Now that several days has passed since The Shelton Brothers and 12% Importers hosted “The Festival” in Portland, I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience throughout the weekend.
First, I want to thank the organizers, volunteers and promoters that made this possible, as well as the sponsors on the side that made the night even more enjoyable. The food trucks (including Hella Good Tacos and Pizza Pie on The Fly) kept me well-fed and free shuttles (provided by Maine Beer Tours) shortened my walk home and allowed me to relax with a post-festival beer at Novare Res Bier Café. Also, local shirt company BrewTees were on hand to offer up special Festival shirts as well as other beer-themed apparel. Additionally, the media coverage leading up to the Festival was well-researched and as a beer geek, I appreciated the positive attention that the Fest was given. Thank you, as well, to everyone that helped to get the word out, as well as the bars and businesses that held Festival-related promotional events to welcome brewers and beer enthusiasts to the city (including Nosh, Oxbow, The Great Lost Bear, Bier Cellar and others).
As I wrote on Saturday – my experience at The Festival was fantastic. Hundreds of beer-loving enthusiasts got to try rare and one-time-only brews in the company of their friends. The environment was fun and well-sized, and it was a great place with a contagious amount of energy. Brewers were on hand* to talk with, and many were grateful for the attention their beer was receiving. Even brewers not participating in the fest decided to show up – there were sightings of Tod Mott (formerly of the Portsmouth Brewery and planning to open his own project in Berwick, ME), Kai Adams (Sebago Brewing), each happily quaffing beers from all over the world. Even Miss Maine USA was in attendance.
Through my travels that day, I didn’t run into anyone that was out of control in either session – as most of the beers were not the type that one would be inclined to consume quickly. The group of people that attended this fest were a different group than other festivals. I didn’t see a single group of “bros” – guys dressed in matching shirts – trying to get drunk, or a drunken cadre of women holding each other up. Nor did I see folks asking for “whatever had the highest ABV.” Most everyone I interacted with was there for the thrill and for curiosity that goes with trying new beer.
I talked with many people throughout the day, and during The Festival, they were all eager to recommend their favorite beer that I just had to try. Thank you to everyone who steered me towards your favorites – I appreciated every recommendation.
Personally, I found the 48 tasting tickets that were handed out to be a reasonable number* (1 for a 1 oz. pour, 2 for a 2 oz.).
From an outsider’s perspective, other than the half hour delay to gather additional volunteers for the second Saturday session, I saw very few causes for concern as an attendee. I walked away happy.
However, as you may have read, that’s not the end of the story. There are several more details coming to light over the past few days about Maine beer laws, volunteer experiences and other things that have left a “sour taste” in organizer’s mouths. The Shelton Brothers have stated that they do not plan to return to Portland until we straighten out our laws. There has also been some controversy about the role and expectation of volunteers at The Festival.
In Part 2 of this post, I will address some of the concerns and questions raised- and offer my take on what the issues say about the event itself as well as the future of similar events. While I’ve heard from many of you – if you had an experience or perspective that you’d like to share, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Footnote: I was taking 15 minute breaks every half hour to get a live blog post out throughout the day so I am not sure how many tickets I’d be left with if I had gone “full tilt” throughout the whole session.