Oktoberfest in Fremont definitely felt like it was put on by people with little or no experience in the brewfest business. For starters, the price was too high and the taster glasses too small. Taster glasses for all brewfests in Washington have been shrinking year over year, however, the price isn’t usually as gouging as Fremont demonstrated this weekend. Entrance to the garden was $20, which included only four tastes, $25 would get you eight tastes, and any additional tastes were $1.75 each. The beer selection was decent, but could have definitely been better (approximately 70 brews representing 35 breweries). The worst part of the event came down to organization. I believe there were three tents in all, each tent containing about 10 or 12 breweries. The tents were labeled as to which beers were housed within, but just where in the tent the beers resided was a mystery that could only be solved once you were close enough to the tap to read the accompanying table tents. This proved to be very challenging because the lines were quite long after about 3pm on Saturday. To get a beer, one had to weave between the lines in order to get close enough to determine just where the beer was being poured, then return to the back to actually stand in the line. It was definitely not an ideal layout. In the early evening on Saturday, one of the tents discovered this dilemma and used duct tape to hang signs on the outside of the tent (where they could actually be read from a distance). The others may have followed suit eventually, but I didn’t stay the entire evening to find out. Those that did stay for the evening reported that many of the beers ran dry and festival goers began to get understandably cranky as a result.
To put an ironic head on this skunky, contaminated beer: just outside the festival gates sits Brouwers Café. Boasting over 50 taps and over 100 bottles, it was a welcome escape from the chaos of the brewfest. Once I sat down and ordered a full glass of Diamond Knot XIPA, I wondered why I ever bothered with the festival in the first place.
I do want to be careful not to paint the entire festival in a bad light because my real frustration was with the Stranger Microbrew Garden (even the name, since I would contend that most of the beers present were Craft beers… but I digress). The Street Fair and the Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving Contest are a regular draw for the festival and are surely an excellent source of entertainment. Additionally, the funds raised go to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce to support Fremont schools, art groups and other community events. Those footnotes should certainly not go unrecognized. Still, the real star of the show should be the beer, and that part went heinously wrong this year. Hopefully the fine folks in Fremont learned a few lessons this time around so that the only thing worth saying about next year’s event is one, simple, little word… “prost.”