I have been to my fair share (and probably a few other people’s share) of craft beer events from the Great American Beer Festival to the Oregon Brewers Fest. So any new event will get measured against events of the past. But even by my high standards the ColLAboration beer garden last Saturday in Burbank was a resounding success.
First off, perfect beer drinking weather graced us all day. Sunny with a slight windy chill so that the beer enthusiasts could enjoy both a Brouwerij Blonde and a Hangar 24 Small Stout or any beer in between. And you could try a wide variety of beers. This was a seriously good list of beers with some beer geek rarities thrown into the mix. Habanero Sculpin from Ballast Point tapped out in less than 30 minutes. Red Poppy from Lost Abbey about the same.
Secondly, I know how hard it is to put together even the smallest of beer events with snafus that can happen in ticketing, seating, lines or a hundred other details down to the amount of ice. Especially for a 1st event, ColLAboration was well thought out. And more importantly, it was true to the goals of the collaborators. They wanted a European style beer garden where people could kick back and enjoy food and games and friends with great beer. By limiting the amount of glasses sold and by encouraging people to drop in at any time they created that atmosphere.
Here is my laundry list of what I thought worked well (future beer event organizers take note):
The roaming food from Tony’s Darts Away was a big hit. And the ability to order food from local businesses was a brilliant idea. Numbering the tables so that people could get their orders made the whole idea work.
Good traffic flow and smart amount of taps. Nothing gets a beer geek riled up like long lines. I was there for over three hours and the lines at any of the three filling stations were never too long. Even when the rarities hit. That doesn’t happen by accident. That requires setting up the taps in such a way as to create a flow of traffic that doesn’t create bottlenecks.
The updates and clarifications on Facebook and Twitter were great. And the e-mail sent to people who pre-purchased was really helpful. Questions were addressed in a timely manner and that allayed peoples concerns, including my own. I would have added a preliminary beer list to the website and Facebook the night before to whet the appetite a little but that is a minor quibble.
Because this event is so unique, normal concerns are out of the window to a certain extent. This wasn’t a tasting event. It was an actual beer garden. So I want to focus more on what they should continue to do and small additions to what they did so well. Keep the size down. Having elbow room was great. Pick a location for future pop-ups with plenty of accessible parking. And once people are there, have volunteers to guide people around who have never been to an event like this, a newbie ambassador so to speak. And instead of the one PA system, have someone walk around with a large board that has written down any new beer that just got tapped.
For the craft beer of the week, we stick with the collaborative theme and talk about the crafting of Marron Acidifie. The Bruery has created in conjunction with Cigar City Brewing of Florida, a beer that has spent “over a year in barrels has left this dark sour layered with notes of cranberries, tropical fruits, leather and aged balsamic vinegar, balanced by wood tannins and roasted malt.”
Your homework this week is to collaborate (do you sense a theme?) with a friend or two. Each of you picks a beer that the other has not had and might even be out their normal craft beer comfort zone. Then share it with them and compare notes. Or you can get beers from each of your hometowns and do a bottle share. Either way, get a beer discussion going and expand your beer worldview.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.