July 7th, 2010
The First Sip: The Inaugural Great Austin Beer Festival
A beer festival is an opportunity to sample hundreds of different beers at one location in a short amount of time. What could be better? Not too much in my opinion, but I am biased. June 26th from 4-8pm marked the inaugural Great Austin Beer Festival, which was held at the Austin Music Hall.
With the event being held in Austin, Texas had a good showing. Texas breweries that were represented included Independence Brewing, 512 Brewing, Live Oak Brewing, Real Ale, Shiner and of course St. Arnolds. Other small breweries present were Left Hand, Dogfish Head, Oscar Blues, Stone, Allagash as well a few others. There were also some bigger beer companies like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. About 40 different breweries, local and international, showcased their beers.
I am not going to share what each brewery had on tap because after all of the sampling, I am not sure I remember and I would be writing for days. I will give my opinion of what I thought were the best and worst beers present as well as my overall experience at the festival.
As expected, the line getting in was quite long but the Beer Fest crew did a great job getting everyone in quickly. As soon as you get in, you were given a plastic sample cup with a business card that has the numbers 1-10 at the bottom. From what I was told, every time you get a sample, they mark off a number. Once you have gone through all 10 samples, you can get a new card. That’s if you weren’t too drunk. Well, that idea didn’t last very long. I think I made it to 5 samples before they stopped marking the numbers. So, we got our cup and card entered the main room and…holy crap…the place was packed! There were people every, shoulder to shoulder from one end of the room to the next.
All the breweries were at tables around the perimeter of the room. In the middle of the room, were a few more tables for Austin Homebrew Supply, Beertown Austin, Yelp and Jester King Craft Brewery (expect to see these guys out later this year). The idea was to stand in line in front of the tables and get your sample. Well, there were so many people there that a) you couldn’t tell what line you were standing in and b) you stood in line for about 10-15 minutes for each sample.
It was difficult to see which brewery was at each table because there wasn’t any signage overhead. All the signage was on the table which you couldn’t see because of all the people. If you were claustrophobic you might have had a hard time. After the second sample, the wives decided to go shopping while my buddy and I stayed for the beer. This turned out to be very costly beer.
The aggravation of waiting in line and walking through the crowd was short lived. If you stayed long enough, about 2 hours, the crowd thinned and it became much easier to move from table to table. The lines were still there, but they moved very fast and you were able to see what line you were standing in. As is usually the case with beer, the more people drank, the friendlier everyone got. They had music playing over a PA and by the end of the event everyone was signing along to the songs. Despite the frustration at the beginning, we had great time.
We didn’t get a chance try every beer but we tried at least 20 different beers. Many of the local breweries ran out of beer towards the end. We had a lot of good beers and some that weren’t so good. Here is the best and worst of the event:
Favorite beer: (512) Brewing Co – Pecan Porter. This thing was delicious!
Not-So-Favorite Beer: Kona Brewing Co – Wailua Wheat – A wheat beer brewed with passion fruit. It may have been this was my 20th beer sample.
Surprised Beer to See: Dos XX Amber
Worst Part of Great Austin Beer Festival: Crowd at the beginning, what was thought to be limited beer samples
Best Part of Great Austin Beer Festival: Beers, crowd at the end, what ended up being unlimited beer samples
Up-and-Coming Brewery: Jester King Craft Brewery
Notes on the Venue: Austin Music Hall was a cool place but too small for a beer festival.
Notes on the People: All ages 21 and up. Everyone was friendly, how could you not be drinking all that beer!
Overall Impression: It was a good Beer Festival. Need to work on the crowd issue and signage for the beer companies.
Will I Attend Again: Most definitely
My question to everyone else is this: If Austin can put on this kind of beer festival, why can’t Houston? More beers, bigger venue, maybe even over a couple of days, maybe some bands. Someone needs to get behind it and organize it. But who could that be? Maybe somebody named Marc (with a “c”) or Paul? Or how about the whole Loop Scoop team? I’m just sayin!
Oh, I promised an article about Texas Wheat Beers. I was hoping to try them at the beer festival but there wasn’t any to choose from. If there was I missed it. Sorry. We will do it some other time.
Next time… Summer Beers!
Support your local (Texas) brewery!