Something I have been proud of during my time as editor of the NMDSBC is our effort to be fair and balanced, only really, not like that certain cable news network. We have tried to always offer up an objective view of the local brewing scene and its many festivals.
Then along comes such a catastrophe of a festival that the term “clusterf—” comes to mind. While we were disappointed by the Yards Craft Beer Premier this summer, it was far, far better than the epic failure that I walked into at the ABQ BioPark Zoo on Saturday night. The first “Lions, Tigers, and Beers” event started badly and finished worse. It was almost a study in “how not to run a beer festival.”
Don’t believe me? Go to the event’s Facebook page and read the comments. Here’s one from Dan Hicks, a friend of the Crew.
“BEST EVENT EVER!! Paid $25 for 5 ounces of beer! Got to stand in the longest, most stagnant lines ever! Thank you, Albuquerque!! At least got the opportunity to let off some really great jokes about how comically tragic this event was. While waiting in line.”
Ah, yes, the lines. The endless, California-esque lines. They were outside. They were inside. They were for beer. They were for food. They may have even been for the bathrooms, only none of us had enough beer that we needed to use them.
Some additional comments posted to our Facebook page.
From Tony Calder: “Three suggestions: #1 Let people through gates starting about a half hour early and do ID wristband check and have a holding area outside sampling area prior to the 6pm start. #2 minimum of 2 but 3 is better servers per station and pour at least 2 ounces per sample #3 provide at least 3 selling bars as done at zoo music events. The music was great but sadly we left after about an hour due to the frustrating long lines for both sampling and selling service thinking we just made a $25 donation to the zoo and that part is OK!”
We agree, at least the money went to a good cause.
From Kim Florio: “The only comfort that it was raising money for the Zoo. It all started with the tiniest tasting plastic glass I have ever seen. Really lame. So you wait in a really long line for a servers to gave you,basically a sip of beer. Good idea, really bad execution.”
From Sheri Tolson: “I had to keep in mind it was for charity. But very quickly became very long lines for a 1 or 2 oz pour….out of bottles. We left after trying about half & went to Ponderosa Brewery so we could try the Chocolate Pumpkin Porter. Also, when going to view the animals it was not lit. So we walked in the dark & had to use cells to see outlines of the animals.”
From Robert H. Engelhardt: “It was a very disappointing event. The commemorative “glasses” for the first X people in line were little plastic cups that never had more than 1/2 an ounce of beer in them. Those unlucky enough to have a collectors glass were often out of luck as booths had run-out of disposable sample cups. The lines were way too long, and on more than one occasion, after 20+ minutes of waiting, by the time I made it to the booth there was nothing left to be had. I know it was for charity, but we all wold have been better served donating 20 bucks and just buying a six pack.”
From Brew Crew Bullpen member Amy O (via email): “When I gave up on trying to get beer that I at least wanted to go see some animals… but nothing was lit and it was pretty much pitch black. You couldn’t see where to walk much less see any animals. Talk about a liability issue. At least I am not elderly or physically challenged but man if you were it would be totally unsafe. As it was, anyone could have tripped and hurt themselves or God forbid fall in to an enclosure. This may be a new event but all common sense was lacking throughout. They better consider themselves lucky if nothing happened and no one sued. Hopefully all that happened is they ripped off 25 bucks each from thousands of people.”
Here’s all the ways the ABQ BioPark Society failed in their (total lack of) organization.
1. Everyone was in one giant line stretching nearly a quarter mile from the entrance. They should have broken the line into people with tickets and people needing to buy at the gate. That just slowed us down even more. I arrived at 6:30 to get in line, got inside at 7:30. See what I mean about California-esque? And having some rent-a-cop outside waving people to break into multiple lines near the entrance only added to the confusion. Get more volunteers out there to help direct the human traffic.
2. They over-sold this thing, badly. I talked to the husband of an employee and he said the staff was stunned how many tickets were sold. The interior of the Zoo was horribly overcrowded, hence the long lines inside for the beer. I get that the Zoo needs to raise money, but this backfired, badly. They clearly over-estimated how many people the interior could safely hold.
3. The beer vendors were clueless and overwhelmed. With the exception of Ponderosa, which staffed its own booth (thank you to Matt and his employees for that), all the other booths had one person apiece, who usually knew nothing about the beer he/she was pouring. It would have taken just a few minutes to explain the beer to them. But honestly, did anyone in charge even know one fact in the world about beer? I’d be shocked.
4. There was food around. It was served at little stands with long lines and no signage telling you what was being served. What’s the point of waiting in line without knowing what was being served? Another patron told me he waited 30 minutes for brisket, only to get to the front of the line and discover they had completely run out.
5. Could anyone taste their beer? Seriously, the sample pours were so small it was pretty worthless. When you can down your sample in a sip, it’s not a sample. Hard to evaluate the beer when there’s so little of it.
6. Let there be light? We get it, the animals need to sleep (another major complaint was that the Zoo was not open for people to wander around, unlike what the event promised), but jeez, it was dark out there. Throw in the random nightclub-style lights scattered about and you were alternately lost in the dark or blinded out of nowhere.
In my email to the event organizers, I suggested that if they do this next year (and based on attendance, they certainly made a mint) to please, please contact either Marne Gaston or Chris Goblet for advice. They need someone who has run a festival to show them what to do and what not to do. Because this entire event was pretty much what not to do.
As someone online said “don’t disgrace the name of the zoo.” Please, BioPark Society, listen to the people who attended your event. This could be a great festival. But you have a lot of work to do.