“Coming out party” is perhaps an imprecise description, but it’s the most accurate I can muster.
Seemingly everyone in New York has “a thing”, and my obsession with libertarian politics hasn’t been warmly welcomed in this hotbed of big-city progressivism. Thus, I’ve turned to craft beer. It’s affordable, it’s accessible, and its culture is laid back and self-deprecating. Since July 2011 over 400 unique beers have found their way onto my palate.
As such, I was thrilled when a friend offered me a free “Connoisseur” ticket to this year’s NYC Craft Beer Festival. For all of the great beer bars and stores I’ve been to, this was to be my first real immersion into the heart of the beast.
Prior to the event I had three goals:
1: Learn more about the specifics of beer styles, tasting techniques, and the NYC craft scene’s players
2: Try as many beers as possible without being too buzzed to fully taste them
3: Come away with five or more new beers that I’d want to stock my fridge with
…and two theses:
a) As I drank more, my beer ratings would climb dramatically
b) I’d inadvertently consume too much to achieve #2
Goal #1 was a massive disappointment. It seemed to me that the event was about fitting in as many paying ticket-holders into the venue as possible rather than allowing for meaningful interaction. About a third of the stands were staffed by contractors rather than brewery employees, and even most of the latter seemed unexcited to be there. When my friend and I asked specifics about the beers, most reps just spouted off a stock line or two that we could have gleaned from the beer labels.
Because #3 was a minor failure, #2 was a success and a) was wrong. In other words, I didn’t find many great beers, so it was easy to stay under control:
Don’t get the wrong impression here: both my friend and I had a great time at the event. Physically the venue was appealing; the old-style concert hall had multiple levels open, with the main ballroom hosting beer, food, and live jazz. Furthermore, I’ll never complain about a free ticket, the “marginal utility” of which was never in doubt. It was a heck of a way to send a Saturday, and there are definitely some breweries (Kuka and Element) I plan on checking out.
The shame is that the event had so much unfulfilled potential. For many folks, these events are their first forays into craft beer. Because the hobby brings me so much joy, I really wanted to see something capable of attracting as many people as possible into the fold. (One of my proudest recent moments was convincing my mom to try three craft beers at a beer bar in suburban Cleveland. She’s put down her Amstel Lights ever since.) This event, I’d guess, didn’t do so.