Every now and then, I volunteer to serve beer at brewfests.
This habit started about five years ago. It was a natural evolution; you might say it happened organically.
I have a long history of tasting different beers, a history I summarized in another post, A Beer As Big As Your Head. Something I didn’t mention there was how I’d go about trying the various brews. There are several different ways to go.
The obvious way is to go to a brewpub; a pub that serves beers that are either made on site or is associated with a local small (micro) brewery. These pubs will typically have a half dozen flavors on tap, sometimes more. Depending on your inclination, you might a try a pint of a favorite style, or maybe a pint of one and a pint of a different one. A more efficient method is to see if they offer a taster tray, this gives you a chance to try 5 or 6 different beers in small cups – a way to taste a lot of beers without getting sloshed.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say “just head on down to your nearest brewpub”. I live in Portland, and understand it has more breweries per capita than any city in the world. As of July of last year, there were 61 breweries, with 91 in the metro area, and some of those have multiple pubs.
And that doesn’t even count the home brewers.
The average restaurant carries a decent selection of beers as well, crossing brewery boundaries, and a few also offer taster trays.
But this is about brewfests. Like any festivals, there are lots of varieties with different themes. The main one in Portland is the Oregon Brewers Festival, held at the end of July. It’s crazy big, with about 80 different beers on tap, brewers from around the country and recently from around the world, and 80,000+ attendees over four days.
The good news about going to an event with so many different beers to try is you don’t have to buy a full glass to try a beer. While the entrance fee gets you a festival glass (usually plastic), most folks just get taster fills, about 3 ounces (90 ml). That way you can both make your beer $$ go further and taste more beers.
While the Brewers Festival can be entertaining, it’s a bit large for my tastes. Lines 25 people deep. Noise. Elbow jostling crowds. Overimbibing. Periodic yells, traveling down the venue like a wave. Fortunately there are other, smaller festivals.
So when I discovered that one of the smaller ones was held in my neighborhood park, it was only natural that I check it out, and being a neighborhood thing I made the next step, standing on the beer serving side rather than the beer drinking side. An almost organic progression as I mentioned, apt as it is the Organic Brew Fest.
There is a reward for serving, beyond helping various festival goers get a hoppy buzz. Volunteers get a t-shirt, a festival glass, and a few tokens, so the next day they can try the beers too.
The thing is, when I first volunteered, it was for the last shift of the festival. No next day.
This situation is not lost on the festival organizers. They have a solution for this problem. It’s called an after party.
After the last shift, once the wrap-up procedures are done, servers will take a pitcher of each beer they’re serving to a party area, collect their cups and tokens, and start tasting. But since the show is over, there’s nobody to take the tokens; they can keep them for the next year. There is a time limit though, things could get a bit rowdy if that were not the case.
Guests who attend a festival may come alone or with a couple friends to help them enjoy their brews. Servers, while they may not know the other servers, share a common interest – it’s like a temporary little club. While tasting it’s pretty much carte blanche who you strike up a conversation with.
Since discovering this little excuse for tasting beer with like minded people, I’ve taken it up at the Spring Beer and Wine Festival too. The intro photo is the after effects of that after party.
Is there a moral to this story? Well, as long as your morals allow for tasting beer, you might want to look into volunteering to serve at a brewfest in your area.
You’ll meet interesting people and taste interesting beer. And they might even have an after party.