The Yards Craft Beer Premier went down Saturday afternoon, but people were still chatting about it throughout the weekend. It is hard to sum up people’s feelings on the event, which were as mixed as the beers themselves. We asked for attendees to weigh in on Facebook and for the most part their general reactions were similar to ours. We liked this event, but it could use a lot of work before the 2015 edition comes around.

The line outside the Beer Premier moved far too slowly for most people in the blazing June sun.

The line outside the Beer Premier moved far too slowly for most people in the blazing June sun on Saturday afternoon.

First up, there were things we did like. The beer was quite good. Ladron’s Peak from Back Alley Draft House was probably the most unique beer. Made with sage, blue corn, and more native New Mexican ingredients, it produced a wonderfully aromatic beer that was popular with the crowd. Other beers that seemed to strike a chord with the crowd were Kaktus’ Choice ESB, Abbey Brewing’s Monks’ Dubbel Reserve, Bosque’s Close to Clever saison, The Stumbling Steer’s Brazilian Soiled Dove, both of Santa Fe’s barrel-aged Porters, and the Crew’s favorite, The Preacher’s Share from Second Street. It was quite a nice surprise to find that imperial stout that I tried out of the mesquite whiskey barrel back in April.

Now for all the things that either did not work or need work before next year’s event.

1. Is it hot in here, or is that just me?

The Yards was a cool venue from an aesthetic perspective, but from a practical perspective, it was toasty. “The space was beautiful, but hot — there were fans that weren’t on, which makes no sense, given the amount of people as the afternoon progressed,” said Alexis Fisher on Facebook. She has a point, the Yards got stuffy. I’m not sure if there is a practical way to cool the place down, but something would be better than nothing. Otherwise they might want to move the event to earlier in the year. Also, leaving the sample glasses out in the sunlight was not a very popular move. They should have been kept in the shade.

2. A little comfort goes a long way

One consistent complaint dealt with water. People wanted free water to both cleanse their palates and to just stay hydrated. One additional suggestion was rinsing stations for glasses. Breweries often had to use their beer to wash out people’s glasses. No one wants to see beer wasted. Dorian Fisk Gilmer said, “Cheers to Taos Mesa Brewing for being the ONLY one offering to cool your pint glass with ice prior to pouring. Cheers to 2nd Street Brewery for the water keg.” Also, lots of folks called for a larger seating area so once they bought their pints, they could get off their feet and relax.

3. Getting in should be easier

The Yards does not have a lot of available parking, and apparently there were issues with the security staff letting people park prior to 4 p.m. “The security initially wasn’t going to allow anyone TO PARK until 4PM until I explained what foolishness this was to a supervisor and he reluctantly relented,” Travelin Man said. The line to get in was very slow moving, but when it comes to properly checking IDs, we know it’s not something that can necessarily be sped up. Still, on an extremely hot day, it was rough on people. We were told at least one woman passed out in line due to the heat. Precautions, like on-site EMTs, might need to be taken in the future.

The Yards had a lot of aesthetic value, but darn it got hot inside. And Stoutmeister's camera phone was blurry because someone got beer on the lens.

The Yards had a lot of aesthetic value, but darn it got hot inside. And Stoutmeister’s camera phone was blurry because someone got beer on the lens.

4. Hope you’re not hungry

The space and size limitations of the Yards meant only three food trucks could fit in the allotted space outside. The time of the event fell right during dinner time for most people, so yeah, it got a bit chaotic by the trucks. The lines took forever (I personally stood without moving more than 10 feet over 30 minutes in the Sebastianos line, at which point I gave up and left the festival to get food). Another suggestion was to not have the mobile bathrooms be right across from the trucks. It got a little smelly later on, we were told.

5. To sample or not to sample

For us in the Crew, we never had issues getting samples. Of course, we’re beer writers known by the breweries thanks to our shirts and having met us many times before. There were numerous people who did not have such an easy time as they reported lots of breweries were either reluctant to offer any samples or in some cases started charging for samples. A big part of this is due to the following …

6. Clarity is the key

There was a lot of confusion among the beer drinkers, the breweries, and just about everyone else about how this event should be run. There was not enough information provided in advance by the Brewers Guild, and it didn’t just seem to be the general public that was confused about the nature of the event. The breweries did not know what to do as far as giving out samples went. It seems as though there was not enough communication going on, nor enough promotion. We in the Crew only found out about the format a week in advance and it was the ABQ Beer Geek who tipped us off to the new format.

It was a far-from-perfect event, but we still managed to have some fun. From left, honorary Crew member Dan Hicks, Stoutmeister photo bombing in the back, and Brandon enjoy the Preacher's Share from Second Street.

It was a far-from-perfect event, but we still managed to have some fun. From left, honorary Crew member Dan Hicks, Stoutmeister photo bombing in the back, and Brandon enjoy the Preacher’s Share from Second Street.

So where do we go from here?

Having a specific set of rules for the breweries to follow as far as sampling/purchasing goes would be a start. Then making sure the general public knows these rules as well more than a week in advance would be an improvement. The Yards is a unique venue, but it’s just too hot in the middle of June at that time of day without providing free water and turning on all of those unused fans. There is not enough parking nor room for enough food trucks to accommodate such a large crowd. Either reduce the number of tickets sold or move the event to a different location (which as we all know is nearly impossible to find in the ABQ metro area; there are not a lot of good beer festival spaces around here, especially with all the restrictions placed on these events by the City and the State of New Mexico).

Personally, I think it needs to go back to the 2013 format in one respect. Every brewery should bring one unique, brand new beer. Leave the other beers at home. That way you have 19 breweries (well, 18, since I did not see Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca anywhere) providing one beer apiece. It would make it more streamlined and help people more easily pick their free pint and make it more understandable to limit sampling. That would make life much easier on the all the brewery reps doing the pouring, too.

As for the event’s pricing structure, well, as Nico Ortiz of Turtle Mountain pointed out to me, in many states now unlimited sampling festivals cost upwards of $50. For the breweries to see any financial profit and for the Guild to get the money it needs to continue to lobby in Santa Fe and promote NM beer across America, this is one possibility discussed. I countered with the fact that when UNM started charging $5 to park at football games and for the use of its parking lots during Isotopes games, people in this town freaked out. We are not a wealthy state, so going to $50 festivals would not work for most people, just the die-hard beer lovers. The alternative is to do an event like this, where you get one free pint and then must pay for additional pints, but keep the cost under $20. There does not seem to be an easy solution to what most people want (unlimited sampling) and what the brewers and the Guild want (at least some tangible profit).

We heard from a number of you on Facebook, but we’d love to hear more suggestions about how to improve this event for next year, especially in terms of the pricing/sampling structure. It should be one of our state’s premier beer events (pun intended there). Let’s continue to work with the Guild and the breweries to make it just that. Keep messaging us via comments here, Facebook, Twitter (@nmdarksidebc), and email (nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com). We’ll pass along your comments to the Brewers Guild. Who knows, maybe one or more of you out there has the best solutions going forward. This is our event, New Mexico. It was pretty good this year, but it could be a great event in the years to come.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Comments
  1. ajohnson says:

    Last week I was about to buy tickets for the event online. In the comments, I noticed one of the event organizers stated that there would not be sampling and that the $15 admission included entry, a pint glass and one pint of beer. We talked it over and decided that we weren’t really crazy about that idea since we didn’t want to end up getting hammered buying pints all night in order to taste the beers, but rather wanted a chance to taste as many beers as possible. A few of our friends decided to go anyway, and we were very disappointed when we heard that there WERE samples being offered (though from the above statement, it seems even that wasn’t completely consistent). I absolutely agree that they are in need of offering some clarity. I think an ideal situation to keep the cost down while maintaining samples would be to allow tickets for a certain number of tastings – that way it is not unlimited and the breweries don’t feel like the crowd is full of cheapskates and the crowd still gets some samples, but eventually need to buy a pint or pay minimally for a sample and contribute some cash to the breweries.

    • Thomas Molitor says:

      A brewery also needs to understand that events are an investment in building their brands. A brewery is not going to recapture its production costs and the costs associated with supporting an event. But it will expose its brand to probably the most loyal beer drinkers in the state (the event goer).

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