On June 11, my wife and I attended the Vegan Beer & Food Festival. The event returned to Portland’s South Waterfront for the 2nd year. The festival featured over 50 vegan food carts / restaurants, vendors, live music, and lots of cold beverages! In addition to beer and cider, wine, craft sodas, cold brewed coffee, and komboucha were served. Can it get any better than that? Well, yes! The beverages were virtually unlimited with the purchase of one of several ticket packages. The General Admission ticket package, priced at $45 included a 4 oz. tasting glass and 40 tickets—each good for one pour of beer, cider, or wine! Komboucha, cold-brewed coffee, and craft sodas were filled for no tickets.
So let’s do the math. 40 x 4oz pours = 160 oz. That’s equivalent to 10 pints of beer! I don’t know about you, but I tend not to drink anywhere near 10 pints of beer at festivals. Anyway, if you consider that a pint of craft beer is priced at about $5 each, it would seem like the $45 entry fee is a no-brainer. The VIP package, priced at $65, provided 60 beer tickets in addition to some other benefits. In full disclosure, the festival provided complimentary VIP tickets for me and my wife. Regardless, of how you slice it, that’s a heck of a lot of beer! I’ll get back to the value in a bit…
Here’s what I liked about the event:
- The food. Over 50 vendors provided a huge variety of tasty plant-based foods. It didn’t think it was possible, but plant-based cheese CAN taste good.
- The crowd. There were a LOT of people in attendance and the event had a mellow vibe. Are vegans mellow in general? Maybe. Or perhaps the mellowness was a result of the dank and pungent aroma of a recently legalized substance that I noticed several times throughout the venue.
- The komboucha! I’ve made komboucha before, but I didn’t realize how well it melds with other flavors! Tasty stuff!
- The music. We both really enjoyed Sweet & Tender Hooligans, a Smiths & Morrissey tribute band.
- The breweries / cideries. Over 50 attended, and each poured at least two selections. But, there was a downside…
There were also a few things I didn’t like. But I see these as opportunities.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- Taplist: No detailed list of beers served was provided in advance or during the festival. I can’t drink unlimited beer, so I like to see what’s available and pick and choose.
- The lines: People were stacked 25-40 deep as they waited for their pours. This really isn’t unexpected for a Saturday afternoon at a beer fest. However, many breweries only had one person serving at the jockey boxes. So if you wanted to sample many beers, you essentially had to stand in line most of the time.
- Brewery Tent Layout / Map: All of the breweries and cideries were located in a long tent along the river. Unfortunately, they were not clearly marked, so the act of finding a particular brewery was very difficult—especially given the long lines, which made navigating through the beer tent area challenging. I wanted to taste a few of Cascade Barrel House’s offerings, but I could not find them. There were a few other breweries that I couldn't locate. If the breweries were clearly labeled, at least you'd end up in the right place.
- Beer Availability: By the time I arrived at 2:30, many of the selections had already been tapped about.
- VIP Goodies: For me, the 20 extra tasting tickets were largely irrelevant because I couldn't use them. I physically can't drink that much. But if I was able to, I wouldn't stand in 60 long lines. However, the festival did open two hours early for VIP holders--a nice benefit which would have allowed us to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, we couldn't attend at 11AM. I wish we did. Special tastings were also advertised in the VIP tent. However, when we arrived at the VIP area, nothing was being served.
- Publication of festival closure time: When I originally wrote about the event, I thought it was strange that the event closing time was not published. I assumed it ended at 8 or 9 pm. It was a Saturday, after all. It turns out last call for beer was at 6 PM.
At the end of the day, I was only able to taste 6 beers / ciders. So if I paid $45 or $65 for one of the admission packages, I would not have found it to be a value. That’s just my opinion. I could have tasted more beer, but I didn’t want to spend the entire afternoon standing in line. I expect others felt the same way as unused beer tickets were being given away—and there weren't many takers. Either others had their fill of beer, or were unable to use them due to the factors I mentioned. Probably a bit of of both.
To be fair, this festival wasn’t just about beer—it had plenty more to offer. I think the target market for this festival is vegans who like beer. I expect they’d be thrilled because beer probably isn’t the primary draw. However, I’m a beer lover that occasionally eats vegan food. For me it’s all about the beer. From that standpoint, this festival missed the mark for me.
Did you attend the Vegan Beer & Food Festival? How was your experience?