Columbus Beerfest 2010

Last Friday in order to kick off the Memorial Day Weekend off properly, Scott and I attended the Columbus Beerfest 2010.  This was the first official Beerfest (not to be confused with Beer Camp which was also lots of fun!) for Columbus with the focus on bringing craft beers and breweries the attention that they deserve.

If you know anything about me, you know I love a good dark beer! I prefer craft beers over anything else but I will drink a Sam Adam’s if that’s my only choice.  That’s as big business brewery as I get though.

The man behind Columbus Beerfest is also the man who is responsible for the Cincinnati Beerfest, so he’s done this before and has plenty of experience from what I’ve been told.

Ticket cost provided attendees with a 5oz sampling cup and 25 5oz tasting tickets.  I didn’t count, but from what I’m hearing, there were a total of 158 different beers on hand for folks to test out.  With 25 tickets, attendees were able to sample a good amount of beer!

The convention center room was set up with booths all around the perimeter and a few booths towards the center.  There was a huge open space with cocktail tables for people to hang around and chat with friends and other craft beer drinkers.  While there was a high percentage of out of state breweries, there was also a strong showing of local breweries as well!  Locals were:

While not local to Columbus, there were some other Ohio Breweries making a showing:

Scott and I had fun sampling different kinds of beers when we were able to elbow our way up to the booths.  With a lot of people crammed into a what was really a small room, it was hard to move around.  It was very difficult to take pictures! I tried my best though, you know me.

There were some “big” names making an appearance as well.  Two of my favorite craft beer breweries were located right next to each other, Breckenridge and Kentucky Ale.  It was meant to be!  Also among those attending were:

Just to name a few.  There were lots of beers!  There were buckets provided for dumping samples, allowing attendees to move along and keep sampling.  I suspect that most did not utilize the bucket system though! Just a guess.

While Scott and I did have a good time, there were a few issues that prevented it from being a great time.  With new events I’m willing to give some slack because it’s new and there will always be kinks to work out.  However, because this was an event that has been put on by this group before, granted in another location, I did expect a bit more organization.

I hope this doesn’t come across like I’m dissing on the event because I’m really not at all! But I am going to tell you what frustrated me a little bit.

1. Lack of promotion.  I should have seen mention of this event all over twitter but I didn’t see anything other than a few tweets from people who were going to the event.  Word of mouth when it comes to events is your best friend! It should be utilized as much as possible.

2. Lack of communication.  I tried to get in touch with the event coordinator just to give him a heads up that I would be covering the event for my blog.  I also had questions regarding the photo taking policy and ticket purchase.  My email was not answered.  From my understanding, my email wasn’t the only one not answered.  An event this big, organization and communication is key.

3. In order to purchase tickets, I had to create an account on the website and then was charged with service fees for each ticket.  No one wants to create an account for a website when it’s unnecessary.

4. Lack of signs and directions to the event.  Nowhere on the website or the tickets was the exact location of the event.  Yes it was at the convention center, but the convention center is huge with multiple rooms and sections.  There were no signs in the building at all leading people to the event (other than two signs created by attendees near a different entrance!).  Scott and I probably walked around for 30 minutes or more trying to find the location of the event.  There were a Stargate and a Gamer (think multi-sided dice not computer/console) conventions going on.  I know because I walked around and through them several times.  I was not in costume and not drinking any beer so I was really outta place!  Finally out of frustration, I texted a friend and asked for help in finding the location. (The website now has the location but the day of, it was not there for me to reference.)

5. The room was really crowded and dark.  Sometimes it was hard to see where you were going and hard to read vendor information.

6. Each vendor should have had large signs stating what brewery they were representing and their booth number.  Also, a program provided to the attendees with a list of the beer vendors, booth numbers, and beer names with descriptions should have been handed out with cup pickup.  Some vendors didn’t have signs at all and it was hard to see what was going on until you were at the front of the line for beer.  There were some vendors we really wanted to see that we missed because we didn’t know where their booth was located.  Sometimes it was even hard to tell where one brewery’s booth ended and another started.

7. Say “No” to the band.  With hundreds of people and a band in a small space, the atmosphere was very loud.  People had to talk over the band and each other, resulting in attendees yelling at one other just to achieve casual conversation.  The loudness also made it hard to talk with the vendors.  I wanted to chat with several and was hoping to get pictures for the blog but with how loud it was, that was pretty much impossible.  I also wanted a chance to chat with vendors about their beer just to get an idea of what I was tasting but that was not happening.

8. Each booth should have defined spaces indicating a place to stand in order to learn about their beers and a place to get in line to get a sample.  This will help people gather more information while also preventing bottlenecking once people got their sample.  Several times people would get a sample and then just turn on the spot and start a conversation with their friends without clearing the area for other attendees.  I had to ask many people if they were in line or socializing because I was trying to get to some beer!

While I did attend the event to hang out with my friends and to get a chance to meet new folks, I was mainly there for the beer.  I was excited because I viewed this as what should have been a fun learning experience.  I was going to sample some beers that I had not had before from breweries I had not tried before.  I was hoping to get a chance to talk with more vendors about their beer and their breweries.  Unfortunately it did not work out that way and I left the event more frustrated than pleased.

The upside is that I did get to hang with my friends and I did get to meet new people along with trying some beers I had not had before! My favorite of the evening was a beer by New Holland Brewing Company called Dragon’s Milk.  It was dark, luscious, and outstanding. Something tells me those gamers a floor below would have loved it as well.  I could tell right away that it was an oaked beer and I was right!  If you like dark beers and can find it, try it! Totally amazing.

In summary, Columbus Beerfest has the right attitude about craft beer!  If they focus a little bit more on organization and possibly enlist the help of locals, next year’s event will be killer!

Interested in reading some of my previous beer reviews?  Check out some from my favorite breweries:

Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout

New Holland Brewing Company Cabin Fever

6 thoughts on “Columbus Beerfest 2010

  1. Ben says:

    I agree with the dislikes above. Another couple things that could be brought to attention are:

    1.) The event really should be outdoors. I’ve been to two other beer festivals (one raining and one sunny) and they were both so much more enjoyable outside. The music from band(s) doesn’t effect the festival like it did indoors. Also, the carpet in the convention center was soaked at some stands. That’s just nasty. What about Goodale Park?

    2.) A noticeable amount of vendors ran out of beer early into the Saturday night tasting. That’s kinda inexcusable considering the number of people that were there. Were vendors given a head count for the night so they could know how many people to expect?

    3.) What’s with the “phantom” pint glass we were supposed to get at the end? I heard from some people that there was a miscommunication and that there never was a pint glass. Others have said that it does exist and that they just ran out.

    I know its the first one, so I’m not critiquing the festival with an angry fist, but hopefully these items are taken into consideration for future Columbus Beer Festivals!

    • Ben, Great points! I noticed the soaked carpet as well and was a little taken aback by it. There were a lot of people who seemed, um, like they might not be able to walk a straight line, so I assumed it was from them spilling their beer. My impression about the pint glasses were that they were only for those with designated driver tickets. However those people did not get pint glasses. I don’t think the fest even had pint glasses.

  2. I had similar feelings on all fronts for the Saturday night tasting. It was a good event, but could have been a home run with a bit more planning. I didn’t even know Brooklyn was there or would have been to see them.

    @Ben – not sure I agree about outside. The idea is good, but it was hot that day and doing that in Ohio requires all sorts of special permits and planning etc. Indoors is ok with me, but they did need a bit more space.

    I wrote a review of the event for HopHunter.com here: http://www.hophunter.com/post.cfm/columbus-beerfest-wrap-up-and-notes

  3. Well beerfest, nonetheless sounded fun! I love the fact that you were able to try so many different kinds! Maybe the beerfest people will read your blog review (if they ever get around to reading your email) and take some sugestions for next year. :)

  4. I love those kind of Gamer conventions, because I am always the hottest woman there.

    I bet YOU were the Charlize Theron/Angelina Jolie/Whoever you find beautiful of the convention. :D

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