American Craft #Beer Fest 2012

This weekend I was fortunate enough to experience the American Craft Beer Fest in Boston, MA, which kicked off Boston Beer Week, as it so happens.  The event is put on by BeerAdvocate (www.beeradvocate.com) and Harpoon Brewery (www.harpoonbrewery.com), and it was held at the Seaport World Trade Center.  Three sessions in two days, with approximately 5000 people entering those doors each session.  More than 120 brewers were in attendance for the 5th annual event, providing more than 500 beers to sample.  The catch for me, which was a first, is that I volunteered to work the event as opposed to just attending.  I have been to beer festivals all over the country, and the thought of working one was very intriguing to me.  Also, I’ve been a BeerAdvocate member for a few years, and had always wanted to take advantage of the volunteer opportunities.

I signed up for the morning session, including setup.  This involved going around to each of the booths and emptying out the water from the keg coolers to make room for ice, distributing event brochures to each of the booths, and general clean up.  Once that was done, I swung onto line duty, which involved putting those wonderful little paper bracelets on people.  We all know how much fun it is when that bracelet sticks to your arm and pulls a patch of hair out when removed.  Alas, I’m sure I doomed more than a few poor souls to that same experience.  The bracelet placement lasted a solid two hours…like I said, there were 5000 people there.

This first pic was the initial group that began forming a line around 10am for the 1pm event start.  It wraps around to the front of the vestibule on the right hand side of the picture.  Dedicated folks, but there were some rare beers available that only lasted about 20 minutes on tap, so they were smart as well as dedicated.

 This is the second grouping of eager brew drinkers waiting to get into the building.  This pic was a solid 45 minutes before the door opened, and still piling in steadily.

Final section of beer fans, and unfortunately for them, the line extended out of the pavilion and into the rain.  This would be the final mass group of the 5000, minus the stragglers that continued through the doors in sparse groupings for the next couple of hours.  Dedicated folk.

Once the majority of people made it through the doors, we moved our bracelet operation down to the main doors into the venue to scan for any missed wrists.  After all, no bracelet, no beer, and no one wants to miss out on the brews.  Throughout the work day each volunteer was afforded two 30 minute breaks, at which point you could taste some beers, as well as grab some grub.  I had scanned the list of brewers prior to heading into Boston and made a short list of beers I really wanted to try.  This event brought breweries from all over the country, including some that do not distribute in the New England area, which for folks like me means get it while the gettin’ is good!  My first target was from Twisted Pine Brewing named Ghostface Killah, a brew made with ghost chilies.  Hot as hell, and twice as tasty!

Other breweries I had the pleasure of sampling included Duck-Rabbit, Wandering Star, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Big Boss, DC Brau,  Milwaukee Brewing, and a number of others from the craft world.  Great beers all around.  Delicious.  The best part about volunteering was that you were able to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer number of beers available, and almost forced to make a priority list.  The crowd was good-natured throughout the entire session, and there were no real serious issues that arose to the general public.  This is one that I will gladly put on my calendar annually, barring any unforeseen priorities.

Festivals can be so different, and the bigger ones such as this can be tough to maneuver at times, both with the crowd and with the options.  Smaller festivals make it easier to go through, but sometimes have much less to offer.  Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to work the event and meet SO MANY fellow beer enthusiasts, as well as help to promote and support the event itself.  That’s how events like this will continue to prosper and occur.  So, when you see something pop up on your local calendar, get out and have some fun with it, or maybe contact the promoters to find out if you can volunteer.  Either way, the experience is often worth it.  Spread the beer culture in yourself and in others, and drink educated my friends!

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