Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saratoga Beer Festival

Back in January, a coworker alerted me to a groupon for 'some beer thing in Saratoga' that we might want to check out. It looked like a pretty good deal - $10 per person for a four hour session at the 'Beer Summit'. If the beers were at all good, it would be hard not to get our money's worth, we thought. So, we bought in, and then promised to remind each other six weeks later that we had tickets to beer tasting in Saratoga. Luckily, one of us set a reminder in her cell phone, and there we were at noon on a Saturday ready to do some drinking at the Saratoga City Center. The tasting was well-attended, and it seemed like people were having a pretty decent time, but there were definitely some highlights and lowlights.

First, the lowlights:
1. Our 'souvenir tasting glass' was one of those "5.5-oz" things that usually only get filled with 3-4 ounces of beer. I'd rather have had a more reasonable size 'taste', and it would be much better advertising if they gave us functional pint glass that we'd actually use.

2. Four beer tokens were included with admission, which would be great, except that the nicer beers from Ommegang, Brasserie Dupont, Chimay, and other 'special' beers required two tokens apiece. Considering the paltry quantity of beer in each taste, the double-charge seemed kind of lame. Those beers didn't seem to be selling very well, either. We ended up buying additional tokens for $2 per piece.
3. The price of admission at the door was $30 per person, and a lot of the beers were not very interesting. I would have been unhappy with paying $7.50 for 4 ounces of beers like Blue Moon, Yuengling, Sam Adams, and Shock Top. We happened to meet some friends who had paid the door price, and I felt kind of bad for them.
4. Most of the beers were being served by volunteers instead of reps from the breweries, which meant that we didn't really get any special background about the beers.
5. The tasting was scheduled to go until 4 pm, and last call was at 3:30pm, which was not communicated from the get-go. We had to scramble and beg the servers to exchange our last tokens for beer. Again, I felt kind of bad for the people who paid $30 for the event.
There were a few highlights:
1. The music was great -  the awesome guitar duo of Tequila Mockingbirds.
2. The Long Trail and Otter Creek reps did a great job of presenting their beers, and both brought some special brews that aren't widely available.
3. It seemed like the other events of the 'Beer Week' might have been more enjoyable. One of our friends went to a Sierra Nevada event at the Seven Horse Pub, which was free to enter, and got to try some unusual and delicious (according to him) brews.
4. After the 'summit' is over, w were in Saratoga, which isn't a bad place to be for good food and drink. We went to the Seven Horse Pub for some pretty good pizza (and more beer) and then up the Circus Cafe, which makes a damn fine cheeseburger (an actual medium-rare if you want it!).
All in all, I had fun, but I probably wouldn't be saying that if I'd paid the door price. Next year, if I go at all, I'll probably skip the 'summit' and go to the events specific to the particular breweries I'm interested in.