Venues and events

Hangovers and happy surprises

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There’s never really a good time to get a hangover. But one of the worst times would have to be on the same day of a beer festival you’ve waiting months for.

Which is precisely what happened to me on Saturday, the first day of Wollongong’s Froth and Bubbles beer festival (yeah, there was cider and wine there too….but who cares about them?). I’d been stoked about it for ages because it was the first proper beer festival in my home town. It meant I could go there and try loads of great beer and then catch the bus home and sleep in my own bed.

I was invited to the launch party on Friday (cause, you know, I’m pretty important around these parts), which was great. I got to check out the finished set-up on the floor of the entertainment centre – very nice indeed – and sample most of the beers without once having to queue up behind some guy who wants to show off his beer knowledge to the brewer manning the taps.

And so I took great advantage of that. So much so that I woke up the next morning feeling rather less that perfect. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have spent the whole day in bed. But that is never going to happen in a house with a six-year-old who asks “daddy are you okay?” every five minutes.

So I soldiered on with painkillers, Berocca and Gatorade and, by 3.30pm felt okay enough to head back into town for a bit of hair off the dog that bit me the night before. There were three reasons I had to go back in
1) If I didn’t attend the festival after months of looking forward to it, I’d regret it.
2) There were a few beers I still hadn’t tried.
3) I wanted to see if Wollongong was ready for something like this.

Number three really worried me. While Wollongong’s good beer scene is growing I wasn’t sure it was big enough to support a festival like Froth and Bubbles. When it comes to festivals, the ones we see Wollongong are wine festivals with a few beer stalls, all held in car parks with trestle tables and drunk people getting sunburnt.

One thing about car park festivals is that they can’t really change admission. But Froth and Bubbles did come with a $35 entry fee, and then you needed to buy drink tokens on top of that. This set-up is nothing new to beer geeks who regularly go to indoor festivals, but for a number of people in Wollongong, there seemed to be the expectation that the $35 entry fee included all the beer you could drink. Leaving aside the RSA nightmare that would create through people trying to drink more than $35 worth of beer so they can get “in credit”, an indoor festival isn’t cheap. There’s the venue hire and set-up costs, the fees for the bands playing over the weekend and, of course, the brewers would like a bit of cash for their efforts and time.

I was concerned that plenty of people wouldn’t get it and wouldn’t turn up. Or they would turn up but treat it like a pissfest. Either option sucked for me, because this was a festival I really wanted to see succeed because I wanted to to return next year.

So I was pleased when I turned up on Saturday afternoon and saw a pretty big crowd. Rather than hang out on the floor, I would grab a beer and take my slightly hungover arse up one level to sip and watch (which is where the photo at the top of this post was taken). As you can see there was a pretty good crowd – a lot of people but not so many that you couldn’t get around. And everyone seemed to be having fun, with hardly anyone getting “tired and emotional” (except the one guy who was tapped on the shoulder by security while I was talking to him and escorted from the building).

It was all a very happy surprise and made me think that, at least for some people attending, they would go on to become part of the city’s growing craft beer market.

The festival itself was great and I really hope it comes back next year. I promise I won’t be hungover on the first day too.

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8 replies »

  1. Extremely unimpressed with the event to be honest. I would have been better going to Dan Murphys and buyinh $80 worth of craft beers and drinking them at my house. $80 entry (2 people) then drinks on top? What a complete crock. The brewers dont deserve money on top – it is all marketing. The band doesnt deserve money – I didnt even want them there. I was just extremely disappointed with what could have been a great event

    • You could have gone to Dan’s instead, but you wouldn’t have been able to buy the vast majority of.beers on offer at F&B. As for expecting free beer, show me one beer festival where that happens.

    • Usually, the brewers pay the festival organisers to set up shop. On top of that, the brewery needs to pay staff to turn up and pour your beers. Depending on the festival, the beer is either sold at a discount to the festival or the brewer is reimbursed at a rate depending on how many tokens they get.

      The idea that breweries can make up for this in marketing exposure is going to mean most festivals aren’t going to last very long, e.g.

      “After two years of the Ballarat Beer Festival, trade uptake of craft beer in Ballarat remains slow. The local availability of the beers that the festival showcases has grown, but the overall trend remains in line with the growth in similar regional centres across Australia. A similar story has been reported by industry members following numerous beer festivals around the state. The public are receiving excellent exposure to beers through the festivals, but not necessarily the accessibility to those beers afterwards.”

      http://www.brewsnews.com.au/2013/02/crafting-a-crowd-for-beer-in-geelong/

      The exposure most breweries get rarely converts into meaningful sales and if brewers don’t get a commercial return out of the exercise, there’s no point in them turning up.

      It’s your dollars but it’s not as simple as the brewers are taking home all your money and you’d get better value at DMs (that and that’s two incomparably different experiences that happen to involve beer).

  2. i didn’t go to this event but have been to other beer festivals but i understand you cant give the beer away for nothing but $1(sometimes more) per tasting is kinda of expensive considering you are getting like 90ml which i think isnt enough to taste a beer.

      • At $2 a taste, in this case a half glass or 100ml (and lets be honest it was rarely a half glass, most of the time it was closer to 3/4) you’re talking around $8 a schooner, give or take.

        This is highly comparable to retail prices (in Australia) for the beers you’re tasting… even better for some of the bigger ones. $8 a schooner for an 8-9% IIPA, good luck finding that price standard in a bar with overheads, entertainment and public liability lnsurance…. perhaps you might get lucky from the brewery door.

        Not to mention, you get to talk to the brewers, understand a little more about what you’re putting down your throat and even expand your understanding of different styles… first time I’ve encountered an Imperial Wit and only the 3rd Biere de Garde I’ve come across…

        Great event & I look forward to doing it again next year!

        (P.S. there is actually one small beer & cider fest that doesn’t charge for drinks after entry, but I’m not giving that detail out for people who just want to turn up and consume as much as possible for their $36 entry fee).

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