Sunday, July 14, 2013

All About Beer: World Beer Fest 2013 Review

On Saturday, July 13th, I had the chance to attend the All About Beer: World Beer Fest.  For my review I'm going to break down the positive and negative aspects of the event.  I will also offer some suggestions for improvement.

The Positive Side
The Ohio Brewers had their own tent outside which allowed people to enjoy the sunshine and the cool lake breeze while trying some tasty brews.  The Ohio breweries represented about 40% of the breweries in attendance. I was happy to see many of the actual brew masters in attendance.  I've had most of the beers offered in this tent before, but there were a few new ones that I had the chance to try.  Cornerstone had a coffee infused Milk Stout called Rocket Cow, and Brew Kettle had a Hefewizen called Der Sommer Weizen that were both very tasty.  There was also a cask ale section in the back of the Great Lakes tent.  This allowed people a chance to try some fun cask ales such as the Brew Kettle 4Cs with Citra and the Oskar Blues Sterling Dry Hopped Blackberry Dales Pale Ale.
In order to try any non-Ohio beers, attendees had to walk inside a large metal warehouse where the rest of the breweries were set up.  The brewery representation inside was good, not great, but I was very happy to see Victory Brewing bring a rare beer to the event.  Victory Brewing tapped Liberty Bell Ringer, a massive Double IPA that was brewed with Mosaic and experimental hop #483!  This beer is so rare that this will be the only keg that the Cleveland market will see, and only 3 total kegs made it to the state of Ohio.  A few other inside highlights were the Grand Imperial Stout by Elevator (only offered in the VIP section), and the Waterloo Pilsner (which is not yet sold in Cuyahoga County.)

Beer wise this festival was average for me, however there were a good number of beers at the event for people who are new to craft beer.   Good news for them is that most of the beers at the event are available at your local pub and on your local beer store shelves right now.

The Not So Positive Side
The event took place behind Cleveland Browns stadium.  The weather couldn't have been better, and we all know Clevelanders love being outside on a beautiful sunny day.   However, 60% of the breweries and the VIP section were inside a closed warehouse that honestly was dirty and dingy.   The massive doors to the warehouse couldn't open which would have at least let the attendees have a view of the lake a bit of a breeze.   Sure the warehouse provided shade, but by 1 p.m. the massive steel building became an oven. Here are a few pictures that will better show what I am talking about.
I was not the only one who was displeased by the setting.  I spoke to many of the people who were in attendance and they too wished the entire event would have taken place outside the warehouse.  Also, many breweries that were inside voiced their displeasure with the set up. They voiced that they would have rather set up outside either in the sun or with their own pop up tent.   I understand using the warehouse if the weather was poor, but it would have been great to take advantage of the beautiful day outside.

Why not set up some of the breweries out here?
This event was about craft beer.  I see no reason why this vendor was even allowed in the door to sell these shirts.  Drunk 1, Drunk Bitch 1...Really!!  How about setting up a table and selling brewery shirts instead!  This would help enhance the new craft beer drinkers experience rather than making them think the fest was all about getting drunk.
The VIP tickets were $75 each.  For $75 you got in 1 hour early, some buffet style food, access to 7 extra beers, and a glass to take home.   Also, as I mentioned above, the VIP section was inside the warehouse, and that just can't happen!  In my opinion these extra beers and "perks" were nowhere close to being worth the extra $35 per ticket.   

Ways to Improve
If the World Beer Fest comes back to Cleveland next year, they are going to have to improve some aspects of the event in order to compete with our other local beer events like Winter Warmer, Brewzilla, Blues and Brews, Fat Head's Brewer's Brawl and IPA Fest...just to name a few. 

1. Improve the setting of the event.  I loved the location choice, just didn't enjoy the set up of the event at all.     
2. Improve the beer list, especially the VIP section.  For an extra $35 the VIP section should have at least 10 unique brews, by unique I mean we can't easily go and find them at our local beer store.  Breweries should be encouraged to bring at least one beer that is somewhat unique.  This picture sums up some of my frustration.  Sierra Nevada only brought cans of Summer Fest and Torpedo, which are two very common brews.  Simply adding a beer like Hoptimum or Narwhal Imperial Stout would have made this table a much better destination for both newbies and for craft beer snobs.
3. Invite more Food Trucks.  Do away with the buffet and let VIP ticket holders get a choice of 1 item from a food truck.  By having more food trucks, they also will not get overwhelmed and they will be able to serve everyone at the event including the general admission folks. 

To me, the World Beer Fest got off to a rocky start here in Cleveland.  Sure there were some highlights to the event, but there were aspects of the event which need to improve when the event comes back to Cleveland next year and expects the support of the local craft beer lovers here in Cleveland, from newbie to beer snob.   

Disclosure: I was granted media passes to attend this event.  These thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 


Crystal @EatDrinkClev said...

Ugh! Sounds like they really screwed up with having most of the beers inside that gross building. We were thinking of going and I'm so glad we didn't!

~Swellin said...

I agree with just about all of what you said. I, too, was disappointed with the fact that many breweries didn't even bother to send representatives. I like to talk to the reps and discuss the beers, and learn something while also just having a good time.

As for the set up, there was simply not enough seating. The shade in the big warehouse was welcome, but it was awfully hot. I think there could have been more outdoor tents to take advantage of the lake breeze, but also give some shade. Allowing people to bring and set up their own little canopies (as I have seen done at many, many other festivals), would help as well.

I also think the food showing was very, very poor. This city is CRAWLING with food could there only be two at this event?!? It was ridiculous, and quite stupid. You had a lot of people that got beyond drunk because they didn't eat like they planned because of the insane lines.

I hope they try again, but they certainly could take a few tips from other, successful, beer festivals.

Renee said...

Since I missed this festival, I'm especially interested in hearing all about it. The location along the lake was the big draw for me. I love my city, but I'll never understand why such a huge asset is underutilized. It sounds like that trend was continued by the organizers of this event. (I had it in my head that this was going to be an open air fest in Voinovich Park.)

I've been to the Big Pour in Pittsburgh, which is held mostly in a warehouse, with a few breweries scattered outside. I remember it being hot, but not a sweltering hot box! And, I don't think it was dirty in any way. That bit of info makes it seem like the organizers changed gears at the last minute? Whatever the case, it doesn't sound like something I'll check out next year!

Joe said...

My wife and I attended the event and had a great time. We had VIP tickets and had access to all the event had to offer. I agree with only a few of your points. Yes, it would have been nice to have everything outdoors, the weather leading up to the event precluded this from happening. At some point the event coordiantors had to decide and they chose the safe route of having it indoors.

I did not at all think the venue was a hot box or oven. I think there was plenty enough breeze.

As far as beer choices, yes, there could have been more as most offerings were the standard issue for each brewery, but again, they are working with local distributors who only have a certain inventory.

Having more beer reps there would be nice but again, it is a supply and demand issue. There are quite a few events going on around the country and they have to choose accordingly. Depending on how things turn out for this event, maybe next time they will send a rep. If we keep complaining about it, there may never be a next time.

As far a the VIP access being worth it, it was iffy. The food was just ok and the VIP beers too limited. What may have made it worth it were the air conditioned bathrooms (very nice).

All in all, I thought the event was great. I hope they decide to have it here again in the future.

Brad said...

Joe, I wanted to respond to some of your points.

First the weather and planning. Why not have a plan A and B..outside/inside? The weather on Thursday and Friday before the event on Saturday was perfect, and the forecast for Saturday was also calling for perfect weather. I would think that in 48 hours they could have put a plan B into action and had everything outside. The only breeze was if you were sitting by the one open door in the VIP section. In the rest of the warehouse the air was hot and stagnant.

Second, The beers had nothing to do with the local distributors having limited access and supplies. Our local distributors have access to some really cool stuff, and the local brewers do too. The weak beer list falls on the event planners shoulders.

Third, VIP should never equal OK food and 7 beers. That is not worth $70.

I can't say this event was great by any means...however, if they take the feedback, use it, and work with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, next years event has a chance of being pretty great.

Anonymous said...

we are not from Cleveland and try to go these events, but it seems that at the events something is not quite right that makes it not what other cities are doing
take a lesson from Milwaukee or Chicago

Doug Dickerhoof said...

1. Thanks for the tickets, my wife and I enjoyed it.

2. The Ohio tent could have been a little bigger. Only because it was packed for most the day.

3. The selection was okay, my biggest complaint was that some of the bottled and canned beers seemed old. G'Knight is really fruity and bitter, it tasted more malty than I can remember. This goes for afew others.


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