Sunday, June 20, 2010

Us and Them: American Craft Beer Fest 2010

After volunteering at last night's session of the American Craft Beer Fest, I was checking out the #ACBF Twitter feed, and what struck me was one Tweeter's comment about the us vs. them attitude among some of his fellow beer snobs.

Of course, his point was that those of us who are used to festivals such as this being a safe haven for beer geeks better get used to the fact that our love is moving towards the mainstream. It kind of reminds me of the catch-22 that goes with the territory of being a fan of independent music. You're excited for your favorite artists—or, in this case, your favorite brewers—when they start to gain some mainstream notoriety, but then you realize it means you'll no longer be able to stand up front at their shows—or, in this case, go straight to the front of the line.

Well, as volunteers at the ACBF, KJ and I were able to cut to the front of the beer lines, but we also had jobs to do, so we weren't all about getting drunk as many of the festival goers were. Which brings me back to my original point. I was surprised to see so many folks who considered this the type of event to pursue that goal. I mean, was it possible to really get your money's worth by approaching it as an all-you-can-drink for $40 party, waiting on 10-15 minute lines for 2-oz. samples?

Judging by how the crowd's demeanor changed considerably between 6 and 9pm, many were able to get pretty good value for their money. But, as far as I could tell, most were fairly well-behaved and there were only a few ejections—including two confirmed puking incidents—out of 4000+ participants. In fact, there was even one friendly woman—I think her name was June—who insisted on having her husband take a photo of the two us.

Me and June

I didn't get to sample as many brews as I would've hoped—that probably goes with the territory of actually working the event—but there were a couple that made an impression. First, here's the list of those I tried:

  • Dark Matter (Element Brewing Co.)
  • Sir Hop-A-Lot (Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery & General Store)
  • Seventh Seal (Haverhill Brewery)
  • Gestalt (Haverhill Brewery)
  • Mojo IPA (Boulder Beer Co.)
  • Bourbon Black (Allagash Brewing Co.)
  • 2XIPA (Southern Tier Brewing Co.)
  • Hopback Amber Ale (Troegs Brewing Co.)
  • Dale's Pale Ale (Oskar Blues Brewery)
Two of those—Dale’s and Mojo—I’ve had before, but both are old standards that filled a void when I just needed a quick, convenient pour that I knew I would like. My favorites among those new to me were Franklin's Sir Hop-A-Lot and Southern Tier's 2XIPA, both American Double IPAs, otherwise known as Imperial IPAs. Big surprise there, I realize.

The discovery of Franklin's, a virtually unknown—at least to me—brewpub in Hyattsville, Maryland, adds another stop to a potential ballparks-and-brewpubs trip that KJ and I are planning, probably for next summer. Since neither of us have been to Washington's Nationals Park nor Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, a trip there is already in the works, with possible other destinations being Baltimore's Camden Yards—KJ’s never been—and a first visit for both of us to New York's Citi Field. Two of our favorite microbreweries—Victory Brewing Company and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery—are also in that neck of the woods. After tasting Sir Hop-A-Lot, a stop-off at Franklin's is now a must.

We also went home with a nice little goody bag, which included quite a few beers that neither of us have ever had. If anything is truly memorable, you'll certainly be hearing about it right here.


  1. Hi! It's me, June! This was my first Craft Beer fest and I was surprised at the number of college kids. I'm not a beer snob but I didn't expect that for the same reasons you mentioned. I was also pleasantly surprised at the fun vibe that avoided drunken obnoxiousness even though people were clearly intoxicated. But I have a theory about that... those little sips of beer (many with high alcohol contents) really add up unexpectedly. So I think some people (like myself) who did not expect to feel any effects ended up feeling pretty buzzed. I think if you went going with the intention of getting drunk you could probably do it a lot cheaper and easier (less line standing) someplace else but you would miss out on trying some unusual or new things.
    Overall I had a really good time (the people watching was fun too) and I have some new favorite beers and I'm looking forward to their full size servings!

  2. Thanks for commenting, June. Sounds like we basically agree...a lot of drunks, but mostly good drunks. And I always favor trying new stuff over the same old thing.