Compare and Contrast – a View of Two Beer Festivals

I hope you are quite aware at this stage, we in this household are what I would call “serious beer drinkers”. We know what we are drinking, choose to enjoy craft beer and make tasteful choices on what to drink. You will not find any BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors) in our fridge. We believe in the motto “No Crap on Tap”. When on vacation we venture to “beer bars”, local breweries and fun tap houses. Of course John has his faves (porters and sours) and I have mine (IPAs and APAs). And while John may resemble The Most Interesting Man in the World because he is such a magnificent bastard, we rarely drink Dos Equis (but I love their commercials).

All of that being said, in the past two weeks John and I have been to two distinctly different beer festivals here in Las Vegas. Because we can’t attend Oktoberfest in Munich, we make do with what is available to us. So let us compare the two. Know this, they were both held on a Saturday evening. Both included entertainment, food and beer and we purchased VIP tickets to both. VIP Tickets to each event were roughly the same price.

The Motley Brews Downtown Beer Festival was September 20th at the Las Vegas Government Center. There were three levels of tix available – GA, Early Entry and VIP. All ticket holders had access to water stations, fantastic food booths and an amazing selection of beer, many USA made by craft brewers and all of our local breweries were represented. Early Entry got you in the gate one hour earlier and VIP gave you that extra hour, a real restroom (as opposed to the dreaded Port-a-potty), free snacks (of which I got none) and exclusive pours only available in the VIP pavilion.  All in all a great event. Because the VIP food situation was a cluster fuck, Motley Brews has arranged for all VIP ticket holders to have gift certificates to the restos that provided (or didn’t…) the food so we can check them out on our own. Beer on tap, beer in casks and beer in bottles all were available to try. The music was great and a good time was had by all. An interesting thing about this event is the people who attend it. Almost without exception, the attendees are REAL BEER DRINKERS, not a bunch of posers just hanging out wondering where the Stella is. Beer centric T-shirts and jeans are the uniform of the day (and some of the shirts are amazing) and the beer wear available for purchase is part of the fun.

The Desert Hops Beer Festival was September 27th at the Cosmopolitan Pool. There were two levels of tix available – GA and VIP. The VIP tix should really have been called “early entry”. There were so many things wrong with this event I don’t even know where to begin. There was NOTHING VIP about that experience. No special amenities for VIP ticket holders at all. The only thing you got for the extra cash was entry an hour early. In addition there were no cask beers, no tap beers, everything was in bottles. Oddly it was called Desert HOPS and there were hardly any IPAs or APAs. Even more curious was the fact that none of our local breweries were represented at all (if they were, I didn’t see them among the only 1 dozen USA beers from 3 breweries). Imports abounded at this event, and if you like Belgian beer this was a great event for you as there were about 2o different ones, but the USA made craft beers were sadly lacking. The crowd was a mixture of tourists and locals, with the emphasis on the tourists. The food was a joke, the music a bizarre mix of live musicians playing with a recording behind them, no vendors other than the crappy food and the crowd was mostly a bunch of posers more intent on looking good than enjoying a beer festival. The best thing about this event was the location – I love the Cosmopolitan and the view from the pool is fantastic. Second best thing? Leaving.

So here are my words to the wise – for a great Beer Festival experience, go to any Motley Brews event (next one is in the Spring of 2015). You will be surrounded by locals who know their craft beer. Let the tourists have Desert Hops.