Big Texas Beer Fest was a smashing success, flying in the face of criticism and skepticism (which, honestly, was to be expected with failures by other festivals in the past in Austin and Houston). But… this is DALLAS, damn it. We are more than just a bunch of $30,000 millionaires driving to Sfuzzi’s in our BMW’s. Yeah, we may have lagged seriously behind Austin in the craft beer movement (despite having millions more people in the area), but we’re here now and we’re here to stay.
Chad & Nellie Montgomery estimated around 4,000 people went through the gates Saturday (plus another, but exact numbers haven’t been released yet. It would’ve been more, but attendance was capped so some people that arrived late and didn’t purchase tickets in advance were turned away. My sympathies, but I also wish Dallas people actually purchased their tickets in advance instead of the majority waiting until the day of the event. Makes it super hard to plan for a great event.
My soapbox for today is exactly that – people that don’t pre-purchase tickets. Any idea what a domino effect that has? There were folks in line to pay at the door complaining about the long lines (although I’ve personally been in MUCH longer lines at other beer festivals even though I pre-purchased my ticket) yet they didn’t pre-buy their ticket. How do you staff for an unknown amount? There were an estimated 3,000 people that showed up without pre-purchasing their tickets – yeah, that’s going to lead to some lines. That happens.
Also, there were complaints about lack of food – but the organizers worked their respective behinds off to get 10 food trucks. Yet, only 5 committed, then only 3 showed up. That’s not Chad & Nellie’s fault – that’s the new breed of gypsy food trucks that doesn’t seem to think their word means much. We’ve run into the same issue at Deep Ellum Brewing Company in the past, in fact, when food trucks promise to show then just disappear, sometimes without so much as a word. We can’t go over and force them to come feed our masses – but our society likes to assign blame quickly and without all the facts.
Anyway, enough soapbox. Let me discuss the event itself which showed so many of us that craft beer is alive and kicking in Dallas. First of all, the venue was fantastic – very wide space so moving around was pretty easy even when thousands of people were milling about. Yes, the air conditioning was malfunctioning earlier in the day, but it was fixed by Fair Park personnel as quickly as possible. The booths were all staffed by cheery volunteers in big blue BTBF shirts that clearly designated who the volunteers were versus the crowd. Badges were attractive and creative, the program well designed and the bands were top notch (Fish Fry Bingo and The O’s!!). Plus, the glasses were acrylic which meant no shattering on the ground when they fell (as they sometimes did).
The beer selection was decent although there really should’ve been some sort of signage or program to indicate what beer was available where. Yes, I know how difficult that is to actually attain for festival sponsors, but it was impossible to know what booths to go to first unless you were already “in the know”. Seemed as if many people got word that Jester King has Sour Black Metal and that DEBC had an oak aged cask of IPA and a bit of Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout, but many beers were gone before the word spread through the crowd. It happens – VIP got most of the rare stuff, but there was plenty of really good beer to go around all day.
Overall, this was a splendid first edition of a much-anticipated festival. I believe this could grow to over 10,000 people next year and that Chad & Nellie will have a much easier time gaining support from a finicky and skeptical Dallas crowd moving forward. Kudos!
Tait Lifto works for Deep Ellum Brewing Company as Sales & Brand Ninja.