Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hot Fest

Hydration really was the key to surviving Hop Fest, it was hot out there. As someone who is frequently disappointed in beer fests because of crowds, beer selection and beer quantities, I was blown away by how great Hops Fest delivered. It was like a Gents with chicks and walking.

Biggest surprises: Southern Tier Gemini (on tap) and Oak Aged Unearthly (on tap)
Best beer: Founders Kaiser Curmudgeon (on tap)
Best beer Stella didn't like: Firestone Walker 14

Stella and I got there a little before noon thinking we'd have to wait outside the gates until they opened. We were wrong, they just let the 10 or so people hanging around come on in. They were ready to get the show on the road. I opened up the fest with a taster of Brown Shugga' after we opened a bottle of Lagunitas Imperial Stout with Josh and Kim, the official opener of Gents. From noon until 1 when the 100 VIP people were the only ones around, it really did feel like a beermusement park only without lines. If I wanted a beer, I walked to where it was and immediately received it. I spent some time talking to beer people I only know from Twitter mainly to slow down the drinking which very well could have gotten out of hand if I couldn't talk to the pourers. I think I had all the "special" beers during the VIP hour.

Biggest beer mistake: Stella asked for Schafly Weissbeer and got a Schlafly Kolsch
Stella's favorite drink: Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear Cider

At 1, the riffraff came in. By riffraff, I, of course, mean the crowd. It got a little more crowded, I sometimes had to wait for a person or two before I got my beer filled. I saw some Gents and had some more conversation. But with only 2 or 3 ounces of beer at a time, a conversation among 8 people suddenly turned into 8 people walking in different directions for more beer. The layout was perfect, the L pattern worked so you didn't feel as though you were doing a path, it was no big deal to get a beer from, say Boulevard, then get one from Tallgrass which was on the other side of the L. I didn't feel like I had to do the circuit in some order.  The pourers were always friendly, the crowd was well behaved and happy. When you have 800 people around drinking pretty heavily on a hot day, you would expect the 2 security guards/cops to be a little more busy than hanging out talking to a hot chick and feeding her dog ice cubes, but that's what they were doing for a good 15 minute period.

Best beer on tap not already mentioned: Monk's Cafe Belgian Sour
Joke I heard 5 times that wasn't funny once: I figured I'd find you by the Lagunitas tent
People I feel bad for: Anyone that has to approach someone and ask "are you Bull E. Vard?"

Now on to the annoyances. First it was hot, did I mention that yet? Second, the fitness people were a little aggressive in trying to talk to people. The funniest thing Stella saw was when one of the fitness girls walked up to, let's just call him chubby, a man trying to sell him on some fitness and he looked at her and said "does it look like I'm going to be interested in this while I'm drinking beer". I don't know why they were there, I got a nice little yellow drinking cup for my bike filled with warm water for their efforts, but mostly they annoyed me. Though, I did only notice them during the VIP session. Third, the fitness people were by the water station which made it seem like you would have to talk to them in order to get some water. Even on a hot day, water didn't seem important enough for that. Fourth, if you wanted to cool down in the tent, you were subjected to very loud music (good music, just loud). A couple of times I wanted to have a conversation with Stella or someone in the tent while cooling down and it just very hard to hear. I don't want to be responsible for killing a dj or anything, but I think it might have been nice to have the speakers outside of the tent so it wasn't quite so loud. I don't think it's a coincidence that I spent a lot of time talking to people outside of the tent, in the heat. Last, there were no hand washing stations outside of the supremely clean Johnny on the Spot's. I had to dump some of the rinse water (which was always available at every beer station) on my hands at one point because I'm just a tad obsessive about washing my hands.

Things I missed: Everything Unibroue, Great Divide, New Holland, Bear Republic, Goose Island and Arcadia
Beer I'm happy I've never paid for and now probably won't: Bridgeport Stumptown Tart

Quick tip: Don't bring a bunch of stuff in to the house from the car after a beer fest and then a birthday party (oh yeah, that's right, I went to a party after Hops Fest, I drink professionally). You're not likely to find the stuff you brought in to the house because you don't remember the next day that you brought the stuff in. It's like living with a ghost.

Annoyances discarded, did I mention there was a lot of beer? I know Firestone Walker 14 went pretty fast, Saison-Brett was being rationed early, but other than that I don't know of much beer running out in the first couple of hours. I'm positive that there was plenty of beer choices at the end of the day. I'm pretty sure Lew's and The Well will have plenty of beers from Hop Fest available for weeks, you can probably find some good beer specials in the weeks to come. I was surprised at how many beers were available on tap, probably over 30.

Oh yeah, best beers that I didn't see: Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Corona, Michelob, Dos Equis, Hamms, Busch, Rolling Rock, Schlitz, Pabst, etc.
Funny moment with JJSKCK: He asked Drunk Monkey if he's the one known for wearing a hockey jersey.
Embarrassing moment with JJSKCK: Introducing him to Drunk Monkey then looking at Drunk Monkey with a gleam in my eye and saying "he's a tall drink of water isn't he".

For a first year festival, and one that go kind of destroyed the night before because of the huge wind storm that swept through town, I don't have any real complaints. I trust the annoyances will be corrected, more drinking water stations, a quiet shaded place, hand washing sinks, none of these is hard to correct. The things done right, the layout, the beer selection, the beer quantity, rinse water, friendliness of pourers, far outweigh anything that might have annoyed me. I think next year, you're going to want to buy your tickets with a little more urgency than you did this year, because next year, it's going to be a sellout.

Things I wonder about post Hop Fest: What color is Flenker (he's a ginger) this morning.

Disclosure: I did receive 2 free VIP tickets to Hop Fest from a party interested in selling more tickets to Hop Fest. This did not influence my review of the event but you can be the judge of that.


  1. Hey, thanks a lot for the overview. I really wanted to attend, and a damned last-minute out of town guest--of course, I mean a beloved, welcome aunt--derailed that plan. Glad it went well, and I will be first in line for next year's event. Again, thanks for the nice summary!

  2. Thank you for a coherent overview. I am too tired and sunburned to make much sense. JJSKCK is a tall drink of water

  3. I look forward to the day when festival organizers recognize that we are living in KC and there are much better months to have these. Like any month that doesn't average a temperature above 80 degrees.

  4. My favorite part is when you called it Hops Fest

  5. The noon kick-off was good in order to beat the heat. My son, AJ, and I made the rounds effortlessly and were seeking shade and cool water by 1:30. I made a pretzel necklace for each of us! Quite a few folks were in awe and wanted one: I did give mine to a young lady patron. Thanks to the organizers for the nice layout. I really enjoyed the hoppy Wheat and dry-hopped Double-wide from our hometown brewer. As mentioned earlier, the Curmudgeon and Firestone 14 were wickedly good. Schlafly's Gary says to check-out the newer batch release of the A IPA... a more citrusy hop blend? I'll be searchin!

  6. "People I feel bad for: Anyone that has to approach someone and ask "are you Bull E. Vard?""

    Yeah, what kind of asshole does that!

  7. @Gr8fulTed Thanks again for the pretzels, my wife enjoyed them throughout the day. I just appreciate the fact that I'm not thanking you for sharing your nuts at this time.


  8. Pat, I thought you'd like that, I feel worse for the toe shoes guy.

  9. Firestone Walker 14 definitely was king of the event for me. I had the Kaiser Curmudgeon right after, which was good, but a bit of a shock to the system post-14 with its big booze. They replaced the KBS with this, which was a big disappointment. The 14 and the KBS were the two I was most looking forward to.
    Enjoyed the Oaked Unearthly as well in the VIP session, although the oak was very quiet... not much difference from the regular Unearthly. The Schlafly Oak Aged Barleywine was also very good. It was a 2008 run and it certainly aged well.

    Agreed on some of the finer points of improvements. Maybe next year the Boulevard tent won't get blown a block away from storms the night before.

  10. Kaiser Curmudgeon and the Monk's Sour Ale were the two favorites of mine. The wife really liked all of the ciders. VIP was really nice with the small crowd. By the time the rest of the crowd came in at 1:00, we had our fill and spent some time at Tanner's soaking up some of the beer with some fries. An excellent event...can't wait for the next one!

  11. Love seeing the Kim and Josh opener make its presence felt. It's becoming a force in the beer-opening world.

    I thought Hopfest was extremely well-done, especially for a first-time event. Jon @ CSB has been very open to feedback (and he reads this blog), so feel free to post suggestions.

    My non-VIP experience was still a very good one. I never waited more than a couple minutes for any beer, and usually didn't wait at all. I think that first hour and the implication that we should gorge on all the good (read: high-ABV) stuff could have made things rough later, especially for my literally-half-my-size wife.

    The only thing I didn't get to try was the always-limited FW 14; everything else seemed to be provided in abundance. We sampled 48(!) beers overall, mostly stuff we'd never tried. Yes, we were asking for very small pours as the day went on.

    Some of our favorites:
    Monk's Cafe
    Kaiser Curmudgeon
    All the Crispin Ciders (not usually a cider guy, but they tasted damn good in that heat)
    Tallgrass Tripel (look for cans in September)
    75th Street Belgian Golden Ale
    Schlafly Reserve 2008 barrel-aged Barleywine (ridiculously good, and they must have brought close to a case of it)
    Corsendonk Belgian Pale Ale

    I think the decision to do mostly bottles was a smart one: that way the distributors could provide plenty without worrying about what to do with a bunch of half-empty kegs.

    I was there from about 1:15 to 4:30, and the crowd stayed extremely well-behaved throughout. I worried that the heat, dehydration, and high BACs would result in a skirmish or two, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    Frankly, by 4:30, I had had enough and was ready to head home. I'm not much of a day drinker, especially when it's hot.

    The water situation will be addressed next year. My wife and I had no qualms about repeatedly (at least 8 times) filling our water bottles at the gym-sponsored kiosk. The gym people became more and more docile as the day went on.

    They had a restroom attendant for the portable toilets, which was a thankless job--but it didn't go unnoticed by us (or Bull, it would appear). As the day wore on, she kept everything cleaner than we deserved. I know the women who had to use the facilities appreciated it even more.

  12. How is Kaiser Curmudgeon different from the usual Old Curmudgeon Ale?

  13. You, Kim and Josh just sold me one of those credit card bottle openers. When I flew to IA last weekend I realized after buying some new, local bottles that I hadn't brought a TSA approved device to open them with. Oops! I had to pick up a corkscrew with an opener to do the job, and I couldn't even take that home with me. I'll be prepared next time!

  14. Liz - It's aged in maple syrup barrels. Yum.

    Tad - The fact that we found ourselves in hotels, the drive-in, etc. without proper opening tools is what made us order those things. They're always with us, so we're always prepared.

  15. It was great meeting many of you guys and gals at Hop Fest 2010. Each and every idea, suggestion and or complaint given thus far has been documented into a single re-cap form that we will be discussing at our upcoming meeting.

    On behalf of all KC area Distributors, thank you for the support on this event and your daily support of the Craft Beers we have the privlage of representing.

    Muddy Mo.... I am looking forward to Part II.

    JJSKCK - Thanks for suggesting that people leave suggestions here as well... We will keep an eye out!


    Jon Poteet

  16. OOPS... Hop Fest 2011 - My has it been a long one today!


  17. Danny (aka @CraftSuds)June 20, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Hey, that's me on the left side of the crowd picture. My picture made it on KC's Eighth Best Beer blog! Imma be famous!

  18. From the staff of Both The Well and Lews-cheers to everyone that came out and braved the sweltering temperature and humidity to support the first annual Hop Fest. We certainly appreciate the positive feedback and look forward to making Hopfest 2012 an even greater success. As Jon has stated, feel free to leave comments here or even email me at We welcome all feedback, good or bad. I also wanted to let everyone know that The Well is going to start another annual tradition. We are going to have an after Hop Fest party in our new event space, call it the Bunny Hop Fest if you will, and sell the remaining beer at a discounted price. Hopefully this gives everyone an opportunity to come in and try beers they may have missed at Hopfest or maybe it’s just a great excuse to drink phenomenal beer at a discounted price. Either way, we look forward to seeing everyone that wants to come next Tuesday, June 28 at 7pm. Light appetizers will be provided by us. Once again, thanks for the support and we hope we can become your neighborhood craft beer bar.
    George Clarke
    The Well Bar Grill Rooftop

  19. Other than the MO Bev guy manning the Left Hand TNT tap, who was a total douche, it was a very enjoyable experience.

  20. I, too, witnessed this behavior from the Left Hand pourer. He actually talked a guy out of trying the TNT. I forgot all about it until somebody mentioned it in these comments or elsewhere.

  21. The post hop fest party has been pushed back to Monday July 11. Sorry for any confusion. We look forward to seeing you there.

    George Clarke
    The Well Bar Grill Rooftop

  22. Left Hand Douche says it all. He was trumping me on my advice to my wife and her friend. As I understood that they wood enjoy the coffee porter better, They should have take the opportunity to try something amazing for comparison. (Founders has much better beer without a doubt)