Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 International Beer Fest Recap

The 2012 International Beer Fest for my fiancĂ©e and I started during the Friday session as Volunteers at the Real Ale Bar. After attending the event in 2011, we both knew we wanted to give back to the craft beer community by volunteering. We learned early on that the 2012 event would once again feature a Cask Ale style station and we just knew we had to work it. Thanks to Rick Seibt of Willoughby Brewing we had that opportunity and it was a blast! During our session there were 8 Cask Ales that were tapped and coincidentally 8 volunteers to work the station. The hit beers of the evening were the Great Lakes Cherry Vanilla Edmund Fitzgerald, the Columbus Double Dry Hopped IPA, Fat Heads Head Hunter, Buckeye Brewing Liquid Foodie Truck, and Willoughby Hop Jam. Besides having the best line up of beers at the fest, the cask ale station gave me and the other knowledgeable volunteers a chance to share our passion for craft beer with other beer lovers. It was fun to answer all kinds of questions about craft beer, and the crowd around the station seemed to be very happy that the wait was only around a minute to get a brew (unless it was the Great Lakes Brew which was in super high demand).  Our four hour shift absolutely flew by and we are already looking forward to hopefully volunteering again at the Real Ale Bar again next year!
On Saturday evening we had the chance to come back to the IX-Center and attend session three for fun. When we arrived at session three we found out who won some of the awards that were given out in session 2. I’m proud to say that the Cleveland Area Brewers really did well at this event! Here are some of the big winners from the event:  Fat Heads brought home 5 medals, Great Lakes: 4 medals, Willoughby Brewing Company: 4 medals, The Brew Kettle: 4 medals, Market Garden: 4 medals, and Hoppin Frog: 4 medals!   For a complete list of all the winners just click here
For the Saturday recap I’m going to list the positive aspects of the event first, followed by some suggestions for improvement.

The Pluses
  • The Real Ale Bar: The Real Ale Bar to me was the rock star of the event. The 8 cask ales on tap Friday was amazing, but the 22 on tap during the final session was just mind blowing. There were 22 taps because there were some left over casks from the first two sessions. How could they let those go to waste, right?  It was hard pull myself away from the station because there were so many amazing brews available. Some of my favorites were: Buckeye Liquid Foodie Truck Stop, Columbus Double Dry Hopped IPA, Fat Heads Head Hunter and Hop JuJu, Willoughby Brewing Hop Jam, Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter with Cocoa Nibs, and Hopnotic, Brew Kettle Tunguska, and Hoppin Frog BORIS.   All of these brews were excellent out of the cask!
  • The Event Set Up and Organization: The set up of the event once again was excellent. The hanging banners made it easy to find each section, and the space between for people to walk in was very large which made maneuvering a breeze. I also really enjoyed how feature event sections were also spread out and provided an easy arena for the public to listen and learn!
  • The General Admission Craft Beer Selection: For the most part I tried to seek out “new to me” brews and there were plenty of them. Some of my favorites were: Hoppin Frog Cafe Barrel Aged BORIS, Rockmill Cask Aged Tripel, Neil House Milk Stout, and Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter.  I also had a great time visiting the local brewery stations.  I enjoyed that the local breweries all had great representation. I always love seeing the brewers themselves interacting with the public. 
  • Food! Not only were Noodle Cat and Greenhouse Tavern chefs present for some awesome food and beer pairings, but the food truck force was out in full effect.  Having good food to go with your beer is always a plus in my book!
Areas to Improve
  • VIP Room: The biggest let down for me was the VIP room. The workers behind the bar were all paid to work the event, not knowledgeable volunteers. When I inquired about a few of the brews, I was told by several people that they didn’t like beer, and they had no idea what the beer even was past its name. This to me just cannot happen in a VIP room at a Beer Fest. To improve the VIP experience I suggest they recruit knowledgeable volunteers who could engage the VIP patrons. I know that many members of the Cleveland Craft Beer Community would be glad to volunteer. Also in my opinion, Yuengling Bock and Budweiser Platinum really have no place in a VIP room at a craft beer event.
  • Beer List: The beer lists must be published sooner. When an event is going to have three session and only offer specific beers during specific session (VIP, Real Ale Bar), the consumer has to know what is being offered during each session. Not everyone wants to, or can afford to, attend all three sessions. It is important for people to know what will be offered so they can make an informed decision on what session they want to purchase tickets for. I understand that sometimes a brewery will have to back out on a commitment, but it is it better to know 80% of the list than 0% when making your ticket and hotel purchase. If the event is held around the same time next year, I hope all of the beer lineups will be out at least 1 month in advance. 
Overall we had a blast during the two sessions we attended. Volunteering was rewarding and fun, and attending for pleasure was also a blast. If you missed out on the International Beer Fest this year, you should strongly consider attending or volunteering for at least one session next year. Each year the event improves and I have no doubt that the event will be even better next year!

Here are a few more pictures we took during the event: 
Disclosure: I was given a pair of tickets to giveaway on my site along with a pair of media passes to cover the event.  Volunteering for the event was our own personal choice.

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