The Great International Spring Beer Festival this year was, as I wrote about previously, very different from years past. Sometimes change is a good thing. Despite the uncooperative weather, there was a definite change in the tone and format that turned the event into a completely different beer festival. The more intimate setting, the open air and the change to focus on more local breweries really led to a vastly different vibe.
As much as I have a soft spot in my heart for the fest at the Convention Center, it’s become noticeable after so many years that there are a number of flaws and issues that needed to be addressed. I’ve discussed this before, so I won’t go into it, but suffice to say this reformatted, rebooted festival was as different from the old as night and day.
While the new fest definitely rose above the flaws of the last, there are bound to be some other minor issues to work out whenever you start a new endeavor. Even those flaws seemed to be fairly well managed, though, and while security was a strong presence, there felt less need for there to be, and their presence felt less oppressive than it has in years past. Of course, the crowd was very different from the Convention Center, which always seems to bring in a certain rowdy element.
The relaxed, outdoor atmosphere definitely helped. The Convention Center, despite being a tremendous, cavernous space, tends to get very claustrophobic when the crowds come in. It becomes difficult to get around. Couple that with downtown parking issues and those unwise few who decide to pre-game a beer festival with unlimited sampling (seriously, people, do the math) and there can be a certain unwelcome vibe. The general babble of such a large crowd in an echoing space also makes it impossible to hear the bands playing, since the acoustics are all over the map.
Out in the open, there was no problem hearing the band play at all. That’s got to be good both for the band and the crowd who might actually want to hear the music. What good is playing to a crowd that can’t hear? That being said, the music seemed to sometimes overpower people’s ability to have conversations. This is an easy fix, though, so I don’t really hold it against them.
The weather was a bit of an issue, but let’s be honest, the first week of May is almost never like the last week in October, even in New England. I’m totally willing to give the fest a pass on circumstances they cannot possibly control. Seriously, the seventh of May! What the hell, nature?
Aside from those issues, everything seemed to go along pretty well. The parking control was spot-on, the crowd was great, the brewers and breweries got to sample some cool specialty beers they’re toying with, and most people there had a great time. I’m looking forward to what’s in store for the fall festival, and I’m excited to see what kind of innovation we’re in for.
So if you missed this fest, check it out next time it comes around. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.