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When Beer Fests Go Bust…

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Admin - Mike Cortez

To make a great beer you must learn the craft. Once you study the art and the techniques you go about purchasing the tools necessary to make the perfect beer. Along with the knowledge and tools, great ingredients are needed to finally create something that is unlike any other beer out there. These principals are all needed to crafting great beer but the same can be said for making a great beer festival. This past weekend the Austin Beer Fest went down in what some are calling “a slap in the face”. Organizers promoted over 500 craft beers, national touring music artists, food pairing and beer pong / flip cup competitions but instead attendees found very little beer. Attendees have also complained of small samples but sadly, in Texas we are not allowed to sample endless amounts of beer until our loving hearts are content. Serving sizes are regulated by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, so it is common to hear people complain about the limits. After hundreds of angry tweets and Facebook posts it was nearly impossible to find a positive comment about the event.

In the day following the disaster, Austin Beer Fest organizers hit the internet to delete negative comments and plead for forgiveness to the people that attended their titanic of festival failures. Sure it was a first time event for the organizers and there’s the rule of ‘when something can go wrong it will’ but who is actually to blame here? Organizers posted a long letter throwing everyone under the bus blaming the Travis County Expo Center, The breweries, and even event attendees for the event going awry. Attendees expressed their anger on websites like Twitter, Facebook and even Yelp like a lynch mob looking to have the heads of the organizers on a silver platter. Due to some similarities some people were quick to jump on the social media networks connecting the Austin Beer Fest to the organizers to the Houston Beer Fest but on the internet rumors can spread like wildfires, so I decided to contact Timothy Hudson of the Houston Beer Fest to get to facts straight.

TBG: Tim, last year you organized the Houston Beer Fest, what are your ties to the Austin Beer Fest?

Hudson: Quite simply, none. We did hire Brent Villareal as a contract employee to help us find sponsors but when we found out that he was planning his own festival we terminated his contract and cut ties. He teamed up with another organization and they put together the Austin Beer Fest. The only events that we host are the Houston Beer Fest and the Houston Wine Fest.

TBG:  Looking at the Austin Beer Fest there are a lot of similarities to your event. Is there any reason for that?

Hudson: It is obvious that they used our concept for a beer festival and it is a shame that it happened to the people ofAustin. I know we had some setbacks at our event but it was important to us to make things right to the attendees by giving a refund to anyone that asked and made sure that things like that don’t happen again.

TBG: What went wrong at your event last year and what are you doing to make sure it doesn’t happen at this year’s Houston Beer Fest?

Hudson: Last year we underestimated our audience and did not logistically plan for the amount of people coming to the event. In the end I am the one to blame for all that went wrong and I take full responsibility for the errors, but this year I am working to make sure things will be different. We are capping ticket sales at 13,000 and making sure there is more than enough beer, cups and ice to keep everyone happy. We are also making the venue space larger and adding more entrances to ensure attendees get into the gates quickly.


In the end we have to chalk the Austin Beer Fest as a failure due to many factors but I wanted to find out what it takes to make a beer festival a success. Clif Wigington of the Texas Beer Festival gave us a few of the things that made his event last year a success. “I wouldn’t say that we are an authority on festivals, the Texas Beer Fest went great but not everything went exactly as we planned. As for planning the festival we just talked to everyone we could, especially those that had experience with craft beer festivals. We worked a lot with Amy Cartwright of Independence Brewing and I remember a conversation we had a year before the Texas Beer Fest. Roughly Amy said, the 1st year you will lose money, the second you might break even and the third year you might make a little back. From that we chose to focus on the product not the profit and worked to build a foundation that people would come back to; not just the beer geeks but the average person who just wants to try new beer.”
If you happened to miss the Texas Beer Fest last year, they will be returning April 28th in Houston,TX.

When it comes to a booming industry like craft beer you will find a lot of people looking to cash in on the market. With that comes people that are looking for a quick way to make money while there are hardworking people that just want to support the products they love. While the Austin Beer Fest may have been a bust there are plenty other beer festivals to come this year and I hope you don’t let one bad event ruin it for the rest. With people hosting festivals like Texas Beer Fest, Brewmasters International Beer Fest and the Texas Craft Beer Festival I have no doubt the craft beer revolution will continue to grow in Texas

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