I was really looking forward to the DuClaw Real Ale Fest in Maryland on Saturday. 21 breweries, free food, and a band, DuClaw’s own brand of humor. Besides, they let me in early so I could talk to vendors while they set up, and there was going to be more beer than I could taste. Each breweries brought “two casks” – turns out they mean 11 gallon firkins – when their beer was gone, it’s gone, so much that I had to be strategic. More than forty firkins of beer, more than twenty craft breweries (last count 21), three roast pigs and a band, what’s not to like?
Ah, the temptation:
So who might bring anything new I should absolutely check out before it runs out? Seasons are changing and a lot of Oktoberfest beers are coming out (and Harpoon‘s Pumpkin Cider). Check news on twenty-one brewery websites, for real? Yes. I write sixty page papers on brewing history with over a hundred footnotes and you-don’t-want-to-kn0w-how-many sources for fun and no profit. I can do prep for a fest on the workday before even though we’re short-staffed and millions of do0llars are hanging in the balance. It’s all about balancing priorities and working fast. But wait – that turns out to be much less effective than watching DuClaw‘s own Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/DuClawBeers), where they’re posting the firkins as they come in. So far from the locals we have Evolution‘s Lucky Dog; Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin and Red, White & Birch; Stillwater‘s Cellar Door and Existent; and Union Craft‘s Duckpin Pale Ale. Plus DuClaw‘s brewmaster Jim Wagner has said he’s bringing his personal batch of Thunder Stick. The other three brewers at DuClaw are also supposedly bringing special batches. I think I might start there!
I started scoping out the breweries. I’m getting some strong opinions about brewery and brewpub websites. First of all, list your location, people. I couldn’t figure out where Stoudt‘s was at all, and they have a restaurant (that apparently I’m not going to go to ’cause I don’t know where it is). Second, make it easy for me to read about your beers. There should be a link that says “Beers”. I should be able to see all your beers and it should be easy to read about them – don’t take me to another window, or make me wait for some graphic to slide into place. Lay it out there for me to browse. Extra nexium price geek points for listing ABV, hops, etc, but I realize that isn’t necessary for most folks. This is my inner geek speaking, but tell me about your brew crew. Preferably all of them, ’cause chances are your head brewer isn’t the only talented person there who’s passionate about brewing. Let me read about what else they’ve done, what they like to brew. I think it’s cool and it gives me more to talk you up with. Their star power adds to yours.
Too – and I know that this is a tetchy legal issue – but I really do get tired of entering my birthday to get into your sites. I prefer clicking the button that says “Yes, I am over 21”. I am. Way over 21. I don’t know whether that’s legally risky for you breweries, but it is nicer for me the visitor. Granted, I go into more brewery websites than a lot of people, but probably not more than the folks who visit your site regularly.
Things I like about the Fest website : easy to navigate, the nav bar is simple, pertinent and clear. The FAQ questions open answers right below the question, instead of opening a separate box or (heaven forbid) a whole new window. The answers could be right entertaining:
Can I bring my own food and drink?
Really? The food is free, better than yours, and you’ve already paid for the beer, so, no, you may not.
Do you sell Designated Driver Tickets?
No, so pace yourself, OR check out the bus service options below.
Can I volunteer at the Real Ale Fest?
No. Because of liability issues only professional brewers and DuClaw Brewing Company staff may work the event.
Can I get paid to work at the Real Ale Fest?
If we won’t let volunteers work for free, what chance do you think you have of getting paid to do it? Buy a ticket and start drinking already.
So, useful information and gentle humor. I like. Apparently, the DuClaw Real Ale Fest was until recently called the DuClaw Firkin Fest, which explains why they tell you what a firkin is on their website. Since I”m in the middle of writing an article on casks and kegging over the past six hundred years, it caught my eye.
I’m outta here for today – I’ll be tweeting as the day progresses, so follow me @Elspeth_Payne if you want the latest discoveries!