Big Texas Beer Fest Ruled. Let's Do It Again Next Year, Except With Shorter Lines.

Categories: Hophead
blue moon.jpg
Jay Barker
The ladies at Blue Moon's booth had plenty of time to pose for photos, while the local (and perhaps less photogenic) breweries had long lines of drinkers.
The buzz for Big Texas Beer Fest on Saturday morning was palpable miles away from Fair Park. From the Mockingbird Station where I embarked, people of all stripes, many sporting T-shirts from breweries and the bars where they're served, were packed like anchovies into the DART train. Despite the occasional befuddled passenger cocking a head and wondering, sometimes aloud, where all these people came from, it was obvious we all shared a destination.

The Fairgrounds were no less crowded shortly after noon, with the line snaking all the way from the Automotive Building to the gate by the Fair Park DART stop and just a handful of ticket takers. After a few minutes of confusion, I ran into organizer Chad Montgomery and was able to retrieve my press pass without standing in line -- a huge relief. I later heard that the lines right at opening time lasted more than 45 minutes, settling to 10 to 20 minutes a few hours (and a few floated kegs) later.

The long line was the only glaring misstep I noticed that could be laid at the feet of Montgomery and his wife, Nellie. With very limited food options, the lines for a bite to eat were problematic as well, but there's little the Montgomerys could do about that: All but three of the area's food trucks inexplicably blew off a golden opportunity to get their names in front of thousands of people and earn a shitload of money. 

Otherwise, the event looked like it was successful beyond even my most optimistic expectations. I generally expect the majority at such beer-centric events to be mainly middle-aged upper-class white dudes, but this was an interesting cross-section of Dallas and the outlying burbs. Along with the Europhiles in kilts or Premiere League jerseys, guys with mohawks, longhaired dudes in metal concert T-shirts, yuppies, hot co-eds and old farts of every color mingled, with friendly conversation between strangers of wildly different demographics the norm. Beer tends to have that effect, particularly when you're waiting in line for an in-demand brew. 

And the lines inside the hangar-like Automotive Building were the surest sign that North Texas beer drinkers are becoming savvier by the pour. Booths for corporate-owned beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Tecate often had no visible takers at all, and pseudo-craft beers such as Shock Top and Blue Moon must have had plenty of leftovers at the end of the fest. Even Widmer Brothers, Kona and Redhook, companies that began as independent breweries but are now part of the partially Anheuser Busch-owned Craft Brewers Alliance, had scant few takers. 

Most exciting of all, Texas breweries had the longest lines of all. Jester King's looked like it was the most consistently long line, followed closely by Dallas' own Peticolas and Deep Ellum brewing companies; DEBC blew out of its dry-hopped IPA well before I even got a chance to try it. The Open the Taps table benefited from its proximity to those booths, signing up 40 new members and dozens more adding their names to the mailing list.

Entertainment seemed to be a hit as well, even if most were listening at a distance that rendered the music all but incomprehensible in the building, which was clearly not designed with pristine acoustics in mind. Fish Fry Bingo's hard-rocking bluegrass set the raucous mood early and The O's kept it going. O's singer/guitarist John Pedigo didn't mind that so few ventured close to the stage. "There's beer over there," he said pointing toward the booths a stone's throw away. "And it's free."

I tried more than 20 beers, nearly all of which were new to me or to the area. A few stood out in particular. The cask-conditioned Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug with vanilla was a twist on the brewery's standby black lager, creamy and with just a touch of vanilla that didn't overwhelm. No Label's Jalapeño Ale was great. I've never liked peppered beers, but this one -- a pale ale made with reduced hops and an addition of 60 pounds of jalapeños -- had just a touch of spiciness and was actually really refreshing. 

Another peppered beer, the Jester King/Mikkeller collabo Beer Geek Rodeo, was a good balance of sweet, burnt coffee and subtle spiciness in stout form. Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon was a pitch-black, thick Russian imperial stout, chocolate sweetness with a crisp, bitter espresso finished that masked an ABV of 12.5 percent. And Ballast Point served up its Big Eye IPA alongside the acclaimed Sculpin. I actually preferred the former, which I find a better balance of malty sweetness and tangy hops. Meantime was a very good English IPA, dry and very well balanced but with more welcome hoppiness than English beers typically have.

A few people passed out on the Fairgrounds lawn notwithstanding, there didn't seem to be too many drunks leaving the fest afterward. The lines for in-demand beers forced you to pace yourself; it would have taken some work and some less picky beer-drinking to get hammered. I certainly left with a nice buzz, but I'm not sure whether it was from the alcohol or the excitement of seeing that the Dallas beer scene has truly arrived.

Check out Jay Barker's photos from the event in this slideshow.

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16 comments
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Childrenrn
Childrenrn

I guess I missed something so please tell me the names of the food trucks who bailed at the last minute....thank you!

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

It was Potato-Potahto that ran out of potatoes and told people who had already been standing in line for a good 15-20 minutes that it would be at least another hour before they had more. And this was at 12:30/1pm-ish. So......

Bsooner75
Bsooner75

The beer fest was a really good time.  We got in the line that stretched nearly to the gates of the fair grounds and couldn't believe how quickly the line moved.

Tried some really good beers.  Deep Ellum and Franconia were two of my favorites.

Wish there had been more food trucks but I'm sure that aspect will grow now that they have seen how many people showed up.

Not a fan of music in the Automobile Building as you the sound just rattles off the metal roof but The O's were still awesome.

An outside event would be nice but the risk of severe weather would definitely be a concern. 

Can't wait until next year.

Beerme
Beerme

Gotta say the line was long to get in, but all was forgotten once you entered. The bigger issue was the food situation, and thankfully the in-house vendor was there. 

Really rubbing it in to the friends at work today who were "too busy" to attend. 

Yelof
Yelof

I've heard attendance numbers were above 7000. I've been to GABF a couple of times where attendance is around 10,000 per session and lines literally make a complete circle around the convention center in Denver. It took over an hour just to reach the front door. I don't think the reported 20 to 30 minute wait sounds that bad. A majority of the people I heard complaining were the ones who decided to buy at the door. Do yourself a favor and buy online next year. This event was a great success for the craft beer movement that is blowing up in north Texas.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

We had a good time! The dead booths for Blue Moon and the like cracked me up. I imagine  - or would hope - the only people that sampled those were the ones trying to use up the last of their sampling card uber-quickly.

The mix of attendees was superb! And the 'no one under 21, not even infants' was OUTSTANDING! The food truck mess reflects poorly on those food trucks and not event organizers. (We'll be sure to remember which trucks to not bother with in the future.)

Steve
Steve

I'd really like to see it about this time of year, but outdoors with bands, etc.   That warehouse/garage floor situation is a little antiseptic.

Attend this and mimic:   http://oregonbrewfest.com/

Mike
Mike

Warehouse?

Jin
Jin

Trust me, the organizers make plenty of money. They pay for the beer at wholesale prices, sometimes even get a few kegs comped. Volunteers pour the beer.

Yelof
Yelof

Which is great as profits go to assist the North Texas Food Bank!

kingbrad2534
kingbrad2534

Had a blast at the Big Texas Beer festival, and will be back again. I hope they covered their costs, the story in the DMN made it sound like it was going to be real close. 

I hope that next year more of the breweries bring shirts, hats, etc. to sell. A key chain or sticker doesn't go far when your trying to show your love of craft beer in Texas. 

Lee
Lee

Successful beyond my wildest dreams. I had a blast.

primi timpano
primi timpano

I guess I greatly misunderstood the popularity of these craft beers.  I never find anyone waiting in line for Schlitz.  I may not get it but it seems like a lot of people are enjoying it immensely.

Coleman
Coleman

 this sounds like some kergo bullshit.

primi timpano
primi timpano

 No.  I have no trucj with craft beer but I don't think my personal opinions outweigh the obvious enjoyment of some many for the style.  It isn't like it is a fast food food festival or something of the like.  They like it a lot, pay 20 bucks and wait in line.  Not for me but although I have referred to it as bullshit, it isn't for an awful lot of people.  Still hate the names, but WTF.

Open The Taps
Open The Taps

Thanks to our DFW representative, Mar, we had our second biggest day of sign-ups! Second only to our inaugural launch party in Houston. Can't wait for next year, cheers to Chad & Nellie!

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