New Zealand Beer Festival – Auckland 2014 – Review

The New Zealand Beer Festival 2014 is different, it has been changed. Changed by the law. Changed by the interpretation of how to enforce that law. Changed by having to protect the people from harm.

Since it was only last night I am still thinking about how I feel about this event. I still need to talk to others, and collect information to decide whether these changes are good, bad or indifferent.

Just quickly here are my current thoughts. (there are no comments about the weather below, it wasn’t ideal)

165ml ONLY serve – people spent twice as long in lines, to get the beer they wanted to drink. Maybe they tried more different types of beers than they normally would. Maybe they drank the same amounts they normally would if they could get 330ml, and then spend less time in lines. Without doing a wrap up of exactly how much beer we sold (that’s Monday’s job), my gut feel is we sold the same amount as if we had done full pours.

People expressed frustration at spending so much time in line. Some deciding they would leave early and go to the pub (some saying they wouldn’t attend again).

Most of the second session we experienced 9+ people deep at our bar. I had staff commenting this is the first event they haven’t been able to take a break till near the end of the session. We were slammed. We weren’t able to converse with the public and educate them about our beer. The onslaught of people buying half serves was relentless.

If the half serves didn’t equate to less volume drunk. Then what it equated to was frustration and creating an unnatural environment. An environment where normal responsibly people weren’t standing back and relaxing and conversing about the beer they had purchased. They spent most of their time in lines, that could take 15 minutes to get served. How long does it take to drink 165ml of beer? Maybe 15 minutes? less? That meant as soon as you purchased a beer you really needed to get into the next line.

Some people though are happy with sampling 165ml beers, so they can try many different styles of beers. These people who have always done this now need to stand in line twice as long as the 330ml drinkers are in line twice as often.

Possible outcome of this is fewer people will come to the event next year. Why pay $40 to get into a beer festival where you can only by beer for 2/3 of the time of the event, you have to wait in line for 15+ minutes to get 165ml of beer.

165ml every 15 minutes x 4 hours = 2.640 litres is the most you could possibly drink. 660ml per hour, so around a pint. That is a fair amount, and 4 pints is a pretty good night. But that is a best case scenario for getting served. Most people did spend time with their mates.

Is there a better way of doing this. A way where people can actually enjoy themselves and not spend 4 hours standing in lines. If a goal from these changes are to make changes in the way the public drink, then shouldn’t there be some consideration to taking away the urgency of getting a beer.

4 hours of service ONLY – I’m OK with this as it seems to be about the right amount of time, before intoxication starts become visible in a crowd. I hate dealing with dickheads, who think they are pretty witty after a few beers.

The entertainment – yes the weather was poor, but if 8000 people turned up for the beer festival that was offering music that ended at 10pm how many stayed? It was pretty obvious that by 9pm there were only 1000 left watching the band, and the bars had closed at 8pm, the real reason people came to the New Zealand Beer Festival was for the BEER!!! D’uh!

Organisation – I have been involved with the New Zealand Beer Festival since the first year. David, Andrew and Gideon, have done an amazing job of making the event a success in the past. This is the first year where I could fault them on the smooth running of the event. It seems as though they had to put all their energy and resources into complying with condition from the licensing, council and police. They took their focus off the event.

The big question now needs to be asked of the Police. Was their more or less trouble from this event compared to last year? How many people were admitted to hospital with alcohol related injuries? and had they actually attended the Beer Festival? Was that more or less than last year? As this seems to be measure of an event these days. Is this event ever compared to an average Saturday night?

Was the additional cost of having 1 x security guard and 1 x bar manager (put in by the event organisers) worth it? Seemed extreme to have those two people monitoring the fill heights throughout the day. Maybe one would have been as cost-effective?

One thing that was unsettling and only talked about briefly was the videoing of the public entering the event. Videoing of staff serving. What will this video be used for. Will it be destroyed now that it isn’t required? I personally didn’t see this first hand, but it doesn’t make me ask the question – what is the footage for? Where was the notification letting the people know that they could and would be videoed? Is this something we just need to get use to so that everyone can be safe?

New Zealand Beer Festival 2014




Will there be a New Zealand Beer Festival in 2015?






See the Facebook Discussion here

Neil Miller does a little write up –

Geoff Griggs article –
Heavy-handed law interpretations take toll

P.S. Sorry for the above. After re-reading it I think I found my overall experience was less positive than I had had in the previous years. Love to get other people’s feedback.

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