I heard about America on Tap in mid-December, that’s when I started emailing them to find out about their organization and about the two events in Maine – Portland and Bangor – so I could do a lead up blog post. I spent a couple weeks bouncing emails off different people and ended up with media passes to the events but no answers about America on Tap.
As I sit and write this blog the Bangor on Tap event is still going, there’s about an hour left. My concerns about Bangor on Tap started as soon as I walked into the Cross Insurance Center. I walked into will call and was greeted by two women, one in the ticket booth and the other standing outside the booth, I told them that I was there to pick up a media pass and the lady standing outside the booth picked up a white bracelet, snapped it on my wrist and directed me inside.
I was dumbfounded, I said “Media Pass” and they gave me a bracelet without asking my name, who I was associated with or checking my ID.
I proceeded into the building, past a security guard, two check points along the line of people waiting for the regular session, down the stairs, handed a glass and into the brewfest. Not once was I asked to present Identification, Checked to see if I was on a list, asked my name or who I was writing for. That was the first red flag.
Inside the brewfest the VIP session was in full swing, it was comfortable, easy to move around and a pleasant volume level. Vendors were located around the outside of the room with some on end caps, breweries were set up in the middle. There were a couple food vendors on either side of the room, a place to hang coats that didn’t appear to have anyone attending it, and one rinse/dump station at the far end near the stage which would have been more useful if broken into 2 or 3 stations around the room.
The set up could have been better, once the regular session started pouring in things got crowded. Lines would extend from a brewery out to a vendor booth or another brewery then turn and continue. Crowds of people stopping to chat between lines added to the chaos and restricted the flow of foot traffic.
If the non beer vendors weren’t there the room would have been a little less crowded but it seems to me America on Tap is dependent on those sponsorship’s. There were a few uncrowded areas around the outskirts of the crowd but I don’t see the point of being at the event if you can’t walk around.
The brewery booths were being run by brewery reps or volunteers, there were a few brewers at the event but they couldn’t pour their beer. This is unfortunate for two reasons, chatting with someone from the brewery is part of the fun and volunteers (even TIPS certified) don’t necessarily know how to handle intoxicated guests or when to shut someone off. This last point was apparent, I left two hours early and there were already folks in the crowd who had been over-served.
The crowd itself seemed fine, tolerant considering the tight quarters but it was still early. There were plenty of frustrated faces trying to figure out how to move through the crowd and figure out whether they were in a line or just standing near a crowd of people who looked like they were in line. A common theme I noticed as I moved through the crowd was the “get drunk” mentality, conversations in the crowd focused more on who was serving the highest ABV (Alcohol By Volume) instead of appreciating the beer. A brewfest should be fun, people will get drunk but the whole point should be tasting and talking about beer not getting wasted.
I am happy to see the event sold out, that tells me there is demand and I’ve been hoping for a late winter or early spring brewfest for a while now. I think the Cross Insurance Center is a great venue if the room was arranged better. I wish this event had been hosted by Maine brewers or someone who’s run brewfests in Maine before, America on Tap Bangor edition was a failure as soon as I walked into the building without having my ID checked.