany the near-constant dropping of glasses (many of which are now done on purpose). Many brewers simply don’t bother to attend the sessions because they have no role to play and the scene isn’t about their talents and what they do for a living.
That's the GABF, though Oregonians are forgiven for mistaking it for the OBF. That's Andy Crouch, who has a quite a long and interesting post on the fest.

Relatedly, Doc Wort suggests the GABF travel to different cities every year, a proposal I heartily endorse. That would really undermine the frat-party quality, because you'd have a new crowd every year--one comprised mainly of first-timers. It would also do a lot to advance the stated goal of the Brewers Association--to educate Americans about craft beer. It would be logistically more difficult, but it seems like an industry of this size could manage to pull it off.

Update: Brewpublic offers the local perspective.


  1. The AHA (American Homebrewers Ass.), under the umbrella of the Brewers Association which hosts the GABF has their annual 'Home brewers Conference' which rotates location every year throughout the US. While this Conference isn't as big as the GABF, it shows that people within the BA understand the concept of a moving road show. GABF requires a BIG space to hold event, but that should be acquired within most major cities. I think it comes down to cost. The GABF probably has a contract within Denver to hold the GABF there for a price.

    All in all.... The GABF DRINKATHON may look like the OBF on the outside; Loud bunch of drunks. At least the brewers are there within the vicinity of the GABF fest. The GABF is a private event and does sell a specific number of tickets. While we would all hope these tickets are purchased by SERIOUS BEER aficionados from around the world, I'm sure there's a percentage that are bought by locals with a "South Park" mentality. It could be worse.... It could be a public event where anybody could walk in off the street; Beer snobs to drunken slobs. There is a difference between drinkers and drunkards, although the lines can get blurry. With a higher percentage of cash toking drunks vs. beer aficionados, an even more lowly drunken scene prevails. Which sounds like more fun? Drinking with drunken slobs that are in attendance to get drunk only or attending a private event where a large percentage of the "Drunks" are knowledgeable beer drinkers.

  2. Back when I worked for the BA (or Association of Brewers as it was known then), we actually did try a "GABF on the Road" in Baltimore one year. It ended up being a huge mess and a big money loser. The events staff at the BA are truly amazing at what they do, but I doubt they could pull off a rotating GABF. The Homebrewers Conference and Craftbrewers Conference are major undertakings, but nowhere near the logistical nightmare the GABF is.

  3. @Jim

    Being involved as a sponsoring Homebrew CLub level for the HBC in the past, I know the AHA relied a lot on local Homebrewers and clubs to help organize events and provide volunteers for the HBC. I would imagine the GABF is a far bigger venture, but could money and paid help be cut with the us of local volunteers, Homebrewers and/or even the Craft brewing biz with cost, set up and execution? OR..... Is it just so above and beyond?

    I've noticed in WA that more Beer tasting events have become "Ticketed" private events. I'm all for this concept! It keeps the riff raff out... ;-}

  4. I'm with Doc on this one; it's hard to imagine there's no solution to putting this on the road. That the Baltimore experiment--more than a decade ago--was a failure doesn't mean the idea is a failure.

  5. I am hoping they move the fest to different areas of the US soon. For now I will stick close to the local fests like the NHBrewFest coming up next week.

  6. Yea... It's called the "Great AMERICAN Beer Festival." So far, it's been more like the "Great Denver Beer Festival" or the "Great Brewers Association Beer Festival." ;-}

  7. The structure of the BA is much improved in the past 10-plus years since I worked there and the amount of "local talent" for putting on fests in other parts of the country is also much improved, so, who knows, maybe the time is ripe to take the show on the road again. The Doc is right, the HBC nearly died before AHA began getting local homebrewers involved in the planning and execution of the conference. Now the HBC is an amazing event that rivals any other beer fest I have attended.
    (Jeff, is this a sign of the coming apocalypse: Both you and I agreeing with the Doc?)