The Goat Rodeo

Life, Beers & Brewing in a secluded (and slightly off kilter) nook in Northern California

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beer Week vs. Oktoberfest

Okay, so, let’s be honest, if you are reading this blog you are either related to me (the most likely case) or you are a socially challenged beer enthusiast (a beer geek). If you fall into the latter category don’t feel bad, there is an ever growing number of us out there (as is evidenced by the incredible growth the craft beer segment is seeing right now). And being a Beer enthusiast you would (of course) want to spend your week’s vacation time in some exciting beer related activity (obviously).

The answer to what exciting beer event - well, it use to be obvious – there were not really that many choices. You had Oktoberfest or the Great British Beer Festival. Then later came the Great American Beer Festival, then the Oregon Brewer’s Festival, then ……

But in the last few years the equation has become much more complicated for us – enter the Beer Week. What (you may ask) is a Beer Week pray tell.
A Beer Week is a relatively new concept, it started in Philadelphia just a few years (only in 2008). And since its inception a short time ago, more than 50 other U.S. cities have emulated Philadelphia’s success and launched their own beer weeks. Today there is hardly a week goes by without a Beer Week happening in some city, somewhere in the USA.
The Beer Week is a semi-ill-defined grouping of beer events and activities that take place during a week inclusive of the weekend on either side. There is usually a central “opening event” that is “hosted” by the Beer Week organizers. This Gala event usually has all (most) of the participating breweries in attendance. These breweries are (by and large) breweries from around the sponsor city, but other breweries that sell beer I that market participate as well.

Then, throughout the week there are a myriad of other activities that are usually (but not limited to) events put on by individual retailers around the city. These events may include tap takeovers (where a pub takes off their regular line up to pour all the brands from one brewery), sit down beer dinners, guest chefs, beer & food pairings, BBQs, brewery promo nights, meet the brewer, beer style nights (like an all stout on draft), limited release beer launches, beer and music events, brewery schwag giveaways,– pretty much whatever one could dream up to entertain the patrons and promote beer.

To give you an idea this year we (Anderson Valley Brewing) participated in events in San Francisco, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, DC and NYC. I (as Anderson Valley’s Brewer) did talks and beer dinner in each city. I also attended a few other brewer’s events. Some of these promotions are pretty outrageous; I went to a Firestone Walker beer dinner at Brouwer’s Café in Seattle that was over the top. It was hosted by David Walker (brewery owner). The food was prepared by celebrity beer chef Sean Paxton. There were 10 courses (including some of the most delicious things I have had in months) paired with different 12 beers (including special beers that even David Walker had not tasted in a long time) – The food was delectable, the beers great and the pairings awesome.

This year in Philadelphia there were over 900 of these kinds of events in and around the city during their 10 days of Beer Week. And really that speaks directly to my point.
Given the enormous range and number of choices (both in activities and in selection of beers) at a Beer Week, would you rather spend less (on flights, hotels and the events) and do more at a major cities’ beer week – or would you rather go to Oktoberfest ? I don’t mean to denigrate Oktoberfest (I have been four times, and I think ever beer geek should go once), and I love to travel around Germany as much as anyone - but Oktoberfest is just a single event (albeit one huge event), it is expensive ($$$), with only three styles of beers served, huge (HUGE) crowds, and only so-so food.

I am not saying don’t go to Oktoberfest - but I think that if you compare the offerings; the beers, the food, the activities, the patrons – I am saying there are other great choices out there in the beer world today. Check out the local Beer Week near you – I don’t think you will be disappointed

Almost all the Beer Weeks now have web sites with a good outline of their upcoming events. Check here for the web site listings:


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