American Craft Beer Festival 2009 Part One: Practicalities

Last weekend, the Alstrom Brothers threw one heck of a party, and the Punks were in attendance. We thought we’d throw out a few quick thoughts on the practicalities of attending beer festivals. In our next post we’ll reveal some of the gems we unearthed. If we don’t get to your favorites, cut us some slack, with 300 beers at the festival, we could only cover so much ground. But we look forward to hearing comments from those in attendance.
So I, being the only one lucky enough to be a Boston resident, made it to both evening sessions, the first night with wonderful new friends from out west, the second with Mike and Helen. The first thing we’d like to point out is that, if possible, you should attend the Friday session. I guess out of towners (like Mike and Helen) can’t generally attend on a weeknight. As a result, the crowds were much smaller, meaning significantly shorter lines, less trouble navigating the facility, and potentially friendlier staff since they weren’t being mobbed. In fact, if we have one critique of the festival, it’s that they seem to have sold too many tickets to the Saturday session, and were only using about a third of the facility. At times it was impossible to move, let alone take notes.

The second thing to note is that if you are a serious festival goer, you might want to bring a secretary to take your notes (might as well ask your designated driver…in for a penny in for a pound, just make sure to get them something nice). I found it very difficult to juggle my tasting glass, beer list, and pen all at the same time. It also helps if your notetaker is in the legal profession, as they’ll be familiar with shorthand and are used to taking extensive notes. Our Friday notes read like the back of a napkin at 4AM; our Saturday notes like a court transcript.

Oskar Blues was also distributing necklaces with a beer can on them. We didn’t figure it out until it was too late to be useful, but this is not a spitoon, and not necessarily a fashion accessory either. We did, however, see people keeping their taster in it while they took notes. Very handy, indeed.

Finally, if you’re going to any beer festival, always remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself. This is often repeated, and with good reason. To that we would add, it’s not about “getting your money’s worth” either. When we ran the numbers we decided we had paid the equivalent of over six dollars a pint (remember you are only getting two ounces at a time, and you have to wait in line for that even). You’re not here to drink lots of beer cheaply, you can do that at home. You’re here to taste beers you can’t find anywhere else. This also means you should probably shy away from your old favorites for a change and try to find some new ones. So take your time and get searching.


Who are the Trappist Punks?

The world of beer goes deeper than the line of taps at your favorite watering hole. It goes deeper than the cooler at your corner liquor store. Simply put the world of beer is much larger than most people dare to imagine.

The Trappist Punks are explorers of this vast world. We brew beer. We taste beer. We talk about it, drive hours just to find new ones, and try to learn more about this wonderful beverage, how it’s made, and the people who keep the beer world alive. The more we learn the more we find is left to learn. That’s why we’ve decided to share our journey with you, because together we can see further.

Like most things, it all started simply with a series of small, seemingly inconsequential experiences. A brewery tour here, and brewpub there, a failed experiment with a Mr. Beer kit. Over the past five years our interest has turned into a virtual obsession. We seek beer while travelling, from coast to coast, to our neighbors in the north, and even to North Korea. Hogan in particular is becoming frighteningly obsessed with the technical side of brewing and how the magic four ingredients – malt, hops, water, and yeast – can produce such a wide variety of different beers, and the imaginative mad scientists behind the creation process.

We are not beer snobs. I’m not even sure either of us have ever met a beer snob. We are, however, passionate beer people. Sometimes beer people can seem a bit unapproachable to newcomers, like they speak another language. This needn’t be the case; we feel you can geek out on beer without losing everyone else in the room, if you do it right. We also feel that while it is sometimes exciting to hear about strange local customs from around the world or obscure farmhouse breweries, what we all really need is a usable road map to navigate the beer world. That is what we hope to provide. And we look forward to the help of our readers on this one, because after all, we can only draw a usable map for our own little corner of the world, and the few places we’ve been.

So you have a choice. You can go back to the warm embrace of your fizzy yellow corporate masters, or you can look a little deeper and see what else there is for you, a little deeper in the cooler.