The hecticness of life is only now allowing me to share this link, which I offer for your fat-chewing, pipe-smoking and spare time-pondering.
It comes from Brewmaster George de Piro’s Beer Nut column in the Albany Times Union and is teasingly titled: “I Hate Beer Festivals.”
With a little experience in working festivals both as a brewer and a volunteer, as well as having attended a few as a regular, old patron, I have to say that I, for one, don’t hate beer festivals. Working a festival is a lot of work–heavy lifting, long hours and occasionally dealing with an obnoxious jerk or two. These negatives, however, can be found in many walks of life, and I always just took it in stride, knowing that the fact remained that I was being paid to pour and talk beer all day. It’s also acceptable to drink (with restraint) on the job, and I simply couldn’t complain about that. The jerks and college pounders are an annoying presence, to be sure, but setting criteria as a beer ambassador can help.
With regard to those working to “get their money’s worth,” we always made it a point to declare that “we don’t have a beer called that,” when told to pour “whatever” or “I don’t care.”
“I do care” was our response. “So tell me what you like and I’ll help you pick one out. Do you like coffee? Do you like grapefruit? Do you like red wine?”
We would almost always pull off walking someone through a choice, and they were often pleased that they’d found something they liked and that we’d taken the time to help them. As a person with the “teacher gene,” I enjoyed these exchanges. But not every brewer has the temperament to put up with this part of the job.
The drunkies usually hit at the end of the session, and moreso during an evening session. They’re inevitable, asking for free merch, demanding to be topped off, trying to steal glassware, being obnoxious. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. It’s that simple. Don’t let them hurt yours. It’s that simple.
From my experience, two or three workers pouring are enough, so bringing four to six staff is a good strategy. Brewers can take a break to rest or sip comrades’s wares (in moderation) to take the edge off a long day on the feet. A VIP tent can be a much-appreciated haven from the throngs of beer drinkers. Often, brewers are setting up at 8 a.m. and tearing down near midnight. Building rest into the day is essential to not hating the festival life.
De Piro has a few good points in his narrative, but I’m sorry; it’s beer and it’s people and the lion’s share of the event–even for those working–is a good time waiting to happen.