Sunday, December 6, 2015

The High Price of Beer Fest Admission and Other Festivus Grievances

A Festivus Cane Shaking...
In 1997, an episode of the TV series Seinfeld introduced the world to an annual holiday called Festivus. Celebrated by the Costanza Family, "a Festivus for the rest of us" was portrayed as a secular holiday intended to replace the commercialism and religious trappings of the traditional, western, December holidays. The episode struck such a chord with viewers that people actually began celebrating Festivus as a real holiday. December 23rd is now recognized as the official day of Festivus, and I have given some serious thought to setting up an aluminum pole and celebrating it myself this year.

One of the traditions of Festivus is the Airing of Grievances. After the holiday dinner, which should include a traditional Festivus meatloaf, the celebrants take turns lashing out at each other and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year. Ah, disappointments, I've had a few, and some of them are, of course, beer-related. Let's get right to them:

1) People Who Park in Front of My House - The high price of rent in Portland has resulted in several of the rentals on my street being occupied by a countless number of young people. Honestly, I have no idea how many of them are living in each house. It's like watching a clown car empty when they all leave for their various barista jobs in the morning. Of course, each and every one of them has his/her own car, which has resulted in a serious reduction in available parking on the street. Hey! I know I don't "own the street" because my wife reminds me every time I complain about it, but a man should be able to park his own car in front of his own house and not vie for that space with a bunch of PBR-swilling nitwits every day! Whew! First grievance down and it feels so GOOD!

2) The High Price of Beer Fest Admission - Every year, the most popular beer festivals appear to have a huge increase in attendance. More and more people are crammed into the same venue until it seems like just a giant, boozy pile of asses, elbows, and beer glasses. The promoters of these events MUST be making boatloads of moolah. I understand there are significant costs involved with putting on a beer fest, but I don't understand why the price of admission keeps increasing. Will we see $40 a head at the best fests next year? I wouldn't be surprised.

I was particularly disappointed to see the Holiday Ale Fest charging TEN DOLLARS for designated driver admission this year. WTF, HAF? To me, that's just gouging and not in spirit with the whole idea behind a designated driver. We want to encourage people to be DD's, not piss them off and make them complain--and I heard several complaints about that yesterday, along with the sticker shock of the $35 admission price.

There are two likely scenarios when a person chooses designated driver status at a beer fest: a) they don't drink alcohol (or they don't like beer) and they are being dragged to the beer fest by their significant other or thoughtless friends; or b) they're a selfless hero who is willing to deprive him/herself of tasty libations in order to ensure the safety of family and thoughtless friends. Designated drivers should receive FREE admission and FREE root beer, along with a goddamned medal. Seriously, I can't think of anything more boring than to be the only one NOT drinking at a BEER fest. Charging for that experience adds insult to injury and is totally uncool.

3) People Who Smoke at the Bus Stop - Why is there always some joker smoking at every Portland bus stop? And can we make it legal to kick them in the shins for doing it?

4) Megacorps Buying All the Beers - Remember back in the seventies when the only beer available was big corporate beer? Here in the US of A, you had Bud, Miller and Coors. Looking back, it was kind of cute how loyal beer drinkers were to their chosen favorite from that meager, adjunct-y selection. Of course, not everybody was drinking the big three. Out in the woods, mountains and swampy parts of the country, groups of smelly hippies were brewing their own beer. Those long-haired weirdos were concerned with strange concepts; like innovationflavor, and quality. After President Jimmy Carter signed the law making homebrewing legal in 1976, craft brewing was suddenly brought out of hidden backwoods sheds, and the revolution was on.

Of course, you can't keep a soulless, omnipotent megacorp down. Those three beers I mentioned previously, Bud, Miller and Coors, are all currently involved in a massive merger clusterf**k for consumers engineered by the Superpower of Beer: AB Inbev. Successful craft breweries are up for grabs, getting snatched up for insanely high prices. (ONE BILLION dollars was the price paid for San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing by Constellation Brands.) Everyone is wondering what craft brewery will be the next to sell out to Big Beer.

Debate rages on about whether or not these acquisitions will ultimately be "good" or "bad" for craft beer. Some say the infusion of Big Beer bucks will lead to a larger distribution of craft beer. Others lament that the very definition of "craft beer" has become so diluted and polluted that it's not even a "thing" anymore. What do I think? Well, I just look at where beer was 40 years ago. I think the wet dream of those megacorps--soon to be only one, really--is to return to those good old days when no one had a discriminating palate and people chose their beer brand based solely on which one had the best Superbowl commercial. Taste-schmaste!

Okay, four grievances aired is enough for today. I have to save some for the Festivus table. I also have to conserve energy for the Feats of Strength tradition. Those kids of mine are getting too big to take lightly this year.

Happy Festivus to us all!

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