Monday, June 27, 2011

Two Brothers Hop Juice Festival

Oh man, had I been looking forward to this festival for a looong time.  A couple of times now (and more pending), my friends and I will make a "beer run."  It's usually friends from the upper half of Illinois (and one from Milwaukee) and we all meet at a brewery for a day.  We drink, talk smart, drink some more, appreciate beer, drink a little, eat, laugh a ton, buy beer we can't normally get, and then drive home.  It's a great excuse to see some long time friends that I don't usually get to see that often.  I highly recommend it.  It also works great for those with families and/or spouses because it's only a one day trip (hence a "beer run" not a "beer stay").

It had been drizzly and overcast all week, so several of us were preparing ourselves for a poncho-clad, drenched day of drinking.  Even the thought of "owning" a bad situation and making the most out of it excited us. Rain or shine we would be there and we were going to have a blast.

We arrived shortly after noon.  Parking was pretty poorly marked.  Two Brothers (old/primary) brewery is located in an industrial park, so there are plenty of adjeacent lots in which to park.  Only problem was we, nor anybody else knew we could park in those lots.  Turns out there were small signs at the entrance of nearby lots indicating we could park there, but cars parked on the shoulder had blocked those signs and lots of people ended up walking a looooong way to get to the festival.  After our own trek to the brewery, things were looking pretty good.  A bluegrass band was playing, people were drinking, the sun was shining, and we see this when we  arrive.

Oh, just a Tesla Roadster.  I'd never seen one of these before in person.  While cars and drinking are not a good combination, looking/lusting after cars and drinking is a fantastic combination and I appreciated the eye candy.  OK, one more pic for good measure.

The car was located at the tail end of a line that stretched out from the entrance gate of the festival.  Granted, the entrance gate of the festival did not have a long line.  They were checking IDs and admitting people very quickly.  Outside, the festival however is where the rare Hop Juice Black was being sold in large bottles.  Unfortunately, since one cannot bring glass into the festival there was a large line to procure the festival-exclusive brew, take it back to your car, and then finally get admitted to the festival.  For those of you paying attention, yes, that does mean another crazy long walk BACK to the car and then an additional walk to return to the festival.  Yikes.  This is the line.

The order/checkout counter for the many different Two Brothers beers was in front of the window.  Please note the blacktop we are standing on and the shadows we are casting.  Yes, the sun was in full effect and we were cooking out on the blacktop.  I would wait.  I had no idea how many bottles of Hop Juice Black they were going to be selling, but I knew that I wanted several.  Besides, they guys in front of us were cool, so we chatted and made smart talk until we all finally got our chance to buy.  There were jokes made that one buyer had originally only planned to buy 6, but to make all the time in line worth while (and the resultant thirst) "now I'm up to a 12 pack."  On a side note, after dropping off the beer at our car, one of the guys that was in front of us was driving by en route to pick up all his buddies' beer so they wouldn't have to walk them back.  He was kind enough to offer us a ride back to the festival.  This is just another example of why I love craft beer drinkers: great sense of community.

Our make-shift chauffeurs and some pretty cool guys.
After being chauffeured back to the front gates we quickly got our wrist bands and entered.

Thankfully, we were able to purchase food/drink tickets when we purchased the Hop Juice Black, so we didn't have to wait in that line.  However, there were still lines to be found.

This is the line for food.  Not too shabby.

These were the lines for beer and the first sight when entering the festival.  Yikes.
When we arrived, there was a gentleman (I use the term loosely) storming out of the festival raving about the lines. "Lines to get in.  Lines to get beer.  Lines to get tickets.  This is bullshit!"  We mocked him in line wondering if he expected to be the only person here.  However, as the day progressed we began to see his point from a calmer point of view.  Lines were everywhere.  Long lines.  Lines long enough that after you ordered a beer, you had to immediately get back in line so that by the time you finished your beer, you could have another.  Who wants to be beerless in line?  Also, I am currently only referring to the lines for the Two Brothers brand beer.  The line for the "guest taps" tent was even longer!  

More lines.

Perhaps the lines would not have seemed so bad were it not for the heat.  It was a gorgeous day to be in many places: the beach, the park, baseball game... blacktop parking lot is not on that list.  It was cooking outside.  We were pouring sweat and couldn't down the beer fast enough.  We were glad to have such amazing weather, but now were hoping for just a little more of that rain we heard about.  The heat and blacktop combination is what would eventually force us to leave the festival.  A little grass in the area would have went a looong way.

The blurgrass bands did their best to take our minds off of the heat.
I love that their stage is partially constructed with kegs.

There were some things that Two Bros. did really well.  

1.  Ample port-a-potties.  I never had to wait in line.
2.  Adequate space.  Not a lot of bumping into people, except when trying to go through a line that would be blocking your path.
3.  Cold beer.  Despite the beer in outdoor tents on a super sunny day, I always got a cold beer.  It might not have stayed that way for long, but they can hardly be blamed for that.
4.  Tasty beer and great guest taps.
5.  Bands that weren't offensively loud.  It was nice to hear music, but also hear the person next to me.  I cannot emphasize this enough.

We enjoyed the festival, but there were definitely some things that Two Brothers could do to improve it.

1.  Mark your parking better.  One long walk is bad.  Two more to take purchased beer in glass bottles back to your car and return is exasperating.  The fourth to leave is expected.  Help us shorten those walks and to utilize the lots you probably asked your neighboring businesses if you could use.  Bigger or better-placed signs would be a big help.  Especially on such a hot day when any additional walking sucks.

2. More tents.  Yes, this would cut down on lines.  However, it would also leave less room within the confines of your parking lot.  I understand that conundrum, hence my next suggestion...

3. Move the festival.   Moving the festival might cost more money, but at $6 for a half solo cup full of Hop Juice or Hop Juice Black (or full cups of year-round brews), money may not be your biggest concern.  Moving the festival to say, a local outdoor venue, would give you the following:
- Grass on which to sit.
- Trees to provide shade
- More room for tents
- More tents = shorter lines = less waiting
- Less waiting for beer also = more people with access to purchase point = more purchases = more money

People "picnicking" on blacktop.  Notice the line?
4. Stages of VIP tickets?
VIP tickets were only $65 (nice) and got you access to...
* Guaranteed entry to the festival even if the general admission is at capacity;
* Exclusive Access to the Two Brothers Tap House and Patio;
* Exclusive Access to the VIP Bar;
* Exclusive Access to the indoor Two Brothers Tap House Bathrooms;
* A seat to rest your hop lovin' feet;
* 5 complimentary beers (21 or older with state-issued ID);
* Unlimited free non-alcoholic drinks;
* Brat-and-finger-food buffet all day long and
* A special dinner buffet from 6-8pm

That's a damn good deal!  However, several of my comrades expressed a wish for a $20-$30 pseudo-VIP ticket that maybe just included ice water, air conditioning, a seat in said air conditioning, and maybe something else to be determined.  Not a necessity for a good festival, but Two Brothers could make more money and customers get something they want.  Win-win, right?  Yeah, I know that there are indoor space constraints on this one, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice to see in some shape or form (doesn't have to be in their super-nice bar area, maybe?).

Overall, we had some great beer and some great talk, but eventually we left to find some shade, A/C, and beers that weren't $6 for a Solo cup (or as mentioned earlier $6 for half a Solo cup for the higher ABV brews).  I know festivals are generally more expensive as are most things in the way of entertainment (amusement parks, fairs, concerts, etc), but does this compare to festivals in your area?  Please comment.  I'd love to know.

The day ended with bags games, cooking out, drinking more good beer.  What more could you ask for?  Thanks to Two Brothers for throwing a tasty festival and for giving us boys a good excuse to get together and drink some brews.  Cheers!

Two worst bag players, ever.
Leaving Chicago.

No comments:

Post a Comment