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.
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.