A Review about a Beer Festival? True North Beer Festival (KW Edition)

a w6To be quite honest, I wasn’t really expecting to write a review about a beer festival on Saturday September 15th, 2018.   But, what I saw at this beer festival prompted me to write this review.  To sum it up, this is a review that won’t go over well with the organizers of True North Beer Festival.   I was given the opportunity to go by a neighbour of mine that won tickets on Instagram.  Thanks BAOS Podcast!   Let’s get on with this review (and it’s my first Beer Festival review!)   True North Beer Festival took place at LOT42 in Kitchener-Waterloo, it’s a massively huge venue (17 Acre!) that is a pretty good setting for a beer festival.

LOT42 is a performance and event venue located on Ardelt Place in Kitchener. This 17-acre facility is dedicated to providing a flexible space for use by the arts, technology, manufacturing, athletics, and community events. https://www.lot42.ca/
“Rare Beers from Far Away Places” True North Beer Festival
Where do we start?  The venue itself was great and lots of space for everybody to hang out.  The downside?  Perhaps, too much space for this beer festival.   The layout of the festival was all over the place.   We ended up going at 7pm. When you walk up to the venue, there’s a couple of doors, one for the ticketholders, general admission, and VIP.   You’re greeted by a tent with a couple of folks that are scanning the tickets, handing out the glassware and tokens.    As they scanned my VIP pass, I was given a token card (10 tokens!) that the folks would have to punch a hole.  That was pretty interesting.   I was given a VIP bracelet as well.  I figured this was needed to enter the VIP lounge and to have the In and Out privilege too. We’ll talk about the prices of the tickets in a little bit but first, let’s talk about this part. There’s a VIP lounge with a Cicerone Beer Guide, so we immediately went there to check it out with a beer, of course.    We were told that the VIP lounge was upstairs on the second floor but there wasn’t any signs anywhere.  We went upstairs to see swanky chairs and tables with boxed water, yes, boxed water.   But there wasn’t anybody at the entrance to make sure that we were VIP or regular.  Infact, more people would go up there, to talk, to enjoy the beer (even they weren’t wearing VIP bracelets.) I went on the site to see if there was hours on the VIP lounge or they just gave up?  To be honest, I don’t know what happened there.   Oh, the beer guide? I’m not sure where that beer guide went either.     But if you pay for the VIP passes which costs $40 more than the day pass.  Yes, you read that right.  The VIP pass costs $70 where as the day pass costs $30.  The difference?  Tokens, early entrance, and a VIP lounge with a beer guide.   But what if you purchase the VIP pass and end up going later in the day where there’s no VIP lounge, no need for a early entrance, yeah.  I’m sure that there was some folks that paid for the VIP passes and wasn’t happy with the cost.   It’s pretty insane considering that just last week that I went to Welly Cask Fest at Wellington Brewery where the tickets were a cool $25 to get in with five tokens and a glassware, no need for VIP passes.   There was more than 30 casks on deck with a few shorties here and there.  Plus, not to mention the arcade games, pinball machines, axe throwing, cornholes,  yeah,  hard to beat that price.   So how does True North sum up its cost for VIP passes?  Where’s the extra $40 to pay for?    I understand it’s also a Beer and Music festival – but please don’t offer VIP tickets if you aren’t going to continue it throughout the entire festival (which ran from 2pm-1am!)
The start-up booth with various breweries. 

TOKENS $2 per 4oz or $1.25 per 2oz.

The layout of the beer festival was poorly planned.   They chose to put the stage in the middle of the warehouse, sandwiched between the two beer gardens.   And there was a game area (Cornhole, Jenga, etc.) as well.   Sadly, for the bands which I felt bad for since there wasn’t hardly anybody listening to these bands.  Casper Skulls killed it, The Bandicoots was pretty dang good as well.    Some would say  “Went for the beer, stayed for the bands.”
“Went for the beer, stayed for the bands.” Sid
https://youtu.be/vkfccWeJq4Q However, True North Beer Festival was promoting their motto, “Rare Beers from Far Away Places.” – I didn’t know what to expect until the lineup was released.   Granted, there was some breweries that we couldn’t get to try, like the start-up breweries (Strange Brewing, Charlotteville, etc etc.)  and some breweries that was up the 401 such as Riverhead, Manantler, etc.   Even there was breweries that was there where…you could…actually purchase their beer at the LCBO or The Beer Store such as Beau’s, Bell City, Block Three.   The beer selection is a okay selection for a Beer Festival that promotes Rare Beers from Faraway Places.   Not the greatest considering if you’re paying $30 or $70 where tokens are $2 per 2oz.
The entertainment.  Casper Skulls and The Bandicoots killed it.  
The line-up.
The prices of the tickets.
What’s the difference?
However, by the time that we arrived there, there wasn’t some beer available anymore,  that’s understandable.  They did mention that on the website.  Limited run, they say.
That VIP bracelet with no powers. 
However, there was a couple of issues that surprised me with the beer and it wasn’t even the beer itself, moreso the folks behind the taps.   Shall we talk about it? The person that was pouring Fairweather Brewing and Grain & Grit Beer which was undoubtably the most popular breweries of the night, didn’t seem to know how to pour a little 2oz glass.   When I first got a Fairweather beer, I got more head than beer itself.   The guy that was pouring those two breweries, couldn’t figure it out and kept pouring it out.  However, Sid and I ended up with 3/4 glass of foam.   I  wonder if that’s why they sold out pretty quick.

…ended up with 3/4 glass of foam.

As I was looking around at the selection of the beer, I wanted to get Northern Superior since they’re a new-to-me brewery.   I proceeded to hand him my glassware, he looked at it and went to put ice cubes in it.  Where did the ice cubes come from?  Oh, the cooler with the tap handles, yes.  You’re reading this right.   He then “rinsed” the glassware and threw the ice cubes back into the same cooler.   I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe my own eyes.    Just a heads-up, there was a rinse station nearby which we’ve been using all night because well, that’s what you do at beer festivals right?! As soon as that occurred, I immediately alerted the organizers of True North Beer Festival via Instagram but they did saw my message and did not respond as yet today (September 16th) – I’ve also alerted another person that was pouring beer at a different beer tent that told me that he would alert the organizer.   I did see that organizer in that same beer tent with the guy, Ice Cubes for a while.   Oh, that guy that I alerted?  He gave me a free token.

I was shocked.


After that whole ice cubes incident, I was pretty much turned off by the whole beer festival.  It felt disorganized, spread out, and the security guards looks like they were just chatting among guards or on their phones.   The parking lot was huge and free, so that’s a bonus.
Low attendance, Casper Skulls killed it though.  Check them out!
The vendors?  I felt bad for them,  there was only four of them and pretty much right at the get-go just before the first beer tent so they didn’t get a lot of attention.   But please go check them out via Etsy, Instagram and Websites. Walking from the parking lot was hilarious because we couldn’t figure out where to go….but we followed the safety cones to the entrance.  Oh yeah, there was so many parking lots on the way. But it made for a great frisbee contest on the way out of the beer festival that we were happily leaving.
It made a great place to play frisbee when we left. 
On the upside, the bands, the vendors, and the somewhat alright selection of beer made up for it.   To be honest, I did enjoyed the beer that I got to try that night (minus the one where the guy puts the ice cubes in to rinse it out.)  On the downside, well, I explained it all. If you’re running a beer festival,  perhaps, focus on running the beer festival instead of writing a blog post about “Craft Beer Festivals Are Terrible.”
No wonder festival beer pours a little foamy every now and then!
However, this isn’t the first complaint that I’ve heard of True North Beer Festival though.  I’ve learned recently of more complaints about the one that they held in Brantford. I understand that the organizing and running a beer festival is a pretty difficult thing to do.  It’s a big hurdle and to make it successful is even a bigger hurdle to jump through.   However, there are so many beer festivals these days in Ontario which has increasingly becoming lost in the world of social media.   At the same time, we also had Georgetown, Head for the Hills beer festival which saw an impressive 5,500 turnout with 44 breweries.   In the coming month, we’re expected to see Bellwoods Brewery’s Witchstock which will be yet another major successful festival.

The question remains…

Will there be a 2019 tour?   If that’s the case, they need to really figure out the venues, the layouts, the pouring of beer, the handling of ice cubes, and more.   If you’re advertising that there will be a VIP lounge, that should be applied to the entire time that the festival is occurring.    Hell, get rid of the VIP passes because they’re just a waste of money and time.  If I’m organizing a beer festival, well, here’s my platform…
Wait a second, I’m not going to reveal that.   Hire me if you want to. By the way, there was a Prosecco Bar there.  

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