Outdoor Craft Beer Events Are at the Mercy of Mother Nature

Outdoor Craft Beer Events Are at the Mercy of Mother Nature

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Walter and I woke up to rain on the morning of Saturday the 26th – lots of rain and the prospect of lots more throughout the day. We had several events to attend that day, but almost all were under cover, so what did we care. Not all people were as lucky, and many outdoor events had to be modified, adjusted, moved, or just endured.

Walter asked me if I could remember any events we have attended this year of being rained on significantly. I could only come up with one. There may have been some rain at Death & Taxes Day this year, but we were gone by then, on our way to the Pax Verum anniversary party and the Beastside Brewfest– and both of those had indoor components. At the Homebrew Palooza in June we had a couple of sprinkles, but they stopped as the event began and stayed away for the rest of the day.

We had some rain on July 4th, but we spent that day at Metazoa Brewing and the indoor space was more than enough to have a good time and wait for the fireworks. We even listened to the bands outside under the tents from inside the taproom with garage doors up and I stood in line for Walter’s BBQ dinner at Old Gold without getting rained on at all.

The UnTappd Festival was horrible…..and it rained. image credit: Alex Cason Photography (www.alexcasonphotography.com)

Crown Beer Fest had some rain, but it was indoors except crossing between buildings. The Bloomington Craft Brew Fest had rain a good portion of the day before and a bit on the day of, and things did get muddy because the festival was held in a low area. But it was covered; we didn’t get rained on and the dirt floor was covered with gravel so it wasn’t that muddy…..except for the area behind the beer tables. The brewers and other pourers had mud up to the ankles in some cases. I heard tales of kegs sinking in the mud and the sucking noise as they were pulled out was frightening.

The one real exception was the UnTappd Festival in Charlotte, NC in June. It rained, it stormed, it blew. They halted the fest because of lightning in the area and packed everyone under the stands at Bank of America Stadium for more than an hour and a half. But the weather wasn’t the worst part of that festival by a long shot, so when I think about that day…. and I do…. it isn’t the rain that I think of.

But other than those near tragedies, Walter and I have had a perfect 2019 outdoor festival season. It’s been hot, cold, or windy for some, but we stayed dry all year long, and that entails for more than forty outdoor festivals and other events – undoubtedly, clean living is responsible for our good fortune.

Lamentably, not everyone has benefitted from our amicable relationship with the gods. Some choose to hold events that we don’t attend, and apparently they do that at their own risk. Ryan at Guggman Haus remarked this weekend that every time they have tried to hold an outdoor event on a Saturday they end up getting rained on. Rain is a particular problem for them even when not having events since they are in a very old house and they get a wet floor in the basement part of the taproom every time there is significant rainfall. But, they persevere and it all turns out great.

Guggman Haus went all in for Halloween. We were there the day after their party, and apparently they had even more going on for that than we got to see. image credit: Walter

Cheryl at Bier Brewery works at least a three events each week; most of the time it’s many more than that. She told me that this year has overall been pretty dry and lucky for festivals, but Saturday the 26th was a nightmare. They loaded up the vehicles to go – soaked. They changed shoes and socks. They got to the venue and had to find someone to let them on to the property….again soaked. They had to set up in the rain……now drowned, not just soaked. And then after all that, the attendees stayed away and they poured somewhere near a dozen beers over four hours. It’ll be days before the table skirt, the canopy, the jockey box, or Cheryl dry out.

Walter and I ran from car to door to car at several places on Saturday, including up to Victory Field. We did better than most people we were watching work that day, like Sarah at Bier putting up the tents for the Halloween party in the front lot that evening – she looked just like the Gorton’s Fisherman.  We started at Bier for the barrel aged Sanitarium release, and perhaps the most rain I endured was running out to put the bottles in the cooler in our car. Chris Stringfellow was there getting ready to drive the equipment down to Victory Field for the Festiv-Ale, and she was hoping that they would let her in the third base gate so she could unload under the grandstand instead of in the parking lot.

We had a couple of drafts, but not the BA Sanitarium. That beer is so special that it’s never been on draft. From there we headed to Guggman Haus near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to check out the new imperial brown ale and see the Halloween decorations. They were amazing but if you have an aversion to creepy dolls, you might want to avoid the downstairs.

We also enjoyed the new White IPA called Ghost Chair. It had the coriander and orange of a wit beer, a bit of phenolic clove like a hefeweizen, and still had some good hop bitterness and flavor. It’s a very interesting beer overall, just as all their brews are. Upstairs there was a public talk about Boyle Racing and IMS history in general with Bill Shaw, son of Indy 500-winner Wilbur Shaw and Donald Davidson, historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They had a good crowd and everyone seemed to hang on every word. It’s amazing how people live the Indy 500 all year long.

image credit: Indiana City Brewing

Our next stop was Indiana City for the Lemondrop Yo! DDH pale with Lemondrop hops and lupulin powder can release. We also wanted to see how many bottles they had left over from Nightmare on Shelby event Friday night. Indiana City had bottles of different barrel beers Friday night (666 of them), including a cabernet barrel aged Eastsider Ale (with cider by Ash & Elm – read the label carefully for a chuckle), the haymaker Bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout, and Bourbon barrel aged Kumbaya Graham Cracker Porter. We picked bottles of the barrel aged Eastcider, the BA Kumbaya, and cans of the Lemondrop Yo! to take to bottles shares and hand out to brewers.

Our time at Indiana City was the first indication that the rain was affecting our day. It was both negative and positive. We had planned on visiting the Indy Mural Fest to watch the art being done and to celebrate with everyone as it was occurring (and drink some Indiana City beer, as they are a partner of the fest). The rain stopped us from going, but it also brought the party to Indiana City. They may have been a partner with the celebration, but Indiana City had no obligation to haul all the festival parts (except the murals themselves) to the taproom. It was nice that they took it upon themselves to volunteer the space. The place was packed and people were doing art, listening to the DJ, and participating in family-based art activities.

From Indiana City we headed to Victory Field in downtown Indy for the Cystic Fibrosis Research fundraiser called Festiv-Ale. We walked in the gate and there was the festival, right on the concourse under the grandstand. We could see the rain on the baseball field, but we didn’t have to experience it. It was alot of fun and had that nice backdrop – I suggest that the Indians set up a craft beer fest on the concourse during every rain delay.

One of the interesting points to this festival, other than the fundraising for a great cause via ticket sales and a silent auction, was that many food establishments were on hand giving out samples of their dishes just as the brewers and spirits producers were pouring samples of their wares. All the way from the first base line around to the end of the third base line there were vendors, and a band on each end. We tried many of the beers and Walter did some spirits; I particularly liked the Roasted & French Toasted Coffee Porter from Traders Brewing and the Sticky Green IIPA (with 300 pounds of Honey) from Terre Haute Brewing Company.

The Festiv-Ale at Victory Field had food samples as well as beer and spirits, and a great view of the rain. image credit: Walter

All the beers THBC brought were in cans, so I asked them how far east they were now distributing. Surprisingly, he said he delivered beer to Stoneys Liquors on E. 10th Street and WestClay Wine & Spirits in Carmel just this past Thursday! Interestingly enough, this information came in handy later in the day. By the time we left Festiv-Ale and headed over to Centerpoint Brewing for their 3rd Anniversary Party the rain had stopped for the day but it had cooled down that everyone was inside anyway.

Wild Boar BBQ had set up outside in the rain, but with its cessation they had people lining up for food without having to be rained on. There was live music and brewery tours during the evening, but the aspect I was most intrigued with was the number of collaboration beers on tap for the party. There was the CBL, and IPL made with Burn ‘Em Brewing, Midwest Man Bun, a Kentucky Common made with Broad Ripple Brewpub, the Coffee Gold made with roasted coffee from Bee Coffee Roasters, and a BA Scotch Ale that was a double serial collaboration. It started out as a beer made with Finch Beer Co. from Chicago, and then it was aged in rye whiskey barrels as a collab with 8th Day Distillery.

We met our friend Lisa at Centerpoint so that she and Walter could use their mug club mugs. She Ubered over and we drove her home. It just so happens that she lives a few hundred feet from Stoneys Liquors, so we stopped in (for the first time – as we’ve said before, we drink mostly in breweries). They had a good selection for a smaller store and had some beers we wanted to try. They made a mixed four pack for me from several Windmill Brewing beers I hadn’t had, and this is just about the only place in Indiana you can get beer from Brewery Bhavana from Raleigh, NC. We first tried them at Sour, Wild, Funk Fest and are now big fans.

The fact that festivals are rain or shine events is one major reason people wait so long to buy tickets. Over half of festival tickets are purchase the week before the event. image credit: zazzle

It was a nice day, the rain had little affect on us (except for watching the mural get painted), but the question is there – if rain can ruin or make a craft beer event less enjoyable, why hold outdoor festivals at all? That’s not too hard to figure out – they have space for more people and amenities, they are often cheaper than holding them at an indoor venue, and let’s face it, a nice outdoor event is better than a nice indoor event for the vast majority of attendees.

The outdoor festival tickets will say that it is a rain or shine event, and often times the organizers will look into making accommodations a few days before the event if rain is forecasted – although that cold really add to the costs of putting on the event and may not be possible. So – here are a few hints for attending a festival in the rain:

1) Wear old shoes and have a change of clothes and shoes in the car for afterward. 2) Buy a cheap rain poncho that starts out folded up, they are easy to carry around and put on if needed. 3) Plan on doing only one event that day unless you have a means of cleaning completely. 4) Get there early so you can park as close as possible. 5) Scope out a brewers tent where you wouldn’t mind being stuck for a while if the skies really open up. 6) An umbrella isn’t always a good choice – it takes room, can have rain run off on other people or brewers, and takes up one of your hands – craft beer festivals are two hand events.

This discussion is all well and good, but the ultimate end is that you can’t control the weather, so stop worrying about it. If you get wet, you’ll dry, just enjoy yourself and your friends in the situation your given.


banner image credit: Life in Michigan

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