Lately it seems like all the beer fests I’ve attended have been big, 50+ brewers and hundreds of beers, but I have a soft spot for a small fest, I marked the Aroostook County Brewfest on my calendar the day they announced it as the one small festival I would hit this year.
The Aroostook County Brew Fest was held at the base of Big Rock Mountain, it’s a scenic location with plenty of parking. You enter the brewfest through the ski lodge, the line snakes down a hallway where local sheriffs checked ID’s, tickets were checked, bracelets applied, pick up your glass and head out the back door to the brewfest. Here is my first complaint and it’s not really a complaint because it worked in my favor, I had a General Admission ticket and I walked into the VIP session, which means I got more samples since VIP was no limit and regular session had a lanyard punch card. I didn’t really sample that much extra to be honest I was mingling but the point is I got into a session I didn’t pay for and others probably did as well.
The spot was great, at the base of the ski slope under the lift line, snow falling gently, and I emphasize gently because the drive up from Bangor was not gentle, it was plow trucks and reduced speed limits. Four large tents were connected at an angle, entrances at bottom and top, tables set up outside the tent, three food vendors to the left and five porta-potties at the far end near the farthest tent exit. Inside the tent there were vendors near the entrance, brewers along both sides all the way up to the last tent where a couple more vendors set up and the live music was playing, water stations were all the way to the back – which should have been spread out along the tent – and propane heaters were set up in the middle which was nice but promoted groups gathering and not moving.
The tent was packed, 500+ tickets were sold for this event and I think that was a reasonable amount but because it was snowing – which I loved – people were crowding into the brewfest tent around those propane heaters, instead of spending time at tables and grabbing samples to drink outside, it was tight, hard to maneuver through the crowd and gave the impression of being oversold. It was not oversold, I think they sold the correct amount of tickets for an event on a slightly warmer, sunny fall day which didn’t happen. Next year I’d like to see the tents separated and staggered around the grounds with groups of brewers underneath, people will still gather which is the nature of people but it drives them out of cover to visit other tents and promotes being out in the open, maybe next year there should be a “warming tent” if that’s what people are looking for. Seriously standing under the lift line with a sample of beer and the snow falling was awesome, I found my own quiet place to enjoy the beer.
I was happy with the breweries who showed up, there was a good showing from all around the state, if I was to critique the breweries I would say, and others said to me, invite a few Canadian breweries who aren’t far from there to come in, they wouldn’t have to travel far and it’d be nice to see what’s happening on their brew scene.
Food venders were adequate, nothing super special but the food was hot, the lines were short and that make it easier for people to get food in their stomach which is always good at a brewfest.
I thought there was going to be a problem with toilets at this event, 500+ people drinking beer and 5 porta-potties seems like bad math but they adapted and opened the base lodge so people could bring their food inside and sit at a table, warm up and use the indoor facilities, smart, very smart.
I had a great time at the Aroostook County Brewfest, yes it was crowded because the snow drove people inside, yes they could make improvements, but it’s year one, and I’m certain lessons were learned. This is definitely a brewfest worth marking on your calendar for next year.