Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The New Zealand Beer Fest 2014

Last year I went as a patron, this year I had the chance to work behind the bar with an amazing team from Tuatara. 

The first session was easy, busy, but turnover was quick in the queues. Waits for a refill seemed short. There was plenty of time to talk about the beers. I didn't see much in the way of bad behaviour except at the very end where someone decided to give one of our glasses filled with hop pellets a nudge off the table, quite deliberately. But with the mess quickly taken care off and a lesson learned we took a break and topped up the ice in the jockey boxes for the next session.

The evening session was another world, I didn't see anything except a wall of people for 4 hours. Beer after a beer after beer got served, It was quite the buzz as we got into the swing of things and started.

99.9% of people were awesome. We got a lot of cheeky pleas for a full pour. But most people already knew the rules, I had a couple of requests for an extra 5mls to get the beer exactly to the 165ml line while the security guard was keeping a super watchful eye to make sure I didn't go a drop over. At first the "to line rule" had a margin of error, slightly over the line by a mm or two was passable, but then we got the hard word, "To the line only" no room for error. This was my first day pouring beer in this kind of situation, but even the more experience guys were having a hard time. So we got a couple of buckets to tip out any beer slight over the line. Now there can't have been more than 2L in those by the end of the day and that includes a few wrong orders and bad pours (all foam). So I don't know how much difference us serving a extra couple of litres over the course of the whole day would have made.

No sampling for crew either, I felt real bad turning down a sample of some delicious smelling vanilla porter in the first session, but the I didn't want to let the team down by being kicked out or filmed doing it by the council.

I left about 8:30, half an hour after service, it was emptying out but people were still eating and hanging out. It makes sense to have people leave in a more staggered fashion. I talked to the st johns people on the way out and they said they'd had a very quiet night so far. Nice to see the Red Frog team handing out water and snacks.

Overall it was a fun day, I'd do it again in a heart beat, the only bummer was having to walk out of the festival after a hardout 11 hour day to get my first beer.

If I was attending next year (if it goes ahead next year) I would definitely go to the morning session. I don't think I could handle the crowds of the evening.

A different marketing strategy might help too, by simply calling it a Beerfest a lot of people do think of beer halls and massive steins of lager. (I lost count of the times I was asked if we had any lager in the 2nd session!) By promoting in more as a "craft" beer tasting event perhaps people would be more satisfied with small serves and not just arriving with the aim of consuming as much beer as possible. But can the Beerfest survive as it is, trying to be all things to all people?

I haven't heard yet if the festival passed the councils stringent new liquor rules, so if anyone has any info on what the council and police though of the evening I'd love to hear it!