The New Times Original Beerfest took place Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale, and boy was it a good time. An improved layout, better beer selection, and bigger VIP area all contributed to a wicked fun time. Hundreds of beers were available for sample, and some of them were really, really good. Out of my Top 10 List of Beers to Try, I ended up finding a couple of real favorites in Starr Hill's Jomo Lager and Winterhook Ale. The former was like Brooklyn Lager's hoppier younger brother, while the latter was a bourbonesque winter ale with a serious bite. And even though I missed out on the Brooklyn Summer Ale (it was gone by the time I found the booth), I left content I had tried a bunch of brews I hadn't before.
I've got some more thoughts from the fest, including the Five Most Important Things I Learned, after the jump.
#1 This year was the best Beerfest yet: With the new VIP, the added general admission space, the spread of booths, the diversity of the
beer selection, and the not-so-horrible U2 cover band, this Beerfest
was by far the best one in New Times history. Some suggestions
for the future, though: Let's get a real band to play (is a national recording
artist too much to ask for at this point?). Also, enlisting some more
Florida-based Breweries like Brewzzi, Big Bear, Cigar City, and Corner
Cafe would give the festival a more home-grown feel.
#2 VIP is the way to go: In past years, Beerfest's VIP area was
sandwiched behind Esplanade Park's main stage under a very humid tent.
This year, the VIP area moved to the Museum of Discovery and Science across the way.
Not only was the venue air-conditioned but the booths were spread
throughout the museum's two floors, providing a ton more room to move
around and relax. Stopping to play at "Grossology" and the other
exhibits was megafun. The spread of food was pretty decent as well,
with places like Charm City Burgers and Rock 'N' Roll Ribs throwing
down all-you-could-eat grub. VIP also seemed to have the better beer
selection on the whole, with bottles from Brooklyn, Avery, Starr Hill,
Flying Dog, and Estrella Damm showing up exclusively in that area.
#3 Lots of people still don't know what craft beer is: More than a
few times, I saw people take swigs of potent porters and killer lagers
and toss their cups away in disgust. "Oh that's gross," one dude said
in front of me after sampling Winterhook Ale from Red Hook. "Let's go
to the Bud tent." The Bud tent, by the way, was packed. The good news
is all it takes is one brew to turn someone like that on to craft beer
forever. You gotta believe that happened at the fest.
#4 Proper festival attire is important: After a night-long
drinking session in the humid, Florida air, people start to smell like
it's Arrid time. Being a smart festivalgoer means wearing clothes that
breathe easily, so you don't smell like the bottom of a beer bin by 11
#5 Riverfront/Himmarshee = Beerfest 24/7: Damn, downtown Fort
Lauderdale's nightlife district has gotten gross. Not only are the
streets packed with more rowdy drunks than the move Road House
but almost every horizontal surface is covered in piss and vomit. I had to watch where I stepped more carefully out there than I did inside the festival. After
Beerfest let out, that fact was compounded by thousands of additional
drunks looking to continue partying.
As an aside, Fort Lauderdale has got to do something about its parking
situation. It's no secret why nightlife scenes in towns like Delray
Beach have gotten more interesting and bohemian over the years: That
city has tons of free street parking, which really encourages people to
come visit. Fort Lauderdale, on the other hand, has only a few metered
areas alongside the railroad tracks and down one or two side streets,
and even those are set to wallet-rape prices. City garages cost $12 or
more to park at (they hike prices during big events), and the private
lots are allowed to gouge festivalgoers at $20 a pop. It's an utter
embarrassment. If all the city cares about is money, it's going to
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continue to lose business to more progressive places like Delray. Shit,
when it's easier and safer to park in Downtown Hollywood than Fort Lauderdale, you know
there's a big problem.
But enough bitter ranting: Big thanks to the entire team behind Beerfest! Great job on putting this stellar event together. See you next year!