Dear Craft Beer Lovers & Beer Festival Goers,
The following was provoked by my recent experience a beer festival in San Diego. It isn’t like I didn’t know that things got a little crazy at the end of a beer fest. I just never really saw it up close and without rose-colored glasses.
There were two sessions of the festival. One started at noon & the other at 5. We showed up for the late session around 4, and wow. Normal beer fest attendance involves a bunch of sober(ish) people gathering, forming a line, entering and collectively imbibing great beer likely upping their levels of intoxication as the evening goes. Sometimes some people get drunk. It happens, but usually we’re all on the same respective path. We all start sober and end up less than.
By offering two sessions those attending the evening sessions were given a special opportunity to see the aftermath of a beer fest while still waiting to get in to what we assumed would be a lovely evening of consuming great beer while watching the sunset over Coronado from the embarcadero in downtown San Diego. The only word I can use to describe it is: carnage.
Walking up we passed through the aisle of food trucks near the exit. It was packed with drunked up fools. We watched people shove their way to the front of lines, scream for or at friends and strangers. One guy was literally passed out standing up in front of a pizza stand. It was almost mesmerizing to watch him sway back and forth with his eyes closed, arms overlapped and no one taking care of him. The mens bathroom at the end of the food truck lane was destroyed. Beer fest debris and piss was everywhere. Two drunken girls were squatting and peeing over the urinals asking obviously uncomfortable dudes, “Are you mad? No, are you mad? Seriously, we do this all the time, but are you mad that we’re here? Are you mad?” They may still be there.
The only word I can use to describe it is: carnage.
We were at the front of the evening session line at about 4:15 PM. Unfortunately, the entrance was also the exit. The drunkest who hadn’t exited calmly & respectfully when the announcement was made were still stumbling out. There were people falling on the ground in front of the entrance and attempting to go to sleep. People were shouting in the faces of the volunteer gate-keepers or screaming at through the gate at your friends who’d left them behind because they were acting a fool. Idiots were hollering racist comments to their buddies about the Rent-a-Cop who was trying to make sure they wouldn’t get in trouble for breaking the law by sneaking beer out. Drunken buffoons were getting angry when the sober people in line wouldn’t hi-five them? Don’t do those things. Trying to slap a brewery sticker on the chest of some girl with her boyfriend or husband? Definitely don’t do that.
The list of shitty behavior goes on and on. It was overwhelming. Do all beer festivals end this way? One or two idiots are always a risk, but this wasn’t just one or two. It was dozens, maybe hundreds. For the 30 minutes we were in line we watched people acting truly shitty as human beings. Have I acted that way after over-imbibing at past festivals? I hope not. If I have I am truly sorry.
Ultimately, beer festivals serve three purposes.
1. It’s an opportunity for breweries to promote their products directly to the end consumer.
2. It’s a chance for beer lovers to celebrate beer & community together.
3. Often, it is an opportunity to use our love of beer to raise money for a good cause.
Nothing about experiencing the end of the beer fests first session felt like a celebration of beer or made me feel good about supporting a good cause in College for Cancer. If anything, it made me reconsider wanting to attend the festival or be associated with other beer lovers. As someone who works with, writes about and is involved in the beer community on a number of levels I was embarrassed. As drinkers we need to be more aware of our impact. Southern California is truly a glorious place to be beer lover. We have great breweries, great festivals and great weather to enjoy them in. As a community need to be better than we were that day.
Instead of looking at a festival as an opportunity to drink as much as possible let’s consider that it is more an opportunity to try new beers, and raise a glass as a community to how lucky we are. We will be at another festival, and hope you are too. Let’s represent beer drinkers as the Champions we are.
In the end went to festival and had a great time. We met a ton of happy people. We watched Anchorman, we tried new beer and we watched the sunset. When things started to to take a turn to Crazydrunktown, we headed out early. In the spirit of all things craft beer, stay classy.
Ryan & The team at SoCal Sessions.
Editor’s note: Check out our overall event review of the Best Coast Beer Fest here. The BCBF ended up being a lot of fun. Despite the beginning it was beer, Anchorman and beer-goodness.