Home > The Regional Flavor > Asheville Beer Fests Slay Seattle’s Own

Asheville Beer Fests Slay Seattle’s Own

Oh the humanity!

Editor Note: Timperial is apparently moving to Asheville after writing this slander. Stone him at will, Seattle.

 

When I was in Asheville, NC last week I had the great fortune to attend the Winter Warmer Beer Fest. It was held in the Civic Center right downtown and it was a blast!

 

Lately, I’ve been a bit disillusioned with Washington beers fests.  I feel that they are overpriced and mostly underwhelming in most cases.  I feel like there is rarely a lot of new and/or exciting beers to try.  Most local breweries that attend these festivals seem to be inconvenienced and just show up to show up.  Most times, I feel that our breweries only provide one or two options and in many cases, those options are standard offerings that we have all had many times before or that we could acquire, outside of the event, with little effort.

 

Even at some of WA’s finest beer fests like Washington Brewers Festival, the only way that you can get the extreme beers that are available is by being a WABL member or by paying extra and seeking out the ever elusive Buzz Cart.  Does this not seem ridiculous to you?  Why are we hiding the best beers of our state?  If I owned a brewery I would want to knock the socks off of everyone in the crowd and gather up some hype about my product.  I’d want people to have access to my best and most exciting products at these festivals.  That’s what the festivals are really about anyway – creating new customers.

 

Washington can learn a lot about how it should be done by checking out how the South does it.  The Winter Warmer Beer Fest cost $35 to get in.  Yes, I’ll admit, initially, that is pretty expensive.  There is a huge “but” though.  Once you get in the door, you will only have to spend more money if you choose to purchase merchandise from the vendors or breweries.  You get 2, yes 2, meal tickets with entrance.  There was 2 separate lines for food that you could get in to use your meal tickets.  The first offered an entire plate of h’orderves and antipasto.  The second was more of a “meal” and offered salad and meat and pasta.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this but the 2 (!) meals are included in the $35 entrance fee.  Wow!

 

Some breweries in the room only had 3 offerings, but most had 4 and several had up to 7 options.  Nearly every brewery had at least 1 special brew.  Many had rotating specialties, where they would post a schedule at their booth of when what brews would be tapped.  There were probably around 6 Belgian sours, 10+ barrel aged beers, many imperials and specialty beers… it was insane.  I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

 

Oh, speaking of, did I not mention that the tasting glass that we received upon entrance could hold 8oz and that you could drink as much beer as you wanted?  Yeah, that’s right.  There’s no such thing as tasting tickets or tokens at this fest.  You drink as many samples as you want.  You determine how much they fill your glass.  I’ll stop now and allow you to ponder this further on your own.

 

Washington, get your shit together!

 

  1. JR
    January 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I want to go to there. That festival sounds amazing- $35.00 food and all you can drink. Thanks for the write up!

  2. amd
    January 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    having organized a couple of beer festival-type events in WA, unlimited fills are not permitted by WA Liq. Control Board. Also, not sure how these guys managed to make any money w/ $30 ticket price w/ two meals included unless they a) didn’t pay brewers for beer (also illegal in WA); 2) paid very little to nothing for venue rental; 3) didn’t get or weren’t required to get liability insurance; 4) have a mostly or all volunteer staff running the event; or 5) set out to simply break even or lose money. Putting these things on is expensive!

  3. Patrick
    January 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    A few quick points, bulleted for easy reading:

    – It’s worth considering that it’s quite possible the reason you feel WA festival beers aren’t as new or exciting is because you live here. So naturally you’re familiar with many WA beers but not with most Asheville beers.

    – Regarding WA festivals being more expensive, I’ve heard that before too, and well, I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised with that. Seattle prices are higher than Asheville prices because the cost of living is higher here. That bubbles up to everything, including venue rental fees, catering fees, security fees, etc. Check out San Francisco beer festival prices, then you’ll see some expensive festivals :) I think our festival prices are still quite good deals.

    – when you say “checking out how the South does it” I think you may be unintentionally implying that Asheville is representative of the South when it comes to beer. It’s not. Asheville is having a microbrewery explosion currently (I think Zymurgy or one of those mags wrote an article about it), and it would be very misleading to assume the rest of the South is like that.

    • January 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      these are some great points. I am sure that Timperial was certainly awestruck by all the new beers, since he has never been to that area.

      Also, having come from NOLA, I certainly agree that Asheville is not indicative of the south. In fact, its really more of an east coast place, in a very bountiful area of brewing. The real south is seriously slacking – in part due to rules that prohibited craft beer (high ABV) until recently.

      But…..I do agree with him about the formats. I am very much impressed by the format of this festival. Washington festivals are extremely expensive. Perhaps more discouraging is that you have to pay per 4 oz. I would gladly pay more to get an “unlimited ticket” which is apparently illegal according to another comment.

      Perhaps the real problem is our archaic beer laws. Of course, they have been under serious scrutiny of late. But brewers should be able to drive how a festival is formatted, not the regulators.

      Thanks for all the great comments.

  4. January 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Belgianfest sold out two sessions. Caskfest will do the same. Between 15-20k people will likely attend the WA Brewers Festival this June. How do you suffer fools like us?

    • January 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

      Ah yes, the expected Kendall response. To be honest, the Editor Note at the top was for you.

      We all know how wonderful the craft beer industry in Washington does. We are lucky to have such an amazing community crying for beer festivals. There is no doubt that the WBC has been incredibly successful, in large part because of our great consumers.

      But…..tell me you don’t like that format. Massive food, unlimited booze, lots of selection, schedules, etc. I’d take that.

      Thanks for the comment (and stirring the pot), Kendall.

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