|End of an error...I mean era|
The first warning shot across the bow was fired this past week in the form of a press release announcing the usual festival specs. Lots of beers. Check. Standard venue. Check. Destination event. Check.
There are a couple of surprises for people this year, one of them quite a big one in my view. Coming right up.
First, they've added a Wednesday (Noon to 9 p.m.) shift to the schedule. This isn't a huge surprise because the OBF has outgrown its time and place. Remember, this was a two-day event early on. When it first expanded to three days (in 1990), taps didn't open until 4 p.m. on Friday. That was soon rectified and the festival eventually expanded to four days in 2005. Now it's time to grow once more.
|South Tent, Thursday 3 pm|
This change is not without risk. While nobody is talking about it, the extra day means additional cost. Larrance will be leasing the park for an additional day; he'll need additional staffing; he'll need more volunteers to man taps and sell tokens. If you think volunteers are free, you're sadly out of touch. They're getting paid with shirts and beer...which cost money.
|South Tent, Friday 4 pm|
A New Tasting Glass
The second change, far bigger in my mind, involves the traditional plastic mug...which is out for 2013. I don't know what they used the first few years, but the plastic mug has been a icon at the OBF for the 23 or so years that I've been attending (and I've got a pile of them). Now it's out, to be replaced by a 12 oz tasting glass.
The other angle here, and the one that apparently turned the tide, has to do with taste. Plastic is an imperfect material in which to serve beer. Why? Because the smell of the plastic can mingle with the aroma and flavor of the beer. I suspect that's especially true in the late July Oregon heat, when heated mugs can give off nasty odors. "Off-gassing" is the descriptive term. They evidently received a number of complaints about this in 2012, which helped end the plastic mug era.
Glass is a great option because it's easily recyclable and glass doesn't mess with beer. But glass wasn't initially considered because OBF organizers were under the impression that it was banned in Waterfront Park. After seeing glass used at other festivals in city parks in recent years, the OBF asked and discovered there was no such ban. Viola! A solution.
|Always a welcome July sight|
A couple of comments about the new glass:
First, glass is a great idea. It's better for the environment and for the beer drinker than plastic. I doubt they'll see much of a problem with breakage because the ground is soft in the park. That's less the case at the Holiday Ale Festival, held on the cement at Pioneer Courthouse Square, but never mind.
Finally, pricing...you'll pay $7 for your tasting glass at the 2013 OBF. These things surely won't cost a fraction of that. It was $6 for a cheap plastic mug last year, so silly pricing is nothing new. Indeed, one of the unfortunate results of craft beer's success is the escalating cost of festival attendance. Once upon a time, festivals were all about getting people to come out and taste the beer. Those days are gone and the days of making money are here.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is still one of the better festival values around. Beer prices aren't ridiculous and you aren't forced to buy a high-priced tasting package just to enter the grounds. But the price of the tasting vessel is problematic and a sign of the times.