I’ve been attending beer festivals professionally for the better part of five years, but Love on Tap, held during the winter at Seacrets, was the first one I saw from backstage. The behind the scenes aspect of the event was different from what I was used to. For example, people asked me questions and expected things of me. Usually, I just drink, Tweet and take the occasional crowd shot. The photography was the biggest difference. When I was a reporter covering these events, I took enough photos to ensure that there were several for the editor to choose from. This time, I needed different event coverage (Side note: If I took your photo, you can find it at ShoreCraftBeer.com’s Facebook page).
One of the great tragedies was that I couldn’t have as many of the beers as usual. Not only because I wanted to stay relatively clear and because I had to drive home, but also because there always was a chance that someone could need my help or opinion. Fortunately, the folks at Seacrets are so good at their jobs no one needed anything from me. Mostly I smiled and nodded as I checked people in at the front door. As the afternoon came to an end, I just collected my things and made my way home. Piece of cake.
Between the time that the first person came in and the moment I pulled out onto Coastal Highway bound for home, I learned a bit about the process that I hadn’t known before. I also learned things about the demographics and the venue that hadn’t jumped out at me previously. For example:
Young people really do like craft beer
First off: Yes. “Millennial” is so overused that it has cruised past cliche and gone directly into tedium. Second: That millennials are drinking craft beer in greater numbers than any preceding generation is well known and established. That said, the fact that they attended in the numbers that they did and all behaved themselves was merely only notable, it was inspiring.
Drinking craft beer and drinking it responsibly is so intertwined with the culture, it is as if aggressive overconsumption never had been an issue in the first place. The younger people truly were there to enjoy themselves together. I bumped into one young lady who was celebrating her 21st birthday at the event with a bunch of her friends. Sure, they were having a bunch to drink, but they weren’t lined up at a bar somewhere doing 21 shots and heading to the hospital.
Craft beer festivals tend to encourage people to enjoy themselves enthusiastically without getting rowdy. Again, hats off to the professionals at Seacrets for understanding crowds (it is really astounding how well they get crowd control without being aggressive), but also hats off to the young attendees who have set the new standard for how the next generation appreciates craft beer as a cultural phenomenon.
People made the trip
In addition to the hundred or so people who booked hotel rooms to come to the event, another several hundred more made the drive, taking advantage of condos and second homes or just grabbing a hotel once they got to town. A full two thirds of attendees were from more than 100 miles away, something on the order of 75 percent traveled from greater than 50 miles. People from Pennsylvania, Baltimore and the attendant metropolitan areas, many of whom had come to town for the October Shore Craft Beer Festival, came and brought friends. I spoke with a couple who have a place in town and keep an eye out for the opportunity to come down. As beer enthusiasts, attending the last two events made utter sense to them. They don’t need an excuse to plan a weekend at the beach, but if they get one, they totally will use it.
Another gentleman who had been in the fall grabbed me with a critique about the event planning. He was adamant that he was having a good time and would come to pretty much any kind of beer event we held, but he had what I think was a useful suggestion and elected to share it. In a world of Internet trolls, there is nothing like an honest critique that genuinely takes everyone’s best interest into account. People don’t only not mind making the trip, but they want to do their part to ensure events like this continue and grow. They like being a part of things, which is cool to hear.