Portsmouth Beer Week 2013 runs from February 23rd to March 4th and there are a ton of awesome beer related activities happening, unfortunately I can’t take part in the fun for the whole week but I was able to get down to Portsmouth for the Seacoast Winter Brewfest. This event is put on by my friends Brian from Seacoast Bev Lab and Sean from 2 Beer Guys, it’s held at the Gas Light Company in downtown Portsmouth.
I’ve attended quite a few brewfests and I’ve had the opportunity to be through the gates early and see everything being set up but I had never volunteered to work a brewfest before. A while back Brian and I were talking and I mentioned attending the festival for the blog and he suggested I volunteer, it seemed like a good opportunity to really get a feel for what goes into the set up and breakdown of a brewfest, and let me tell you sitting here typing this I can definitely feel every keg and table I lugged around that place, but the beer made it all worth it.
I met up with Brian and Sean at the Gas Light Company at 9am ready to work, I was pretty excited, and I had no clue what I was getting into. The brewfest was held on the third floor at the Gas Light Company. It’s a really cool venue, the main room had a large bar in the middle, on the far end there was a raised platform area and a smaller room towards the front. When I got upstairs the tables for the breweries had already been set up, Brian and I grabbed a couple of tables and carried them downstairs to the patio area. We set up tables outside for four breweries, there was also a local cigar shop that had a table outside so brewfest attendees could enjoy a cigar with their beer if that interested them.
With tables set up and breweries working on their displays it was time to bring in the beer, or maybe I should say bring UP the beer. The kegs were located in the basement; to get them up to the third floor they had to be carried by hand up one flight of stairs, carried to the elevator, then once on the third floor delivered to the correct table. It doesn’t really sound that bad until you have to do it, 28 breweries in attendance, most of them serving two styles of beer, so we’re talking over 50 kegs. This is definitely the part of volunteering where you earn your beer samples.
Heavy lifting complete, beer delivered, it was time to start delivering ice, this required trips up and down a flight of stairs with buckets. Not quite as demanding as moving the kegs but still a workout. Every step in the process moved pretty quick, with 4 or 5 people working on the kegs and running ice, it was impressive to see a group of people work so well together without knowing each other beforehand, everyone was there for the same reason and we were determined to get the job done and have the beer pouring on time.
The brewfest VIP session opened at 11am, VIP ticket holders got into the festival an hour early. Some of the breweries were pouring special VIP only beers and there were a couple of tables set up on the platform area that were doing samples of Scotch, Whiskey and Bourbon. I haven’t seen this done at other brewfests but it seemed to go over really well with the VIP crowd and they were giving away some killer swag, I saw T-shirts, glassware, even flasks. This was the laid back part of volunteering, after the doors had opened it’s just small tasks, making sure people didn’t get into areas they weren’t supposed to be in, taking tickets, empty dump buckets, topping off ice and if someone needed a break you might end up pouring some beers. Volunteers were allowed to sample during the fest so if you took a break and wanted to try something you were allowed but obviously everything in moderation because we were there to help and there would be plenty of time for sampling at the following session.
I attended the second session that started at 4pm, a new group of volunteers showed up to help so I was free to talk with the reps or brewers that were pouring and of course sample the beer. The second session definitely had more people in attendance but it was a good crowd and there was plenty of room. I don’t think I had to wait for anything I wanted to sample and there was plenty of room to move around. The Gas Light was catering food during both sessions; mini meatball sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, veggie plate with hummus and chips. The Maine Brew Bus had a booth at the event as well, they were there talking shop, and they had a local brewery tour lined up for Sunday that was unfortunately cancelled due to the weather.
I really enjoyed the Seacoast Winter Brewfest, it was fun helping set everything up and tear it down at the end of the night, Brian and Sean did a really good job with the event, everything went smooth, everyone seemed happy and the lineup of breweries involved was awesome, I will definitely be trying to come back for next year’s festival and will be looking for other events put on by Seacoast Bev Lab and 2 Beer Guys. If you are in the Portsmouth area and can catch some of the events for Beer Week you won’t be disappointed, these guys have some cool stuff going on, I just wish I could stick around for everything.