Beer people = my people. The beer crowd is fairly predictable: more bearded guys than you can count; a friendly, fun-having attitude that makes standing in lines and crowds easy; hippies and hipsters as far as the eye can see. Nothing against non-beer-drinkers, but I’m pretty sure that kind of laid-back demeanor wouldn’t exist at, say, a wine festival.
Always buy V.I.P. tickets. When faced with more than 400 beer choices and an unmissable end-of-the-night performance, I decided to mitigate the possibility of crashing and burning by arriving at least an hour after the G.A. gates opened. But by then, most all of the sours and cask-aged, special snowflake beers were long gone. In retrospect, being a Very Important Person would have allowed early access AND in and out privileges for car napping. Note to self: Start a savings account.
I love stout. Stouty stout stouts. These are the perfect beers for cool weather, and there was plenty left for us late-to-the-game dumb-dumbs. I remember my first time trying Community’s Legion last year, and how quickly I fell in love with it. Well, that Rum-Soaked Cinnamon version of theirs is sure to be yet another reason I’ll begrudgingly drop $12 on a four-pack while silently cursing the Community Brewing gods.
Silent discoing. Is this a thing now? Listening to music in a crowd of people should be a communal experience, shouldn’t it? You’d rather wear some Tron headphones and give your friends “aren’t we so much cooler than the non-headphoned people” looks while dancing to music only you can hear? I’m about to go all “get off my lawn” here, but isn’t technology keeping us from interacting in real life enough already? Harumph.
No rain. I’ve had some disappointing birthday and Halloween weekends recently, thanks to the crapstorm that is Texas in the fall. The fact that we didn’t need umbrellas, galoshes, ponchos and waterproof-everything was a truly welcome surprise. And if you were smart enough to layer, it was the perfect fall temperature for the less active, sweat-when-we-drink types.
The new location. The move to Fair Park was a definite improvement from the lackluster Lamar Street location. It didn’t feel congested, and there were plenty of places to sit (or hammock, because pounding 10-percent beer and then attempting to climb into a piece of fabric suspended in mid-air is very smart). But for the live music experience, it was a little too spread-out. If you were happily drinking your Punkel and playing bags over by Lakewood and Martin House, only to hear the faint sound of Elle King’s gritty-pretty voice calling you like a siren, it took almost the length of a full song to get over there. They could have utilized the main stage side of the grounds, which during the fair includes both beer and wine gardens.
Funny costumes. The Flaming Lips’ penchant for pulling festive people onstage was likely the reason, but either way, the occasional animal onesie and glittery tutu was a fun diversion from all the beards. We also saw this guy, who didn’t seem to understand why dressing as the mascot for a fictional version of domestic swill while drinking craft beer is kind of ironic.
Oh yes, it's ladies' night. While standing in line for our very first beer sample, a man sidled up to my lady friend and started a painful conversation that ended with him asking if he could follow her around for the rest of the day. While this is not the kind of attention one hopes for, I did notice quite a bit of friendly eye contact and smiling from more stable-seeming members of the opposite sex. Maybe people were just socially well-lubricated, or maybe it’s that sense of camaraderie that comes with a shared love of beer. Or maybe it’s just an advantageous ratio for hetero women. If you’re a single lady looking for love, Untapped was your place to shine.
Patient pourers. Having the same conversation with hundreds of people has got to be exhausting. But I never got the feeling that these workers were anything but grateful for the long line of thirsty enthusiasts. On the other hand, it would have been nice if they’d put up signs stating what they were out of, because I felt some slight annoyance about being told that five of eight beers were gone. I get it, I should have gone earlier, but this is an all-day-and-night festival, man. I’m not 25, and neither are most of the other people here.
Babies? Really? It’s an all-ages event, and yes, festivals like Lollapalooza have been getting on the kid bandwagon lately. I can maybe understand making it a family night if you a) have incredibly cool tween/teenage kids, or b) can’t find a babysitter for your well-behaved 8-year-old. But standing in a beer line behind an infant in a giant stroller, at a beer festival, with a psych band as a headliner? A farmers market this ain’t, or there would be pump-and-dump stations conveniently located. You’re here to drink, not parent, so cough up the cash for a sitter this one time.
Better food. At most of the beer festivals I’ve attended, there was a woefully small number of food vendors. Your choices were either a hot dog or a doughnut, pretty much. This year, we had a good handful of popular local restaurants like Urban Crust (they win the Longest Line award), Flying Saucer and Common Table. It should be apparent that people who are picky about their beer would also be selective about their food, so this was a substantial improvement, and probably saved a lot of people from worse hangover fates.
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Confetti cannons rule. The Flaming Lips have been doing this for years, and it somehow never gets old. Any stage show that looks like Pokemon and a rainbow made sweet love, and then birthed candy codpiece-wearing human-muppet Wayne Coyne in a giant hamster ball, gets all the love from this warmly buzzed crowd.