Los Angeles Beer Festival 2011 a Bust

I’ve been to the Los Angeles Beer Festival at Union Station for the past two years, and it has proven to be very inconsistent.

Last year it was nearly perfect.  The festival is held at Union Station in Los Angeles, and therefore takes driving out of the equation.  Jump on a train to Los Angeles, take a few steps to the site of the festival (the courtyard of Union Station), sample craft beers to your heart’s content, and then get back on the train for home.  Last year the organization was good, and there was an outstanding turnout of vendors.

This year the event started on a bad note, although it had nothing to do with the event.  Metrolink decided it would be a good weekend to shut down all the trains.  I seldom have the opportunity to take public transportation, but I have to ask, how can public transportation ever become a viable alternative for the masses if riders can’t be certain it will be available?  Fortunately I found seats on Amtrak, so we were still able to take a train to the event.

The train was scheduled to arrive 15 minutes after the start of the event at 12:15.  I saw that as a feature, not a glitch, because that would provide sufficient time for everyone to get into the event and we would not need to wait in line.  However, when we arrived, there was still a substantial line.  No problem.  We went to a café in the train station and had a small nosh in order to kill some time.  Fifteen minutes later we returned to the line to find it running the entire length of the train station, down one side of the station, and around a corner into the parking garage.

I walked to the front of the line to see what was going on, and saw the problem.  In all, about 1500 people attended the festival.  There were a number of people assisting with the admission process, some handing out wristbands and other handing out the glasses (which were real glass this year), but there were just two women checking the tickets.  And as I watched, as each person approached with their ticket in hand (usually a self-printed ticket with a barcode that needed to be scanned), in every case I observed the two women had no idea how to deal with whatever it was they were facing.  As a result of this bottle neck, some people waited up to an hour and a half to get into the event.

The festival was supposed to go from noon to 4:00 p.m., but in the end the last of the line was not admitted until 1:30.  Two and a half hours was still plenty of time to sample all the beers, but that’s not the issue.  By then, two of the three seminars that were being held were already over.  Further, although many food trucks were promised, there were only three, and that lead to waits of another 30 minutes to get food.  So, if you went to the festival thinking you would sample beers for a little while, relax with some food and then sample some more beers, that was not really feasible.

I go into so much detail hoping that someone related to the festival will realize how badly they performed and do better next year.  It does not take an efficiency expert to understand that if you are going to be admitting 1500 people at the same time, you need a large number of people to quickly process them. I witnessed many people voicing their displeasure to the organizers, who attempted to blame it on a fire inspection.  They claimed that the fire inspector had delayed the start so that the grounds could be checked.  But that only begs the question, how did that happen?  And the delay and disorganization I witnessed had nothing to do with the Fire Marshal; there were just too few people assigned to ticket taking.

Click on this photo for a nice panoramic view of the courtyard (and look for the half a person — looks painful):

Once inside, the experience was good, aside from the lack of food trucks (and no bands!).  There was a large number of vendors, pouring some very tasty brew.  But there are many beer fests to be had, and because of the lack of organization, there is no reason to attend this one again.

For a much more favorable, behind the scenes review, check out Dale Conjurski’s review here.  He’ll put up with anything for beer.  (That’s him in the top photo, dutifully serving up some fine Steelhead beers.)

2 Responses to “Los Angeles Beer Festival 2011 a Bust”

  1. Hello,
    Would like to know about exhibiting at your event. Thank you!

  2. Well, it depends. What would you be exhibiting?

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