Beer fest tapped out too early

Droves of people gathered in downtown for the inaugural Houston Beer Festival on Saturday. From the very beginning, the festival started off on the wrong track. It was apparent to anyone arriving that the mere task of entering the festival was chaotic.

The overwhelmed volunteers were no match for the number of people trying to attend. The majority of the attendees appeared to have pre-purchased tickets from either Groupon or The Houston Chronicle’s own Daily Deal service. For those seeking general admission at the gates, the task of getting in wasn’t any easier.

People who arrived before 2:00 p.m. or right as the festival started had the easiest time getting in, while other patrons waited in lines for an hour or even longer.

Inside the festival, lines were still inescapable, but they moved along much faster than those used to enter. Among the 89 beer vendors stationed around the park, most of the stations had two or three people pouring beers, the same number of people running each entrance to the festival.

Two hours into the festival, popular vendors were already running out of beer. The first tent to run out appeared to be the Dogfish Head Brewery which was only offering one choice, their standard 60 minute IPA. It was disappointing to see such a great brewery offering only one beverage. On top of that, Dogfish Head, like many other brewing companies at the festival, offered selections that are commonly found at grocery stores and not their rare or specialty brews.

The line-up of breweries had great potential, but in the end, their performances fell flat. The food vendors also seemed to be experiencing the same problems. Three hours into the festival various food vendors appeared to be running out of things on their menu or products all together.

Much of the chaos, or lack of success, made it very evident that this was an inaugural event. As the first of its kind in Houston, it would be understandable if some things happened unexpectedly — despite any amount of planning — but this was beyond rookie mistakes.

The turnout was clearly underestimated and it’s hard to excuse those who put on this festival because ticket sales can be easily monitored. However, the rest of the problems appeared to have been caused by either bad planning or communication from the organizers of this event — not the vendors themselves.

If you got in the festival within the first three hours, then having a great time was definitely possible. To the beer nerds and people hoping for a full night of great crafts beers and special offerings, the festival was a letdown in many ways.

The lesson to be learned from the Houston Beer Fest is that a great idea like enjoying beer and giving to charity is something that can be wildly successful if it’s done correctly. Timothy Hudson, who organized the Houston Wine Fest and Saturday’s Houston Beer Fest, is the founder of the Houston Wine Fest Young Leadership charity, which aims at providing scholarships to young students. The festival he organized was a great idea but not a smash hit.

However, Houston’s charitable beer-loving community was double booked on Saturday. Camp Beer Seven, which was organized by the Live It Big organization, was much more enjoyable and successful.

While it’s nice to see that Houston’s craft beer community is flourishing, it shouldn’t be impossible for people like Hudson and charities like Live It Big to collaborate and pull off the type of event that Houston Beer Fest aimed to be.


  • The organizers had no interest in creating a good festival. It was all about selling as many tickets as possible with no concern about safety or quality.
    Houston Beer Fest and Houston wine Fest are both done by the same people. Only objective is quantity not quality.
    Houston Deserves better!

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