One Convert at a Time
Before Piatti, of Williamstown, NJ, took his first-ever sip of craft beer at the Philly Craft Beer Festival last spring, he was so overwhelmed by the number of beers and lines and vendors and crowds that he didn’t know what to do. But the wine aficionado soon figured out the purpose of his tasting cup and proceeded to take advantage of the reps “astounding enthusiasm and approachability” by sampling their wares and asking them questions.
“I didn’t have any idea how many different flavors there would be within each category,” he says. Conversations that day inspired him to rent the documentary Beer Wars, which turned him on to the competitive and political nature of the industry. Since then, he’s been an avid supporter and drinker of artisanal beer.
Golan is a dedicated student of craft beer’s teachings and, as such, approaches each festival like a class.
“A festival is how I decide what I’m into,” says the Philadelphia nutritionist. She writes down beer and brewer names, flavor notes and whether the beer reminds her of anything.
Golan would never whimper for a free baby-doll T-shirt or a trucker hat. So when a brewer from Hometown Beverages, NJ, recently offered her a pint glass after a friendly conversation, she was thrilled.
“It’s a good memory,” she says. “I like to support local companies so I now buy that beer whenever I can.”
This speaks directly to Parisi’s point that even at her most tired, she’s got to stay alert and cheerful enough to represent her brewery in a way that fosters a positive relationship with consumers. This is why the same two words come up over and over when brewers and organizers explain why, despite the aggravation, they cherish festivals: education and interaction.
“We want to educate people about what goes into the beers so that they can appreciate them more, and we want to see breweries become more successful,” says Andy Calimano, co-owner of Starfish Junction Productions, which runs large-scale beer events from Philadelphia to New York. “One of the ways to do that is … to meet the people.”
He sees this every time he walks by a Yards Brewing, PA, station at a Philly fest or a Blue Point Brewing Co. tent in New York. Consumers in these cities can drink these beers literally at any time, but invariably, these are the ones they line up for.
“People like to reach out and get that personal connection with the people who make and sell the beers that are dearest to them,” he says.
These are the moments that remind brewers and sales reps why they keep showing up at festivals.
“After scrubbing grain all day, we get instant gratification when we hand someone a beer and watch their face light up,” Sandefur says. “Every time we leave a festival, we feel a little better about ourselves and one step closer to what we want to accomplish.” Sandefur understands that not everyone who tastes his popular Coconut Cream Stout will like it equally, just as Bill Manley doesn’t expect every drinker to like his intensely bitter, 9.6 percent ABV Bigfoot. But what they do celebrate are festival-goers who respect the artistic process enough to show consideration for their creations—at least for the minute or so it takes to sip a beer sample, not guzzle a shot.