What happened at Beavertown Extravaganza ’17?

Why the whinging at craft beer’s Woodstock?

It’s fair to say that the Beavertown Extravaganza had more buzz than a pissed-off wasp. Craft beer’s Woodstock had every band, playing all their hits, and even some new classics. Trillium, Other Half, Omnipollo, Three Floyds, New Belgium, Mikkeller, Cloudwater and 65 more beasts of brewing were in town.

I went on the Friday and had a blast.

Crowds at Beavertown Extravaganza 2017

But it’s also fair to say that not everyone was happy by the end of it, while many – including the organisers – were delighted.

The issue was, for some, a lack of beer. Indeed, by around 7pm, a lot of places were not serving (Trillium, Other Half and Cloudwater for starters), and many of those who were still serving were offering up beers of a more, I think it’s fair to say, acquired taste. IPAs were mostly long gone, while sours, stouts, saisons and ciders were plentiful.

Having paid £55 a ticket with promises of all the beer you can drink, many were upset with what they saw as a raw deal. Here are some relevant tweets, with drunken typos for good measure:

I’d rogered plenty of top quality beer by around 8pm, so I wasn’t too bothered.

And Beavertown were similarly relaxed. This pair of tweets sums up their no-nonsense approach to dealing with whingers:

The debate here is an interesting one. As many have already said, anyone who has been to a beer festival of any kind before knows that certain beers are popular, and kick early. Consequently, breweries ration certain beers so they have enough for multiple days.

It was also pretty obvious what was going to happen. From minute one, the queues for Trillium, Other Half and, initially, Omnipollo, were 15 minutes long. Unless they had Jesus doing the 100ml pours – instead of just lots of people who looked like him – they were going to run out.

Buxton x Omnipollo
A glass of Buxton x Omnipollo Original Raspberry Meringue Ice Cream Pie held up by a drinker at Beavertown Extravaganza 2017.

Having said that, the difference with BeaverEx was the upfront payment. Most festivals are £3 to £10 on the door, and then pay as you go. But with BeaverEx, people had more of a sense of entitlement. Many will have been tempted in – rightly or wrongly – by the promise of beers that they would otherwise be unable to drink without a holiday. The many brilliant US breweries were clearly the stars of the show. When those breweries shut up shop 2 or 3 hours before closing time, there was understandable consternation.

It also appears that, on the Friday night at least, there were very few breweries serving at all by 9pm, and those that were had queues and the aforementioned ‘niche’ beers. At your average beer festival, this might happen on the 3rd or fifth day, but not on the first. It seems on the Saturday this was rectified by Beavertown, with kegs of Neck Oil and Gamma Ray brought in to plug the gaps. Which does seem to be an admission that Friday’s situation wasn’t ideal.

All in all, for the first run, the event was a massive success. It’s bloody hard organising anything this big, with such a dedicated, demanding customer base. It also says a lot about the craft beer crowd in the UK – and elsewhere. I’m probably not the first to notice that when most people say they like craft beer, what they really mean is that they like IPA, and DIPA at a push. You only had to look at the short queues for Jester King throughout the day – serving up world class sours and mixed fermentation beers – and the moaning about a supposed surfeit of non-IPAs later in the evening to see there’s some truth to it.

Ultimately, the main feeling I’ve taken away from Beavertown’s Extravaganza 2017 is one of excitement. If they can do this well first time round, then it will only get better. See you next year.

Beavertown Routemaster
A converted Routemaster bus at Beavertown Extravaganza 2017.

My BeaverEx highlights:

  1. Stillwater Artisanal Wavvy DIPA. Sultry.
  2. The cubanos I had before drinking had even begun.
  3. Slim Pickens’ pineapple cider.
  4. New Belgium’s Fat Tire. Biscuity goodness.
  5. The real star of the show – the little glass.
  6. The free merch. Sierra Nevada key-ring bottle openers.

Author: Andrew Fitchett

I'm a journalist of ten years, now writing about beer. Find me on Twitter @andrewfitchett

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