Fewer beers at events, please

Beer Festivals

As we enter June, we’re essentially entering prime time for summer beer events in and around Toronto (here, for example, is a handy list of ten such events) and while Session Toronto, Cask Days, The Toronto Festival of Beer, et. al, all tout the number of beers that will be on hand as something a badge of honour, I’d like to propose that where beer selection is concerned, less is actually more.

It seems to be a mark of success to show that the number of beers at a festival has grown exponentially from one year to the next. Cask Days, for example, boasted 230 different beers this year from 140 different brewers, up from 150 different beers the year before.

While this sounds awesome, I actually think it’s more overwhelming than it is exciting. You can’t possibly drink 230 beers at one event, even if you were to attend all three days of Cask Days, so quite simply, it’s too much. I know that the organizers of beer events (Cask Days in particular) work very hard to bring in unique and interesting offerings for their events, but with no way of trying all of them, I just find massive beer lists stressful.

With no way of trying everything, I feel like I’m always going to miss something and I spend most of the event stressing about what to drink next. Do I get something that sounds crazy and unique? Do I get something I know I’m going to like? Do I get the same thing my drinking buddy just had, or am I obligated to get something different so that as a group we’re covering more ground? If I like something, can I get another one, or is that a “waste” of a drink? AHH FUCK!

Instead, I propose that a good beer event should have a reasonable and manageable list of offerings; a number that might conceivably allow attendees to try one of each beer, but also a number that is more than one might normally drink in one sitting. For this reason, I’m saying the ideal number of beers available at an event is seven.

Yes, seven beers.

Over the course of a day, I might conceivably drink seven pints (and yes, beer events need to offer full pints, as I’ve opined elsewhere previously), but I might also be OK with repeating one of those pints without fear of missing too much. That is, among seven beers, I’ll likely be able to ascertain which among them I won’t enjoy and can happily skip that one and go back to my favourite pint of the event.

Certainly I don’t expect Cask Days to whittle down their beer selection to just seven offerings next year since diverse offerings has essentially become their raison d’etre and I don’t expect that the Toronto Festival of Beer will give the boot to 293 vendors in 2015 (the lineups of dudes in tank tops for just seven kegs would be ridonkulous, bro), but I think there’s an argument to be made for a more refined list at most events.

If you consider that the stated purpose of a beer event is to try new things, there’s an argument to be made that the bloated statistic of “beers on hand” doesn’t really mean anything when we’re tacking on beers like Keiths just to pad the list. Furthermore, with too large a selection, nothing really has time to make an impression when you down 20 or so 4oz offerings of different beers.

Instead, I would be far more impressed by a well-considered and short list of seven beers than I am by a sprawling list of hundreds of beers that I mostly have no interest in. With so many events and festivals already advertising a “curated” list of beer, perhaps it’s time that more organizers stop bastardizing the meaning of that word and actually pull together, sift through, and select a list of beer for presentation at events instead of simply trying to add brewery names to their event’s website.

3 thoughts on “Fewer beers at events, please

  1. While you may enjoy a certain set of 7 beers, I may enjoy 7 different ones and and with thousands of guests I’d suggest a list of 100 beers or more is not a bad thing as it allows more people to sample the beers they enjoy.

    The key to festivals like Cask Days is to go with a group of friends, do some prescouting and try 7-10 samples and then settle in with the beers you enjoy

  2. I agree with Peter F. What if I am a Porter and Stout guy and you are a Pilsner and Lager person? I think 230 is patently ridiculous, but I can name 7 different styles of beer, some of which I don’t even like, so 7 isn’t going to cut it at an event like Cask Days or TFOB which bring in thousands of passionate beer-drinkers who all have style preferences.

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