The life of a brewer is damn fun! Really really damn fun!
Should I start with the Bitterroot Beer Festival or my day today? Let's go backwards in time!!!
I'm drinking a DogFishHead World Wide Stout and writing in my blog... feeling great!
I ate some dinner with Kelly at the brewery... chili cheese waffle fries and some Hellroaring ESB
I weighed out the "all-natural" ingredients for a quadruple batch of TJ's Old Fashioned Root Beer
I ran with Steve to the compost facility to dump our week old spent grains... smelly!!! (I really hope the farmers come and pick up the next load)
I cleaned 21 half barrel kegs and 2 sixth barrel kegs... right when I finished and dumped my cleaning solution I found 5 more dirties downstairs... whoops and damnit
I ate a hot dog and some carrots for lunch
I showed up for work at 1 o'clock
I spent the morning WHITE WATER RAFTING down the Gallatin River! Such a great time! The rapids are pretty weak in most parts of the river this time of year, but that was okay because we had TJ, Steve and Vicky's 6 year old daughter with us on the river. We didn't want her falling out of the boat now! I also got to plan a trip near the end of August... here are the details: we are running a ~20 mile stretch of Beartrap Canyon, Class 4 and 5 rapids near the bottom, world class brown trout fly fishing near the top, oh yeah and we can bring beer! Who could ask for more in a day?
Now onto the Bitterroot Beer Festival! Kelly, Steve, TJ and I pulled out from Big Sky at 8:04 AM on Saturday morning. We ventured about 4 hours west and north through Missoula, MT to Hamilton, MT for the festival. On the way we stopped off at Kettle House Brewery (they make a delic Scotch Style Ale called Coldsmoke!) Tim from Kettle House showed us his new facility which is located in a restored train station. It was beautiful! I am definately jealous of parts of their setup, but from what we heard he for sure has his own set of difficulties in his process. No brewery works perfectly!
We arrived at the festival "late" or so we thought. We were asked to show up at 12:30... that would have been a huge waste of time! The festival started at 3:00 PM, we showed up at 2:30 and finished our setup in 17 minutes flat. There was somewhere around 15 breweries with over 40 beers there. We were in a tent in the middle of a blocked off street. At first the festival started out slow, but by the end of the evening I saw wristband #2000 floating around... it was packed!!!
Beer festivals are probably my favorite part of working in this industry. The main reason for this is that the people who show up at the festivals are very very open to trying beers they normally wouldn't try. Before serving our beer, people usually ask things like:
"What is your lightest beer?"
"Do you have (bud, miller, coors...)?"
"I've never had that style before, will I like it?"
"What is your best beer?"
These people obviously don't have much experience with craft beer. Usually after they try our beer, 99% of the time they say "Wow, that is so good! I never expected that!" I can witness the enlightenment of newly converted craft beer drinkers! Some of the other breweries brought silly "crowd pleasing" beers that are light and fruity and unappetizing (to me). They miss out on this opportunity! Who has fun serving beer like that? Your customer doesn't learn anything knew and you certainly miss out on the experience of helping them learn more! We brought our Lone Peak IPA and our Hopfest '09 Brown Ale, not exactly "comfortable" beers for most of the beer drinkers in the world. We flaunted the fact that we love hops, and in my opinion we were rewarded greatly for it! As the day went on we saw more and more returning customers because our beer was simply "more yummy" than all the other beer at the festival!
Here are some things that I learned while at this festival:
1) Don't drink your own brewery's beer, you drink it all the damn time, go try other beer and compliment the brewer (its free anyway!)
2) Have some swag to give away with your brewery's name on it so the drunk people can remember the delicious beer they drank
3) Bring business cards, it is networking heaven
4) If you see someone standing in front of your booth looking lost, be friendly and gesture them over, give them a beer sample, they will love you
5) If at the end of the festival your boss says "Boobs for beer" and people start lifting their shirts for pints... I didn't learn anything here except that this works!
6) BRING A TOOLBOX, things always break!
The end of the beer festival was quite a shit-show, this is becoming a trend... I get to go to another festival this weekend, if it also turns into a shitshow then my hypothesis will be confirmed and I will explain why this happens in detail.
Here is a snapshot that Kelly took during the festival, it rained on us just a little bit (don't worry the beer drinkers stayed!)
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!