I went to a beer event a few years ago. I was living in San Francisco and went to a beer festival there. Shortly after that, I went to an event at Toronado. I didn’t know at the time that this beer event was a big deal. Wishing I had taken a few more photos then.
Anyway, the majority of my time at beer events this year has been okay but not exceptional. I don’t like long lines or heat or long lines. I’m the kind of guy who will go to concerts that have assigned seating so I can pay for a better seat instead of general admission where I have to fight my way through a bunch of little kids for a chance to see the artist better. Assigned seating rocks and GA is lame.
I was worried about the BCTC event this year. One ticket gets you a parking spot, a camping spot and a chance to taste some beers with just 8 tickets total for a 4 hour tasting event followed by music from unknown artists and a cash bar. With highs of 90 Degrees, I was sure this was going to be a very long weekend full of long lines and pricey drink tickets.
I was so wrong.
Elizabeth and I arrived in Cooperstown around noon. The parking lot was filling up as volunteers directed us to a spot. It took two trips to get our stuff to a campsite. The camping was very full but we found a place nestled in the woods in the shade. As soon as we arrived, the group next to us were a brewery serving at the event and brought two kegs of delicious beer for “after the event” and offered us to have as much as we wanted. I had a couple of glasses and they were very chill. We talked about social media and the event.
Once the tent was setup, Elizabeth and I went to the brewery and signed up for the next tour and bought some shirts and beers to take home. At 2PM, it was time for the brewery tour which lasted an hour. That was fun and the Ommegang team on-site was very informative. They have some cool equipment there. After the tour, we grabbed some fries with mayo and a belgian quad marinated brat with sautéed onions. This was quickly consumed in the shade by our tent and it was time for the tasting at 3PM.
The tasting lasted 4 hours, in 3 different tents and there were thousands of people. It didn’t feel this way because there were so many hundreds of beers being poured. Lines moved extremely fast usually 2 minutes per pour so you could drink what you had while waiting on the next sample. I tried about 50 beers and met some great people while waiting on our next pour. One couple we followed around for a while talking about beer and enjoying similar beers. The 8 drink tickets you get are not collected. Not a single brewer asked for our tickets and we drink WAY more than 8 beers. It was great.
At 7PM, the tasting ended while I got the business card of an NYC based rep for Petrus who promised I could pickup a keg of Petrus Aged pale at his shop in Boston for a good price. The tasting itself was wonderful and not a single person cut us off, was rude or showed any “entitlement” to getting their beer pour. it was very relaxed and we were all in it together.
After the tasting, we roamed a bit, having some food, watching the concert and fireworks and exploring the area. We found Brooklyn Brewery was doing an acoustic performance with a few of their employees at a small canopy surrounded by chairs. Games of poker were being played as well. Eventually, Elizabeth was ready for bed but our tent next to us was grilling cheeseburgers and I had a cooler full of corked Belgian beers. So, we brought over some beers and talked to some volunteers who attend BCTC every year. Until 2AM, it was a lot of fun conversations and great beer. Eventually, Elizabeth went to bed and the volunteers invited me down to the bonfire for some watermelon and beers.
At 3 AM, I met up with another group of guys drinking “rar whales” so I contributed a few goodies from Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s and Rogue. Eventually, the sun came up at around 6AM and I had made some new friends. A small group of us went out to explore the camping area in what they called, “rampaging”
Rampaging involves pouring small samples off people’s home-brew kegs that were brought to the event. We enjoyed some bottle dregs as well from Cantillon and other Lambics that were sitting around with less than an ounce of beer left and ended up chatting until 9AM. The camp sites who saw us taking small leftover samples from bottles thought it was hilarious. “Who in the hell drinks Dregs?” “WE DO!” we all shouted in unison.
When I got back to the tent, Elizabeth was ready to go as an understanding girlfriend that clearly saw I had a great evening. It turns out she didn’t sleep much and heard our jokes and rampage battle cries. We packed up and headed back home.
Ommegang / Duvel did an amazing job with this event. The people in attendance were insanely relaxed and a joy to hang out with. The food was great, the tastings, tours and camping was well organized and volunteers each worked their butts off to make this a fun time for everyone. security was always around but never got in the way and chatted with the attendees as friends and not as children on the verge of a time-out. I had an awesome time and I can see why this event sells out so quickly each year. I can’t wait to return.
Total price was $97 per person for everything we had except for the food which was extra.
A few miscellaneous photos (many via iPhone so aren’t very great):