|Almost like high school chemistry|
You might think sample size has, like cost, been consistent over the years. That's where you would be wrong. Sample size has not been consistent. My collection of old OBF mugs helped me to do a little experiment with taste sizes going back to 1991. The old mugs, a sink and a Pyrex measuring cup were my research tools. No beer was harmed during this project.
In case you're wondering, there was no fudging. Mugs were filled to the sample line and the liquid was poured into the Pyrex cup and measured. Numbers are approximate. I'm not a chemist and I don't have a digital beaker with super accurate tick marks. Here's a list of select taster sizes over the years:
1991...6 ozWhat you see is what you might expect. Sample size has decreased with the value of the dollar. It stabilized at 4 ounces over the last 10 years or so. I have no idea what happened in 2003. I suspect the tasting mark on that mug may have been a mistake. By the way, one mug (on the right below), year unknown but likely from the 90s, held 7 ounces at the taste mark! A serious outlyer. Keep in mind the old plastic mugs held 14 ounces when full.
|Taste lines have not been created equal|
Look, I don't like to the switch to a 3 oz taste any more than the next person. But I give Larrance and company credit holding the line as long as they did. I think they had to do something to address the fact that costs of everything are going up. They chose to reduce the sample size while sticking to the same old price.
There's always a temptation to assume this is all just a big money grab. Larrance and others have done well over the years. So what? Why shouldn't they make some money on this event? Even with the 2013 changes, the OBF is still one of the better festival deals around. Look around. There are plenty of bad deals out there, including the Portland International Beer Festival.
Nonetheless, I believe the move to a 3 oz taste is a mistake. In his piece over on Beervana, Jeff Alworth suggests the 3 oz sample size is a bad idea because it will result in longer lines. Most everyone knows long lines are one of the event's more serious challenges. Jeff argues the 3 oz taste will put people back in line faster, making lines even worse. He may be right.
I actually think the combination of the smaller 12.8 oz glass and the 3 oz taste will lead to more people getting full glasses of beer and potentially shorter lines. Think about it. Full glasses weren't such a hot deal when it was four tokens for a what amounted to 13 or so ounces (in a 14 oz mug). The 4 oz taste was the better deal. The 3 oz taster makes a full glass (12 or so ounces now) for four tokens a good deal. People with full beers won't need to stand in line constantly. The obvious downside is more drunks faster, always a concern.
What would I have done? It's always nice to second-guess someone else's decision. I think they should have moved away from the single token taste. It no longer makes sense. Go back to 1991 levels and sell a 6 oz sample, but for two tokens. A taste of that size is big enough to keep people occupied and out of line for a few minutes.
Given the larger taste, you can go to a smaller glass and eliminate the problematic full glass pour. Some festivals already use the smaller glass, single taste formula. Why not the OBF?
If the one token taste is somehow sacred, simply increase the token price to $2. People might bitch at first, but they'll come around once they realize they're getting a reasonable sample pour. One token for standard beers, two tokens for rare, hard-to-find beers. Makes sense to me, though I know opinions will differ.