Putting on a large event is a monumental task, one that most of us don’t really take the time to think about as we enter the venue and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. At the NY Brewfest (“NYB”), however, the patrons did notice, and were quite vocal about their dissatisfaction. I had the unique opportunity to view the NYB from a volunteer perspective and took advantage of the ability to get the low-down from brewers, organizers, and patrons alike. It wasn’t that hard to do, actually. Everyone just wanted someone to listen them, a shoulder to cry on.
From the organizers’ perspective, they were understaffed and overworked. There weren’t nearly enough volunteers to pour beer, haul ice, put on wrist bands, etc. Volunteers weren’t given any sort of relief or break time. Many of them simply stopped working and got drunk.
The breweries hauled in enough beer for a crowd of 7,000, but 12,000 tickets were sold. Naturally they ran out early, frustrating them and pissing off thirsty people who waited in excruciatingly long lines for a two ounce sample, only to finish it in one gulp and have to get in another line. To add insult to injury, food also ran out early. A shortage of beer and food is a recipe for disaster; you could almost see the steam emanating from everyone’s ears.
From the ticket holder’s perspective, the $60 admission fee wasn’t worth it. An hour wait for the ferries, only to arrive to wait for a wrist band and still not be granted entry on a hot sunny day is intolerable. After that, they had to wait in yet another line to get through the gates. Improper planning led to the inevitable chaos. The NYB advertised two levels of ticketing: connoisseur and general admission. Connoisseurs paid extra, got in an hour early, and received a specialty plastic mug that held the same amount of beer as the general admission glasses. The only benefit to buying a connoisseur ticket was to have one hour of sampling without a long wait.
To make matters worse, there seemed to be no thought on how to get 12,000 people off Governors Island in an orderly fashion. I had never seen such a large drunken crowd trying to exit a place where we were all truly stuck. Luckily it didn’t turn into a mob scene — no one got trampled, there were no fights to be had. I think that at that point everyone was tired and resigned to the fact that there were no other options. If you want to see a firsthand account of the madness, click here. To see the rest of my video interviews, just click here too. Such was the disdain on the part of the ticket holders that they created a “NY Brewfest Sucks” Facebook page and blog.
To be fair, this is a relatively young event, only in its fourth year. My thoughts are this: it was too ambitious of a venture, communication was poor and an there was an obvious lack of organization. I agree that many volunteers slacked off, I witnessed it firsthand. I believe that patrons were shortchanged (those who complained got refunds). In spite of all this, many did seem to be able to have a good time and appreciate the event for what it was, to drink two ounce samples as quickly as possible and enjoy the sunny day with friends.
After a day of beer drought, I made it to an oasis by the name of The Blind Tiger and ‘ooh’ed and ‘ahh’ed at the impressive beer list. If you’re ever in the Village and want a great beer selection and atmosphere, this place is where it’s at, and where I inhaled Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA (it’s that good). As ambitious as the day began, with all its letdowns and surprises, it ended with tired feet and happy taste buds. I love New York.