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The Austin Beer Fest - A Complete Disaster

Discussion in 'US - Southwest' started by kmello69, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    I haven't seen any posts on this yet, so I don't know if anyone else here attended, but this was the poster child for how NOT to run an event, from start to finish.

    Organizationally, I don't think you could do things more wrong than they did. Despite moving the event to a larger venue, they only allowed traffic to enter through 1 gate at the entire facility, so the backup was anywhere from 30-60 minutes just to get on property. After that came the surprise that parking was $10, a bit of information never made clear before this.

    OK fine, so a light hassle getting onto the property. That was only the beginning. There were 3 lines to enter: (1) pre-bought tickets, (2) Groupons and Google Offers tickets, and (3) those buying "day of" tickets. Unfortunately, there were NO signs as to which line was which, and no one directing people into the appropriate lines. There was also only *1* person at each entrance with a scanner for the tickets, so it took literally 60 minutes standing in the hot sun on open asphalt just to make it to the gate.

    The event itself cost $25, which was supposed to include a mug, a shot glass, and 6 drink tickets, which could be used individually for 2 oz samples, or 3 tickets could be combined for a 12 oz pour. After that, you could buy more tickets, at $2 each.

    Once we got inside (almost 2 hours after arriving) a lot of the breweries hadn't event shown up, and some were not given tents, meaning their beer was just sitting out in the sun (it was 90 degrees here yesterday). Those that WERE set up were not marked with any kinds of signs, so you had to go up to the table to actually even see which brewery was which (because no maps were provided).

    OK fine, huge hassle so far, but time to drink some beer, right? My plan was to skip the tastes (2 oz isnt enough to really taste anything) and just get 2 fills with my tickets, and then buy more. I see the tent with the Old Raspy, so I figure I'll start there. Ask the girl for a full beer, and she says "that'll be 7 green tickets." Wait, what the hell is a green ticket!? My tickets are orange! "Sorry," she says, "they changed the policy. You can only use the orange tickets for tasters. If you want a full beer, you have to pay for green tickets, which are $1 each." Holy hell, I just got screwed! So I asked for a taster, figuring I wasn't walking away with nothing, and she pours me what can't be more than *1* oz of beer into a tiny cup (you know the kind they have at Williams Sonoma that they put little samples of olive oil, etc., in? Yeah, those).

    So now I'm pissed, because for my $25 I'm going to get about 6 oz of beer, and if I want more, its going to cost me $7 a beer!! And they had NOTHING special or unique that I couldn't have just picked up at Specs. At least I didn't pay $200 for the "VIP" tickets, but my brother-in-law won one, so i saw the crap they got, which was almost nothing as well.

    This event was clearly a cash grab. They charged a lot of money, and provided almost nothing in return. Apparently, even the vendors were pissed - they wanted to give beers away, but were told that they couldn't, and that in order to get paid, they HAD TO collect the tickets the way they were instructed. Half the people serving beer didnt know a thing about the beers they were serving, and there was a general sense of confusion on the part of the people working there, and ANGER on the part of those attending.

    If you want to see more, check out the Austin Beer Fest Facebook page, their Yelp reviews, and/or the twitter hashtag #austinbeerfest to get a real sense of the anger this event generated. I'll be very surprised if this event is back next year, and even more surprised if ANYONE who went this year goes back again. It was a complete disaster, from beginning to end.
     
    ChristinaElaine likes this.
  2. Frozenmoses

    Frozenmoses Aficionado (230) Texas Nov 23, 2010

    Sounds exactly like the Houston Beer Fest last year. Sorry to hear about that.
     
  3. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    Apparently, run by some of the same people. Wish I had known that beforehand!
     
  4. Frozenmoses

    Frozenmoses Aficionado (230) Texas Nov 23, 2010

    Doesn't surprise me in the least. Looks like they're trying to capitalize on the craft beer movement without actually trying to provide a good experience. They're just scamming people. These people should be prosecuted.
     
  5. canadianghetto

    canadianghetto Savant (495) Texas Oct 15, 2011

    Houston Beer Fest was equally as horrible. I would not go this year if I had free tickets. The TX Beer Fest in Houston later in April sounds legit and actually associated with the TX brewers. Might go, but I have such a bad taste in my mouth from other Beer Fests I just don't see the point.
     
  6. lokieman

    lokieman Savant (475) Oklahoma Jan 20, 2011

    Sucks to hear man...I was hoping for the best so we could have a decent beer fest locally but sounds like it was a debacle. Our local brewers should team up and throw a fest for craft beer people and not the masses...bet JK, (512) and Live Oak among others could put together a much better party relevant to the "good beer" drinkers in the Austin area...
     
  7. thirdeye11

    thirdeye11 Savant (445) Texas Feb 3, 2009

    From what I understand, Jester King already puts on some pretty awesome beer events at their place.
     
    UTCengOwl and nate8767 like this.
  8. jumpjet2k

    jumpjet2k Aficionado (180) Texas Feb 18, 2009

    The Texas Beer Fest last year was very successful - I had a great time there. That said, they have switched venues this year, so there's no guarantee it'll be the same. But the lines and crowds were very reasonable and the prices and pour sizes were good. They had a selection of "regular" beers from a large number of breweries and some "special" beers tapped at a particular time. Those "special" beers were the only thing they ever ran out of, too, which I thought was reasonable when they were serving beers like Tokio.
     
  9. lokieman

    lokieman Savant (475) Oklahoma Jan 20, 2011

    Yes they do...I'm talking guest brewery type events. I know it's a pipe dream but it would be cool if a bunch of craft breweries teamed up to put on an event instead of organizers who do any genre of festival for the right price...
     
  10. BgThang

    BgThang Savant (445) Texas Dec 23, 2007

    the texas beerfest, great austin beer fest, the austin beerfest, texas craft beer fest are all different events
    This sucks because now Im not sure if I ever want to go to a beer fest in texas. because no one can be sure who is running it
     
  11. thirdeye11

    thirdeye11 Savant (445) Texas Feb 3, 2009

    Well I'm in Dallas, but I encourage you to come try our festival. The Big Texas Beer Fest is organized by myself and my wife. We're just a couple of craft beer enthusiasts, as opposed to a corporate events planning organization. I've been to lots of beer festivals, and planned our event based on the awesome time we had at Great American Beer Festival. I hope we can do the state right, with a proper beer festival. We've been planning for 15 months so when the event happens in about 12 days, we'll know how we did.

    Cheers,
    Chad
     
    ChristinaElaine likes this.
  12. lokieman

    lokieman Savant (475) Oklahoma Jan 20, 2011

    Awesome man...keep up the good work. I wish I could make it up there but weekends suck for me. Best of luck and hope your festival is the future for craft beer fests in Texas. We need a solid beer fest...no pressure. Cheers man,

    Keith
     
  13. jesterkingbeer

    jesterkingbeer Savant (400) Texas Jun 28, 2010

    We'd love to see a beer festival featuring great artisan breweries from around the U.S. and around the world. Our own desire would be to have a sour beer festival at Jester King with beer from Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, etc. Unfortunately the high licensing fees keep these breweries and other out of state artisan breweries out of Texas. There's not even a festival exception. When we send beer to the Great American Beer Festival, we don't have to get a Colorado license. GABF in its current incarnation would be illegal in Texas. The TABC licensing fees and requirements mean you only see beer at Texas festivals that is already available at Texas bottle shops.

    There is the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, which is put on by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. It's a brewer run event, and I think it's a good one. Unfortunately the TABC code keeps brewpubs from participating, which cuts what Texas beer has to offer in half.

    As for this weekend's debacle, we're embarrassed we even brought our beer to it. We'll be more selective going forward. I should have known better when I heard a radio spot beforehand mentioning "beer pong". Fool me once...as they say. We'll be putting up a blog post on it later today.

    Jeff Stuffings
    Owner/Brewer
    Jester King
     
  14. jesterkingbeer

    jesterkingbeer Savant (400) Texas Jun 28, 2010

    We'll be sending a cask of Das Wunderkind! Sour Saison and a keg of barrel aged, sour Black Metal!
     
  15. H0rnedFr0gs

    H0rnedFr0gs Savant (425) Texas Mar 12, 2012

    So your saying I need only visit your line? ;)
     
  16. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    Yeah, the "beer pong" should have been a dead give-away, but I somehow missed that information!

    Rather than coming out and addressing the issues with the event, they are simply deleting comments from their Facebook page, and the "owner" of the festival, Brent Villareal, even went so far as to remove his affiliation from his own personal Facebook page. Thankfully, they can't do anything about all the chatter on Twitter and Yelp, so they can't totally make it go away.

    I've learned my lesson, and will stick to those I know. I have had a great time at Jester King, Independence, Circle, Austin Beerworks, Thirsty Planet, and other local events, and will stick to those unless there is some way to know for sure an event won't just be a cash-grab like this one was.
     
  17. wolffman17

    wolffman17 Savant (405) Texas Jul 14, 2005

    What a mess. Unfortunate that they seem to be giving all Texas beer fests a bad name. In Houston, I can vouch for Texas Beer Fest and Monsters of Beer (renamed to The Draft, I believe) as legit fests.

    HBF also has a "Houston Beerathon" planned for April 14th. 26 beers at 26 bars in one day. :rolleyes:
     
  18. bentwookie

    bentwookie Initiate (0) Texas Jan 13, 2008

    I had free tickets to this Austin Beer Fest and once I saw they were having a Beer Pong tournament I lost all interest in going.
     
  19. bentwookie

    bentwookie Initiate (0) Texas Jan 13, 2008

    The Texas Craft Brewers Fest in Austin last year was great.
     
    pnogrl and wagenvolks like this.
  20. NickG

    NickG Disciple (60) Texas Apr 2, 2012

    A complete disaster is being polite. I got there a little before 2 since we were in Lockhart for BBQ. Probably closer to 3 when we actually got past the "entrance"; half of the vendors were not even setup and the delivery trucks blocked half a row of tables.
    And those 2 oz tasters were a joke. The best part was when you did buy a beer, they would not give you the can or bottle.
     
  21. jamescain

    jamescain Advocate (660) Texas Jul 14, 2009

    This is the reason I don't really plan on going to a beer fest in Texas anytime soon. Unless there are special kegs that I can't get locally, aka special one-offs etc. I don't see the point to stand in line to get a sample of something I can buy at a grocery store or get at a local bar. I hope things can chance and Texas can actually have a legitimate beer festival.
     
    pnogrl likes this.
  22. wagenvolks

    wagenvolks Advocate (655) Texas Sep 23, 2005

    There were several beers at the TCBF last fall that were not available in bottle shops. Maybe you meant 'on-tap locally or in bottle shops' ? I recall having some unique pours from Real Ale (barrel-aged porter), Twisted X and Austin Beerworks which I'd never seen before. I believe you guys (Jester King) even had Boxer's Revenge there, no?

    I thoroughly enjoyed the TCBF, despite the heat and crowd it was a pretty good day and I didn't feel ripped off in the slightest.

    I also went to last year's Great Austin Beer Festival, when it was indoors. It was poorly run then, and it seems like the organization just became worse with new management. I don't think we should all completely abandon the idea of having a good craft beer festival in Texas, we just need to do our research beforehand so as to not get burned (i.e., this year's Austin Beer Fest)
     
  23. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    Update - Austin Beer Fest Facebook page finally issues an "explanation" (not really an apology) concerning what happened yesterday. I won't recount the whole thing here, but basically their argument is "none of it was our fault. It was because we contracted with the Travis County Expo, and they run everything there, and they screwed it all up." You can actually read the whole explanation here: (and also important to note is that they are apparently planning on suing the venue, but make no mention about offering refunds)

    http://www.facebook.com/theaustinbeerfest/posts/270440049709310
     
  24. BAbaracus

    BAbaracus Aficionado (240) Texas Feb 10, 2006

    I definitely remember reading in several different places that the guys were affiliated with Houston Beer Fest and were taking pains to distance themselves from that event, so at best that was an open secret.

    Also, the pricing on the FAQ made it pretty clear that this was going to be a ripoff even if all of the other contingencies hadn't sprung up. I don't wish to make light of anyone who got taken by this, but for those who are saying they're afraid to go to ANY beer events in Texas now, don't get too paranoid: the writing was on the wall from the beginning with this one.

    [EDIT: oh yeah, they also posted a full list of the beers that were going to be available in advance, of which there was nothing remotely rare to be found. Couple that with the fact that the pricing in the FAQ made it pretty clear that you would be paying prices much higher than any beer bar in town - for beers that you could find in most beer bars in town - and I'm having a hard time understanding why anyone thought this would be anything OTHER than a total ripoff.
     
  25. Wow. What a disaster. SO glad I didn't go to this. Thanks for the info guys. Now I know to avoid this fest in the future.
     
  26. BAbaracus

    BAbaracus Aficionado (240) Texas Feb 10, 2006

    I doubt if there will be a second festival. Most likely it will end up like that ill fated Great Austin Beer Fest from a few years back, where the second edition is postponed while they look for an alternate venue, and the whole thing just quietly disappears without ever being rescheduled.
     
  27. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    Here's where things weren't as advertised - the website says that each person would receive 6 tickets, and 3 tickets could be redeemed for a full beer. So while I knew $25 was a high price, I knew I would also get at least 2 beers out of the deal, and I was hoping that it would be an "event" worthy of a higher price - good bands, good food, etc. Since I bought my tickets in January, and they just released the list of beers last week, I went in hoping that there would actually be some unique beers offered, but ultimately that was my mistake - should have known what I was buying into before buying into it.

    When they changed the policy on tickets (without notice) and I couldn't even get those 2 beers, THAT'S when I felt ripped off. And they still, despite their lengthy diatribe of finger pointing on Facebook, haven't explained that change in ticketing policy, and why no one was actually able to get BEER at this beer festival. They did, however, explain that, despite advertising that there would be over 500 beers available, there were actually less than 300 (another huge change not full explained)

    Lesson learned - we were all taken for suckers. At least the people that bought through Groupon and Google are apparently getting refunds. I think the rest of us are screwed, as the ticket company is telling people that they don't give refunds, and we have to go to the event promoter to ask for them.
     
  28. Onslow

    Onslow Savant (405) Texas Apr 12, 2007

    no surprise here in the least.. looking at the website awhile back- disaster was written all over it..

    plus - any beer fest that advertises beer pong and flip cup deserves to fail, just sucks for the chumps who paid money..
     
    videofrog and TerpBax like this.
  29. BAbaracus

    BAbaracus Aficionado (240) Texas Feb 10, 2006

    Understandable, but that's one of the reason I never buy tickets for events too far in advance if it's an unknown commodity. I guess my point is that even what was posted on their FAQ from day one sounded like a rip off without some kind of guarantee that there were going to be rare, otherwise unobtainable beers there. Even if they had let you cash in all six of your tickets for two full beers - at which point you're back to paying $1/oz for each additional drop of beer you want - that's still a pretty terrible deal.

    I realize they didn't even fulfill the promises that they did make, but even if they had this still would have been a pretty shitty beer festival.
     
    kmello69 likes this.
  30. jesterkingbeer

    jesterkingbeer Savant (400) Texas Jun 28, 2010

    You are correct. I should have been more precise. Unique/special beers from licensed Texas breweries are a nice festival feature. For example, we brought a gravity keg of JK/Mikkeller Beer Geek Rodeo to the festival this past weekend. This is a beer that's not yet available in bottle shops.

    I don't mean to belittle this festival attribute. The larger point however is that there is no festival exception in Texas. That means only licensed Texas breweries may participate. Therefore you won't see unique beers from out of state breweries that send some kegs to Texas just for the festival. For example, we're sending beer to the Shelton Brothers/12% Fest in Massachusetts in June. We don't need a Massachusetts license to do this. Beer drinkers in New England will get to experience our beer, which isn't available in their market. The converse is illegal. If we were a Massachusetts brewery wanting to send beer to a festival in Texas, we'd need a Texas license to the tune of about $7K for two years. No brewery is going to purchase a $7K license (for beer and ale) just to send beer to a Texas festival. The result is that Texas beer festivals are less diverse and exciting as they should be and as they are in other states.

    Jeff Stuffings
    Owner/Brewer
    Jester King
     
    UTCengOwl likes this.
  31. kmello69

    kmello69 Advocate (515) Texas Nov 27, 2011

    Thanks for the explanation, Jeff. Wish I knew more about how these things worked beforehand, but I've learned an important lesson, and thankfully at not too high of a price. When I heard "festival" I went in with certain expectations and ideas in my mind, but it sounds like those expectations are more fantasy than reality. Your example was rather ironic to me, since I'm a guy from Massachusetts now living in Texas. Looks like I might be better off the other way around! :)
     
  32. kcbearkat

    kcbearkat Zealot (95) Texas Jul 3, 2011

    That sucks! It may not be run by the same organization that put together the Houston Beer Fest but the horror story sounds the exact same as mine. Guess I'll just have to look forward to GABF again this year for a proper festival.
     
  33. pnogrl

    pnogrl Disciple (70) Texas Jun 7, 2007

    A friend bought the tix to this scam from Groupon so at least she's getting a refund. Money grab/clusterF*&k doesn't even begin to describe what was going on. I'm glad the traffic on Twitter and Facebook, etc. is busy about this...hopefully, it'll keep these dickhead "organizers" from ever attempting to put on another festival.
     
  34. lokieman

    lokieman Savant (475) Oklahoma Jan 20, 2011

    In case we missed it the first time?
     
  35. Maddogpiper

    Maddogpiper Zealot (80) Texas Jul 20, 2008

    I wanted to jump in and say thank you for the positive mentions of the Texas Beer Fest. We have always striven to further the cause of craft beer, and are proud to put our names out to the public as responsible for the festival and the decisions we make. We are one fest among many that truly support craft beer, and we proudly post ALL our press from last year.

    We are one of many beer festivals and events that look to support the craft beer industry, not take advantage of it. Feel free to peruse our website, we update the info as often as we can, but if there is any question that you wanted asked, please feel free to email me, or post on our facebook.

    We're proud to put our name to what we do.
    -Clif Wigington
    [email protected]
     
    wolffman17 likes this.
  36. starrrrrrrrr

    starrrrrrrrr Initiate (0) Texas May 6, 2008

    i want to buy an early ticket for next year who wants to go with me next year?
     
  37. johnsaulrubio

    johnsaulrubio Savant (265) Texas Dec 2, 2006

    Watching those involved in creating this implosion is just getting more and more entertaining.
     
  38. SSW117

    SSW117 Aficionado (165) Texas Jan 21, 2009

    There are a lot of laws that stand to keep beer festivals lame here in Texas. It is very hard to throw a fun and exciting beer event with restrictions limiting the maximum number of ounces of beer one can sell for one price. Chad, aka ThirdEye11 has come up with a very nice way of structuring his festival pricing for the Big Texas Beer Fest that will be emulated by others in the future i'm sure. As Jeff was saying above, the craft beer scene in other states sets precedents for traveling beer geeks like all of us that are illegal in our state. Texas laws prohibit us from going to Founders, Bells, Russian River, Cantillon, Midnight Sun, Hair of the Dog, Foothills, Lost Abbey, The Bruery, Drei Fonteinen, Captain Lawrence, Hopping Frog, and now even breweries like Allagash that no longer can support licensing their beer here because they don't make enough to send and cover the costs. I hope the frustrations, angers and negative feelings that people have towards this festival and other poorly run Texas festivals can be redirected towards something that is just as easy to do. Put this energy into support for groups like openthetaps.org that will help those of us that do throw festivals be able throw something more like Great American Beer Fest where everyone that walks in gets to try something they have never had before. With the laws the way they are now, that is just a fantasy.
     
    wagenvolks and Asa like this.
  39. BAbaracus

    BAbaracus Aficionado (240) Texas Feb 10, 2006

    Austin Beer Fest Turns Into Houston Beer Fest Disaster, Redux

    Over the weekend, some of the same organizers responsible for Houston Beer Fest created a nearly identical fiasco in Austin at the Travis County Expo Center.
    ...
    Houston-based Brent Villareal with Llama Productions LLC was one of the organizers involved in the Houston Beer Fest, and was also responsible for the Austin Beer Fest. Initially, the Austin Beer Fest organizers sought to distance themselves from the Houston Beer Festival fiasco, but
    Eater Austin called them on this
    and got Villareal to admit his involvement with both.
    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/04/austin_beer_fest_turns_into_ho.php
     
    aschwab likes this.
  40. aschwab

    aschwab Savant (475) Texas Mar 3, 2009


    Exactly what I was going to post BAbaracus

    They can pretend that they are not affiliated, but it is pretty damn obvious that they are.
     

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