Friday, October 14, 2011

Beer Festival Prices Keep Going Up

A couple weeks ago, I thought the Hood River Hops Festival was a little cheeky for charging $6 for an empty plastic mug; then the obligatory pint glass at the Oaks Park Fresh Hops Fest was $8.  The pint glass was nicer to drink from and more of a keepsake than a plastic mug; ditto the $8 tulip glass at the recent Beermongers 2nd Anniversary.  Either way, $6 or $8 seems like a pretty steep price for entry, though looking into it more, Hood River was just following the lead of the Oregon Brewers Festival, which has charged $6 for their plastic mugs for at least the last couple of years.

So I was a little floored to realize that the $25 entrance fee at the upcoming Holiday Ale Festival -- for a mug and 8 tickets -- effectively means that your plastic mug costs you $17!  HAF prices have been steadily climbing: last year the mug penalty was $15, up from $10 in 2009 and 2008, and $5 in 2007.  I guess I am going to have to add a festival category to the Portland Beer Price Index.

There has been some beer-geek discussion around Portland about how maybe the big festivals should raise the entry price to help keep the crowds smaller, but now that I'm faced with the reality of a $17 entry fee, I wonder if I agree with that.  It would be convenient to blame Mr. Alworth -- here's a Holiday fest write-up from 2007 where he hints that higher prices might thin the crowds.  But that wouldn't be fair:  the Mighty Mites small beer festival that Jeff helped organize in August charged an entry fee of $0 and encouraged attendees to bring their own mug from some other festival.

Now the big question on my mind is whether I will see Jim from Portland Beer and Music at the HAF.  He has a thing against drinking fancy beer from plastic cups.


  1. Hmmm, which of my selves should I agree with? We'll have to see if it actually dampens the crowds. If we pay $17 for a mug and the crowd is packed tighter than a New Delhi bus, we will have achieved the worst of both worlds. But if it's 20% less packed, it might be worth it, yes?

  2. wow, that's steep. All the more reason to volunteer for a shift... or bring last year's mug - that still works right?

  3. Thanks for stepping up and commenting on the insanity. I don't mind paying $6 for a mug. The $8 at the Fresh Hop Fest was a bit steep, but it was a glass glass so you can't complain too much (although I did on my blog).

    Which brings me to the Holiday Ale Fest. The $25 entry fee is utterly absurd. Seriously. It's going to be packed as tight as Jeff's New Delhi bus. Everyone knows it. The venue is too small. They are using the promise of reduced crowds to jack up the price and make more money. It's a great event, but I can't support the cost.

  4. @sharon: Technically, no, the volunteers are not allowed to fill older mugs. I've pushed it before, insisting on getting an older one filled (I did have a current mug, after all), but I felt like a jerk afterwards.

    One festival strategy is to bring extra mugs; use this year's to get samples and then pour into older mugs. But it's a hassle, I'd rather just pay the penalty and try to have a good time.

  5. @Pete: Preston told us last year that he's open to suggestions of a bigger place, but he wants the festival to stay downtown or close to it. Has to basically be a paved place or maybe indoors because of the rainy weather. Got any ideas? Soccer stadium?

  6. The obvious answer for even those with low usage of their gray matter.... That "money" goes for renting the space, the heaters, the tent, internal structure, security, cleaning and so on.

    Now, Bill, I'm sure you understand that even in this economy these costs go up or do you really think that a plastic mug costs $17? ;-}

    A quick word of advise to all: Whether you have Agoraphobia, like Jeff or Peniaphobia, like Bill; You basically have two choices that don't need to be discussed publicly... Either shut up, have a beer and go to a festival or stay home with your own neurosis.

    Did ya miss me?

  7. It's pretty much too steep for my blood. On top of that, I have yet to see a Holiday Ale Fest that wasn't so crowded that I didn't start having serial-killer thoughts. If can people pay that amount, great; but I can spend $25 on fantastic beers and drink them with friends.

  8. C'mon Doc, just because I didn't spend half my life getting a doctorate like you doesn't mean I think the mug costs $17. It's simply a convenient way to describe the entry fee.

    I dunno, is the cost per attendee of the HAF really 3 times that of the OBF? There are fewer visitors, but a drastically smaller space, hence the tents, security, etc. that you mention can't be that much more costly. More to the point, have those costs tripled in just the last four years?

    Peniaphobia, is that fear of Doc Wort? ;-} Welcome back. Are you going to start the blog back up?

  9. @Bill

    I see little has changed within the Portland beer strata. I've sat back over the past year watching and reading about the local beer community. It has shown little advancement in integrity or interest. Same old Cheerleaders cheering on mediocre and mundane new brew pubs and beers. It's like watching a bunch corn-fed melon heads viewing the newest Budweiser commercial... They all easily marvel at the slick advertising with their equally impressionable brethren. All the while, the product is more exciting than watching paint dry.

    No, I will not be restarting the blog. What's the point?

  10. The price is prohibitive. I for one will not be attending HAF this year.

  11. Well Doc, the point would be to get your worldview out there to people. On bad days, your blog consisted of gigantic cut-and-pastes of whatever you surfed up that day; on good days it had unique insightful opinions that obviously had a lot of thinking behind them. Your last spate of activity about a year ago had a high signal-to-noise ratio, so when you said "Did ya miss me?", the answer -- to my surprise -- was "yes".

    I wouldn't mind seeing an occasional new post on your blog. But if you're too busy living a real life instead, feel free to bring your abuse over here in the comments.

  12. A rare Doc flowering--will wonders never cease? I'd welcome Doc back too, particularly if he put his attention on breweries. His obsession with other bloggers seems no less robust for his absence. Yeah yeah yeah, we all suck. A familiar tune. But what does the Doc think about the beer?

  13. I predict it will be even more crowded this year -- with the entry fee that high more people will come multiple days so they can justify the initial cost as "worth it."


  14. The Doc had a stack of local beer reviews from over the past year. Some were actually good reviews!

    I threw them away...

    I found Logsdon's "Seizoen" to be the best beer I'd had in the NW for a very long time. I noticed their beer selection was quite limited. I'm hoping for more great things.... and not dump bucket beers with names like "Pastrami on Rye" or "Cantaloupe Cuvee" or "Portlandia Pecker Head Porter."

    I'm sure some dumb ass would start making a fool of himself stating the NW invited a Portlandia Porter! (Dumb Hick voice) "Ya know its called PORTer cause it came from PORTland!"

  15. Sigh... and there's a $3 "Convenience Fee" to buy advance tickets for HAF, so add that on to the "mug cost".

  16. Just be glad you're not paying $40 for mediocre beer festivals like I am here in Colorado:

  17. I ditto Eric on that one. I live in Georgia, but travel to fests throughout the US (haven't made any abroad yet). An outdoor winter fest is undoubtedly more expensive to operate than a summer outdoor festival. I also think $25 is reasonable (given I'd certainly be buying more tickets) to get beers that, for the most part, you can't get elsewhere. It sounds to me like some Portlanders are just getting too darn spoiled and can't appreciate what they have. I say "bah" to the $20/$30/$40 fests that just serve up crud I can get in any store. Uniqueness comes at a price, not to mention I hear it's really just Fri/Sat night that is slammed at HAF. It's a 5 day fest; go at other times when the crowds aren't large. Geez.


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