Brooke and I enjoy hitting up the Schlafly Bottleworks Cabin Fever festival each Winter when we can, as it’s a nice opportunity to try out some beers among friends and like-minded individuals. Thankfully, living in St. Louis, there’s a similar festival being held on a nearly monthly basis, so the opportunity arose for me to go to this year’s St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival in Forest Park.
This particular festival features breweries from the St. Louis area, so it isn’t just Schlafly that makes an appearance. Just about every brewery around here, many of which I’ve visited, shows up with various beers. In some cases, like Perennial, they didn’t bring the beer that I would have suggested, but at least they were represented. Others had multiple styles available that covered the spectrum of their wares effectively.
I wasn’t a big fan of how this festival was organized, however. The Schlafly-run festivals tend to have their beers organized alphabetically, so if you’re looking for a particular style or name of a beer, you can easily find it and try it.
The picture above illustrates the Brewers Heritage Festival’s “organization,” or lack thereof. All the beers were hosted under large tents with long tables, and kegs of beer behind them. Above each server was a sign displaying the maker of the beer, the style of beer, and the name of the beer.
And that was it.
You’ll note that in the image above, each beer was given a number. So, the beers were organized numerically…yet…there was no number listed on any of the signs. So, if you wanted to find Beer #24, you had to go to the tent that had beers #1-46, head toward the middle of the tent, look through the signs (that were not well-lit), and then find it. Alternatively, you could physically count each sign until you found the number you wanted.
So, the lack of organization already left a negative impression on me. Then, the rain began, complete with some lightning off to the West. Though were in a torrential downpour for about 20 min or so, their website said “with over 7,000 sq. feet of tent space, two beer tents and one food tent, the festival continues rain or shine. There will be enough space and cover to protect from the rain.”
They stopped serving beer. There was no explanation as to why.
After about 20-30 min (and some chanting from the drunken crowd, along the lines of “Rain or Shine! Rain or Shine!” and “Four More Beers! Four More Beers!”), they relented and opened up the taps again.
But with more lightning off to the West and North (i.e. not above us), they shut down completely at 9:30 pm (2.5 hrs into a 4 hr event that folks paid $35 for). Again, no announcements that everyone (anyone?) could hear. No description of the policy. Just shut down.
Which left a lot of drunk, pissed off people. And to top it all off, it wasn’t raining anymore. At all.
So yeah, I ended up getting to taste 10 beers that I came across randomly (as it was difficult to find the ones I wanted due to their lack of organization), and otherwise spent the rest of the time under a tent with a mob of angry people until they finally shut the whole thing down. And many of them were audibly composing angry e-mails to the organizers for screwing up the weather policy so terribly.
On the plus side, Jay Nixon signed a bill allowing home brew to be served at festivals, so I was able to taste a few beers made from local home brewers. They were quite good! I didn’t get a chance to try more than two, but it was great to see that support for the local brewing community.
In all, I’d consider attending this festival again, but it may be a few years. We’ll see how they respond to the negative e-mail I’m going to send them.