Houston Beer Fest Outsells Its Venue by 8,000 Tickets; Attendees Furious

Categories: Booze

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Photo courtesy of @texasbrews
The line to enter the Houston Beer Festival was three blocks long.
Nearly 20,000 tickets were sold by the organizers of the inaugural Houston Beer Festival, although the festival's venue only had a capacity of 12,000 people. And that was just the first of many issues that arose at the beer bash on Saturday afternoon, after the embattled organizers had already contested questions about the 501(c)(3) status of the festival's charity organization and tickets sales that were in direct violation of TABC regulations.

KHOU reported that several attendees were treated for heat exhaustion, a result of standing in a line that stretched for blocks while only a handful of volunteers worked the festival's sole entrance. Jake Rainey, general manager at the nearby Flying Saucer, was working a booth at the festival and was stunned when he saw how the line had built up in only a short amount of time after the festival opened its doors.

"I went outside the tents and there was a line basically on two sides of a block square," said Rainey. "I talked to a cop and he said it took 55 minutes to get from one corner to another. It was a two-and-a-half hour thing to get in."

A mass of nearly 20,000 people flooding into the one entrance at Hermann Square Park was simply too much for festival organizers and volunteers to handle, and the lines inside the event weren't much better, according to festival attendee Chris Linebaugh.

"The lines inside made it unbearable," Linebaugh said via email. "The more known vendors had about 20 to 30 people in each line, and the lesser knowns had about 10 to 15 in each. These lines took forever and you would almost regret having to go get in line."

Linebaugh had purchased tickets to the event through Houston Beer Festival itself and waited 50 minutes just to gain entrance. Unlucky attendees who had purchased tickets through Groupon were faced with the much longer lines that Rainey witnessed, however. In addition to aggravating those who had used Groupon and other discount retailers to purchase their tickets, Linebaugh says it bothered him that the Houston Beer Festival organizers were essentially penalizing those who had purchased their tickets ahead of time.

"Why punish those that actually want to go and bought their tickets earlier?" Linebaugh asked. "It should be the other way around. I was very frustrated when I saw the DailyDeal that came out a few days before the event advertising $12.50 tickets when I paid $20 per ticket."

Many people bailed on queuing up for the event, as the lines were moving at a snail's pace, and opted instead to head to local bars like Flying Saucer in an attempt to get both beer and air conditioning.

"We had quite a bit of overflow," said Rainey. "It was much busier than a normal Saturday." But even what could have been good news for downtown bars turned sour as the bars were suddenly slammed with patrons. "We appreciate the sales, but we weren't ready for what it was going to be like."

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133 comments
SirRon
SirRon

Hold up. There was some sort of beer pong tourney that didn't go well last weekend? Shocked.

Elcullum0076
Elcullum0076

I am writing you this in regaurds th the beer fest this year.I travelled there from Canada, and i think that it was the besttime ever, thought many people did have issues with heat  and yes water was also a factor, I never thought i would ever see so many people turn out, and i dont beleive the staff/voleneers did either. In saying that , the food was awesome with a huge sellection, the entertainment again awesome, and the people were very friendly, i found that for me being somebody not from texas found much love there and would go back there any time... ( i think tht if the heat had not played such a big part in the out come of the event, then this atricle wouldnt be so hasty to slam the people who did their best to handle the situation).... I hope to be back next year !

Happier Desserts
Happier Desserts

The extreme lack of professionalism and bad attitudes lingered long after the festival ended for us.As a vendor, we tried to offer them some polite constructive criticism. What we got were hostile emails telling us we would not be welcome as a vendor at their Wine Festival, that we should essentially shut up because we "made money just like everyone else," that they "never claimed to support craft beer at all" and that we should understand that they "already feel like shit."If I had organized this event, I would have wanted my vendors to offer honest feedback on their experience and certainly would not attack them for it. In fact, I would have apologized for the issues PRIOR to the end of the festival, ideally in person by checking on the vendors but if not, at least via email. We signed up to participate in a beer festival that ceased to be a beer festival when it ran out of beer. We signed up to be vendors of our specialty food product - not to feel obligated to supply water, toilet paper and cups to an angry crowd when all those things ran out. 

As vendors at the TXBF last month, we are wall aware of how this event SHOULD have gone and hope that everyone learns that EW Media (the organizing team) events should not be attended.

Furthermore, with the illegal ticket sales, false charity information and downright slander of their local craft beer community members (KyleJack could actually sue for slander), I would hope that the TABC does not continue to allow this organization the licenses required to organize another festival. 

Appalled!
Appalled!

SCAM!  A few points worth rekindling about this event and its organizers:1.  The "CHARITY" the proceeds are supposed to support is not a charity, nor is it nonprofit.  Based on the handling of this event, I'm lead to believe (my opinion) it's a for profit scam:  http://www.29-95.com/bars-club....  The "I Hate the Houston Beer Fest" Facebook page is a creative way to divert criticism from the main "Houston Beer Fest" pages, reportedly CREATED BY THE ORGANIZERS THEMSELVES: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/...

3.  Feel free to test out #2 above.  Go post on either of their "main" pages: http://www.facebook.com/housto... or http://www.facebook.com/profil... ... and laugh as you see how quickly ANY negative comments are deleted.  Then go to the fake page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/... and check out the witty response you'll get to a negative comment.   Ridiculous.

All I have to say is that there was some serious money exchanged in ticket sales (20,000 x average of $15 is 1/3 of a million dollars).  I could care less if it was one third of ten dollars, however... the organizers better hope that there was no trial lawyer on the list of rejected attendees who likes to pursue class action lawsuits in his spare time... this would be a slam dunk...

Cellonancyburke
Cellonancyburke

I am glad to see that many people are interested in such a festival, however it was poorly organized. I would suggest extending the festival to 3-4 days like they do in other cities to help with crowds. I did not like that people were just cutting in line to be with friends or that festival people were selling drink tickets or trading out wrist bands in the back of the line. I asked if they had a capacity issue at 3:00 and was told no- everyone just showed up at the same time and they had to id everyone???? really???? this prompted me to leave and enjoy a drink at Anvil. My sister was visiting from out of town and was shocked to see how the festival was managed. After living in Portland she was use to a 10 minute wait and easy id lines. The biggest issue was that all lines ended in a bottle neck with not enough people checking id's. Maybe a table outside to help with this or more then one entrance would help. We were very disappointed but hope that all of the issues are worked out so I can actually enjoy the festival in the future. Just my thoughts on my experience.

NoLimey
NoLimey

Houston is not New Orleans, baby

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

CraigTownPotFest 2011 was fully air-conditioned and there was no line to the bathroom, and all I had on was a pair of swim trunks and the first season of Sons Of Anarchy. 

Temple
Temple

Seems to me that the debacle that was the Houston Beer Fest was a microcosm of the Texas beer scene in general. Bogged down by gross inefficiency and poor planning, the Houston Pain Fest was a shining example of the pain that can be caused when too many hands are fighting over the same cookie jar. In such an environment where demand so grossly outstrips supply, the only possible winners are the ones with the capability (financial as well as logistical) to meet it. Even they are eventually worn down in such a chaotic atmosphere. In the end, everyone is left with a bitter aftertaste because no one is safe from a heartless machine that so blatantly favors bottom lines over consumer choice. We are left no closer to world where the consumer is able to get exactly what he wants because his desires have been sacrificed upon the gilded altar of distributorship. Maybe I'm just bitter...better lay off the hops.

CDub
CDub

This makes me LOL for real. Just a month ago the organizers were acting like whiny babies on a friends blog when she dared to say that the HBF "doesn’t look too promising". 

Kelli
Kelli

I purchased tickets to the Food Truck Festival to which were wasted upon viewing the collosal lines and lack of organization.  I literally just did not use them.  It's summer in Houston organizers, take this into consideration.  We had the hottest first week of June ever ON RECORD! That's no laughing matter.  And when you have lines like you did at the Food Truck Festival, or HBF, you need to be extremely considerate of this fact.  Both locations had little to no shade.  YOU RAN OUT OF FREAKING WATER!  Before 5 pm no less.  You're lucky that there were only injuries of heat exhaustion and not stroke or worse yet death.  And frankly Mr. Coward, you live up to your name.  I had friends ask if my husband and I wanted to go to HBF and frankly, I just couldn't stomach what I knew was going to be more work than play.  Who wants to do that?  Who wants to wait in line after line after line?  What kind of "festival" is that? 

Something else to keep in mind.  When I originally view the Houston Food Truck website they said to hurry and buy your tickets because availability was limited.  Yet it obviously wasn't followed and the result was the mess that ensued.  The definition of capacity is the maximum amount that something can contain.  So why didn't HBF stop at their 10,000 person capacity.  It was not only irresponsible, but rude, thoughtless, and what could have been an extremely dangerous situation.  I seriously hope this festival is taken away from you and organized by a group who knows what they are doing.  I thought the concept in itself was brilliant but there is no excuse for poor execution.

No excuse Mr. Coward, stop living up to your namesake.

guest
guest

When these same issues plagues the recent Food Truck Festival, you called it a measure of success. I guess the difference is that the Houston Press wasn't a  sponsor at this event?

In any case, it's amazing that the organizers of this did not clue in after the truck festival fiasco. Sad for Houston.

Kylejack
Kylejack

 The festival organizer, as mentioned, also runs the Houston Wine Festival.  A blog post I found about the 2010 event was of heat and long lines.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2011 event.  They range from $30 - $800.  https://tix.extremetix.com/Onl...  Tickets sold for $150 or more allow unlimited tastings, which is still illegal, Misters Hudson and Coward.

KP4GuudBrew
KP4GuudBrew

The Texas Beer Fest held in Humble, early June, was a phenomenal event that I look forward to returning to. The drive wasn't bad and the beer selection was superior, no petty bud, miller or fratty games. 

Anse
Anse

So this, the Food Truck thing, and a few weeks back, Taste of the Heights was almost as bad. Houston event organizers need to get their shit together.

Paul
Paul

This story doesn't mention the VIP package at all, what and or how did they get screwed???

Paul
Paul

We (myself and my wife) waited in the prepaid line for 1.5 hours.  We had 1 beer each for $56.00 plus $7.00 parking, 2 tea's for $8 and 2 bbq sandwiches for $10, we tried to get some saint arnolds and real ale only to be told WERE OUT OF BEER after waiting at least 15 min or so.  Im requesting a refund.

Ali
Ali

Wait, wait, wait. WAIT. Did HBF actually shut down their Facebook and Twitter pages? Really? What. Complete. Tools. Jesus Christ, people. Put your big-girl panties on and deal with this like grown-folk. You just solidified how completely shady and unprofessional you are. 

Kelli
Kelli

Why the hell would you travell (sic) from Canada for this?  That's just retarded.

Ms. Pants
Ms. Pants

Got screencaps of those emails? 

LineFest
LineFest

Kroger Beerfest on West Grey offered 6 12 oz. "tastings" in a to-go box for $8.99 plus tax. Mix and match beers in the cooler, pay at the register, take home and consume. 

Bud Light? Coors Light? Lone Star? At a "beer fest"? Texas brewed but what's festive about waiting in a 10 minute line for 2 ounces of Bud Light for 1 ticket?

Kylejack
Kylejack

I don't know, I think it has more to do with greed.  If they had simply stopped selling tickets when they sold the 10K they planned for, sure, some people would be upset to not buy their way in at the gate, but that's the breaks. Buy your ticket early if you want to go.

They wouldn't have run out of beer and water, the lines would have been more manageable, and people generally would have been happier.

But no, they just kept selling tickets far beyond what their event could hold.

BigBoi
BigBoi

If I'm looking at this in the grand scheme of things, I'm pretty excited for Houston.  In one of the hottest, driest 4 week stretches on record, we just hosted much-larger-than -expected crowds to the Food Truck fest, Art Car Parade, Free Press and Beer Fest on consecutive weekends.  Surprisingly, given the heat, I think the outdoor nature of these events was most of the appeal.

Keep the outdoor venues.  Scout some larger locations.  Hire new organizers (for this event).  The future is bright.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Well, no one had to be treated for heat exhaustion at Haute Wheels. And the organizers didn't oversell the venue; I think everyone just underestimated how long it would take for the food trucks to make food to order (bad idea), and how long it would take some of them to actually arrive at the event. But, yeah -- both were poorly executed. I think that the people behind the food truck festival handled the fallout much better, however.

Ms. Pants
Ms. Pants

There was a booth advertising the Wine Festival at the HBF.

Kylejack
Kylejack

Sorry for the formatting.  I hate Disqus.

Happier Desserts
Happier Desserts

We are really looking forward to returning to the TXBF and are spreading the word to those disillusioned by this Houston 'Beer' Fest disaster that there is a shining light at the end of this tunnel!

The Wave
The Wave

Beer Fest & "drive wasn't bad" really don't jive so well since most people don't go to beer festivals to read books and not drink beer. Texas Beer Fest did offer the Wave from Lot H to Humble for safety. Next year everyone should take advantage of that. http://facebook.com/houstonwav...

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Agreed. I hope they don't get confused with this Houston Beer Fest business.

Beer is bad for you.
Beer is bad for you.

VIP? I had VIP and waited in line for 1.5 hours after being told there was not a "no wait gate" as was sold on the VIP ticket. Then someone walking by said to come with them if you had VIP so we got right in, only to find there was no beer.

Wastrel Way
Wastrel Way

I'm sorry, sir, but since you were actually able to GET IN and DRINK A BEER, you will receive no refund.

Happier Desserts
Happier Desserts

We were 'defriended' on Facebook after voicing some very polite constructive criticism via email and told "we are not friends" by the organizers.

Kyle Nielsen
Kyle Nielsen

Facebook page still exists and is accessible.  They protected the Twitter feed.  They still have over 3000 people following them, so I'm not sure what secrets they would be trying to keep.

Their handling of the fallout is arguably worse than the actual flaws of the event.

LineFest
LineFest

Seems suspicious. He didn't say "aboot" or talk about the lack of Molson, eh?

Happier Desserts
Happier Desserts

Not to mention the proceeds from the Food Truck festival went to a real organization, not a fake charity, AND supported local and craft - not AB In--bev!

Paul
Paul

I beg to differ, if HBF doesnt give me a refund a call to my bank will get me a refund

Ali
Ali

When I went to their website, I clicked the FB link and it said it didn't exist. I'm guessing they just took the link off the page? I tried to search it on FB, too. All I got was a bunch of "people" pages that I'd have to add as friends to see. Anyone have a link to their official page?

LineFest
LineFest

Next year's press release may spin it to say "nationally recognized..." and "the stuff of legends..."

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Texas Beer Fest, not Houston Beer Fest. Not the same thing. Texas Beer Fest = awesome time in Humble over a month ago. Houston Beer Fest = clusterfuck this weekend.

Kylejack
Kylejack

The event page has been deleted by the organizers.  The page Katharine linked is still available.  They're scheduling a Beer Camp for June 8th, followed by the three day festival.

Ali
Ali

Thansk, y'all. I saw that page but I didn't think it was the official since they set it up as a personal page. Lesson to be learned, folks: If you can't create a Facebook business page, you shouldn't try to put together a festival for thousands of people.

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