After taking a week off for SF Beer Week and attending something like 25-30 events in ten days, my sixth Top 10 list is my pet peeves at a beer festival or event, the things that drive me batty when out in public at an event involving sampling, be it at a festival, bar or restaurant, anywhere really, where the event is focused on beer being served. I know most festival-goers are upstanding, responsible people and most festival organizers are likewise doing their best, but it’s those few in the minority doing their best to ruin the experience for the rest of us that deserve our condemnation. Maybe you’ll agree, maybe not. Maybe you’re one of these people. If so, cut it out, will you? Anyway, here’s List #6:
Top 10 Festival Pet Peeves
|Festival Food Estimates This is perhaps my biggest quibble with the venues that rent their space for people to put on beer festivals. In my personal experience, in their pursuit of profit, they have a twisted sense of reality. Most venues that serve food insist that if you use their space, you have no choice but to buy their food. But how much? They invariably charge by the head, meaning you give them an estimate of how many people you’re expecting at your event and then they provide what they claim is enough food for that many people. But it never, ever is enough. Ever. I don’t know exactly how they arrive at their estimates, except to say they try to give you as little as possible — that’s how they make their money after all, they don’t have to listen to the complaints of all the people who got in line too late to actually get any food. It’s very frustrating because I don’t really see what can be done about it. The greedy fuckers aren’t going to change anytime soon and they could care less if the people who attend your festival are satisfied or not. They know you have little choice. Business doesn’t have to be conducted that way, nor do I believe it should be, but that’s what happens to a society who cares more about profit than people.
|The Entitled Not all beer is the same. I know, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? Some costs more to make, too. When breweries bring beer to a festival, they try to estimate bringing enough for the expected crowd, but they also don’t want to have to haul a half-full keg back home, either, so they try to be as accurate as they can with their estimates. For the more special, rarer, more expensive-to-make beers, they often bring less. They have to. They do their best. But sometimes, their beer may prove more popular than they anticipated and they run out. Shit happens. It shouldn’t be the end of the world. It isn’t, really, except to the group of people I call “The Entitled.” They paid their money and feel entitled. If they don’t get to try a particular beer because they didn’t get in line soon enough, you know sometime during the first two or three hours, then they believe they’ve been cheated. Some even think they should get a refund. I don’t know if it’s the drink talking or if they’d feel that way no matter what. They paid for the opportunity to try the beers at an event, not an actual tasting of every single one. That should be obvious at festivals like GABF where there can be 1400+ beers on the floor, but it’s just as true at any other festival, too. You make choices. You may not get to try everything you wanted. Time is fixed and there’s only so much you can do. Get over it.
|No Kids Allowed I’ve hammered this one to death, over and over again. Sorry. And I know it’s rarely the festival organizers who make this rule, but it is almost always a rule dictated by either the venue or a governing body, be it a state liquor control board or state law more generally. But boy does it annoy me. The very notion that children should be restricted from portions of society “deemed” to be for adults only gnaws at my sense of proportion. That should be a decision for the parents. Some may believe they should not bring their children with them to a beer festival. And that’s just fine with me. If you feel that way, don’t. I make no judgment concerning your right not to bring your children along. The breadth of paternalism in our laws makes our entire society like children, unable to make decisions for themselves. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You treat people like children who need to have everything spelled out for them and give them no ability to decide what they think is best, then you create a society of children who’ve never had to make a hard decision and that just begets more paternalistic laws.
|Line Grumblers I’m no fan of waiting in lines, but I suspect no one really likes it. However, if you attend a popular event that begins at a time certain, then chances are at some point you’ll have to wait in a line, maybe two. It’s just math. If hundreds of people are all trying to be in the same place at the same time, it just isn’t possible for everyone to waltz in without any delays. And that’s even more true at events where alcohol is being served, because there’s the added trouble of having to check ID cards. Until they invent a robot that can instantaneously check your age by bone density, retinal scan and DNA sample while at the same time putting on your wristband, you’re going to have to cool your jets for a few minutes at least. Get over it. You don’t hear everybody else grumbling, do you? They understand the inevitability of it, what’s wrong with you? Yet there’s always a percentage of the crowd that seems to believe they’re special or somehow better than the rest of us, that feel they’re too good to wait in a line and want to let you know just how unfairly you’re treating them. Please, shut up and stop whining already. Sheesh. The number one thing you can do to get in sooner? Arrive earlier. Now was that so hard?
|Sample Size Snivelers Every beer festival has a glass and a sample size that the people pouring the beer have been instructed to give you. If they shorted you by a few milliliters, do you really think they’re trying to cheat you personally? Can you really be that paranoid? No, they made a simple mistake. They’re under pressure from the organizers, who themselves are probably scared they might accidentally over-serve someone and open themselves up to liability by our draconian alcohol laws. Often they’re volunteers. They’re trying their best. Stop yelling at them. And stop asking for more than you’re allowed. Get in line again, if you want some more of a particular beer. I agree it’s ridiculous that so many states believe that there’s a huge difference between getting a 1 ounce sample and a 1.1 ounce sample, but you’re not going to change the law by harassing the person pouring it at the festival.
|Booth Talkers You’ve waited in line. You’ve finally gotten your beer. Did it escape your notice that there’s a throng of people behind you whose only difference from yourself is that they got in line a few seconds after you did? They would like to sample the beer, too. Shut up, get out of the way. If you’re alone at the booth, fine. Ask all the questions you want, but please keep an eye on the space behind you for someone who’s as interested in trying a beer as you are. I know most brewers and brewer’s reps are happy to answer your questions, but that still doesn’t make it the ideal spot, please just try to be considerate. Remember the golden lager rule; don’t keep people from the beer you already got.
|Line Blockers Similar to #5, but worse in my mind. You’ve waited in line. You’ve finally gotten your beer. To your credit, you got out of the way so the next person could get a sample, too. You backed up … a little. But then you stopped, usually with a couple of friends. You’re halfway back, not at the front of the line anymore, but not out of the way either. People walking up aren’t sure if you’re even in line. But you’re so engrossed in your conversation that you’re oblivious to the people around you. And now you’re part of an amorphous gang of people in the way; blocking the line. To me that’s what toddlers do; they’re down low and unaware of anyone around them. Grow up; pay attention to your surroundings. I can forgive a four-year old for being underfoot and inattentive, but you’re at least 21. Try to remember there are other people in the world.
|Glass Breakers This is something I just don’t get. Once upon a time, people accidentally dropped their glasses at beer festivals. It happened, people are only human, after all. People cheered. Murmurs rang out amid the rafters and the sound carried throughout large halls whenever this happened. It was organic then and for that reason it didn’t really bug me that much. But nowadays, I see people aggressively throwing their glasses down at the end of a festival, trying to get a rise out of the crowd. And crowd mentality being what it is, it works. More people throw down. Glass flies everywhere. It’s dangerous. It’s immature. It’s stupid. If you do it, you’re an unevolved twit. Stop it.
|Common Thieves Here’s another head scratcher. You go to a beer festival, presumably because you love beer and/or the breweries there pouring their beer. But then toward the end of the festival, a curious transformation occurs. You turn into a common thug and try to take anything not nailed down as a “souvenir.” Just because the brewery brought it with them doesn’t mean you can simply take it. Banners are the worst, as they cost breweries hundreds of dollars and some people apparently feel it’s perfectly okay to just walk off with them when no one’s looking. It’s become a huge problem for small brewers. We’re all glad you enjoyed yourself and had a memorable time, but that doesn’t mean you should thank them by stealing their stuff. Do you go to a friend’s house for dinner and then take whatever you can carry from their home as you leave? How on Earth can you think that’s okay? You’re doing actual harm to the small businesses you claim to support. Do you not get that it’s just stealing plain and simple or does having a few beers in you make that morally acceptable? I mean WTF are you thinking?
|Bad Drunks There’s probably no way to stop everybody from getting overly drunk at a beer festival. Some people look at the price of a beer festival admission as a challenge to get “their money’s worth,” which for them means drinking as much as humanly possible. Keeping the price of festival’s admission high can help somewhat, but it’s no guarantee. GABF ticket prices are pretty steep, but there’s still plenty of bad drunks there by the end of every session. It runs completely contrary to the idea of what a beer festival is supposed to be about; which is an opportunity to try a wide range of beers in one place, at one time. But beer festivals also need a certain number of attendees to break even, and they unfortunately can’t be too picky about who they let it. A valid ID and exact change are usually more than enough. I believe the way we treat underage drinking and utterly fail to ever teach our youth responsible drinking is at least partly to blame. That, and never letting families attend festivals so kids can see models of responsible behavior — in their parents, one hopes — and the contrast of the other folks who didn’t get the word. We’ve created the conditions for binge drinking to flourish by never allowing any alternatives to be shown or examined and then rail against it as if it happened all by itself and our own policies are not to blame. When you make something a taboo, you make it more attractive to the rebellious nature of youth. But, of course, it isn’t just young people. Generations of neo-prohibitionist propaganda and puritanical thinking have left most of society scarred in such as way as to produce widespread dysfunctional drinking patterns. It didn’t have to be that way, but that’s what happens when your alcohol policy consists entirely of saying “don’t do it.” But while I recognize it’s partly fantasy, I’d like to think that a craft beer festival should be a place to explore good beer without having trouble standing or walking when you leave. And don’t get me started on belligerent drunks. There’s nothing worse than a drunk with a chip on his shoulder itching for an altercation of some kind. You don’t belong at a beer festival. You’re ruining it for everybody else. Cut it out. If you can’t make it through four hours of small samples of beer without becoming a falling-down, foul-mouthed, anti-social, bellicose pain-in-the-ass excuse for a human being, stay away. Please, just stay home and do your drinking where you can harm only yourself.
What are your pet peeves at beer festivals and other events?
Here are some good additions to the list people have sent in, so far:
- No place to sit
- Not enough bathrooms
- Not enough drinking water provided (to rinse glasses and, more importantly, to drink).
- Not enough dump buckets to allow for/encourage not drinking what you don’t care for just to empty the glass.
Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.