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Blue Rock Oktoberfest 2013

Blue Rock Oktoberfest 2013 Blue Rock

To hope to compare the Blue Rock Oktoberfest with the Hofbräuhaus tent in München is to engage in very unrealistic assumptions and expectations. Dragging a German friend along to act as litmus for the event was perhaps just as misplaced an idea. Our initial impressions were not eased by a rather long queue at the gate and a particularly mournful and grey morning, nor by the fact that we'd had other engagements later in the day and couldn't stay long enough to see how the party developed.

This Oktoberfest was a particularly ambitious event, marrying a craft beer expo with a mini market and an extreme sports demonstration. All three these types of activity draw different crowds, of differing ages and with widely divergent expectations. The simple fact that it worked at all should be applauded. In the end, judging by reports from the participating brewers, the event turned out to be little less than a roaring success. But all agree that there were a few teething problems.

My own first impressions, already slightly marred by trying to impress my German friend, were not brightened by a sense of claustrophobia upon entering the beer tent. In the end we pinned it to the sloping floor of the tent which, combined with a slightly too loud band occupying most of the lower part of the tent, imparted a sense of vertigo difficult to assuage using the normal means (two good beers, drunk in quick succession). Having already tasted most of the beers on display, I settled for trying out a few new ones and one or two old favourites, notably Birkenhead's honey beer and Windermere's cider. Sadly I never got around to Mitchells, one of my oldest favourites. Top amongst the beers I'd never tasted was Red Sky Brew's two offerings, especially the gluten free beer Mark Goldsworthy had brought along. (Sadly I'd had a particularly strong IPA just before trying out his amber ale and struggled to form an opinion beyond that it was pleasant.) We ambled outside, past frequently sprawled skateboarders on a ramp, and bought vast crunchy grilled Bockwurst on rather tiny rolls, all the time guiltily ogling members of the gathering crowd, many of whom might have passed, given different circumstances, as our own offspring. Perhaps one may put it this way: there should, strictly speaking, be an age limit imposed on who gets to wear Dirndl. Hats off though to the brave and the brazen, in particular one lady who almost magically attended to every patron who seemed lost and undecided, more than once ourselves.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, we were soon to slip out the gates, missing most of what turned out to be a great party. Below are some of the impressions of the participating brewers.

Deon Engelbrecht of Stellenbrau said that, as a brand, they did very well indeed and that it was a good day. He went on to say that for a first event, it was better than many that he has attended and that Blue Rock Oktoberfest has excellent potential as an annual event - especially if the weather co-operates! Ampie Kruger had this to say, "It was a great event, just too tiring for me to stay till 2:00 am. Wild Clover Brewery sold a lot of beer, so from that point of view it was a great success."

Kelly Goldsworthy, of Gordon's Bay's Red Sky Brew said that as first time festival goers, the Blue Rock Oktoberfest was a success for them. Although they didn't sell as much as they had hoped to, they got a great response from the public and have been contacted by local shops and restaurants since, about possible distribution. Kelly thought the festival attendance was good, but that the day's schedule could have been tighter.

Windermere Cider's Tamsin Mullin had only positive things to say:

"The Blue Rock festival was an absolute hit. Wild Clover Brewery, Windermere Cider and Stellenbrau make a fantastic artisanal trio bringing quality product, party going vibe and great comradely for the craft appreciating/supporting public.

The weather started off a bit ominous but cleared for the festival, and set the tone for wakeboarding enthusiasts to show us all what they have got. Blue Rock provided a fantastic atmosphere in bringing together two markets (wakeboarding/skateboarding and craft lovers) for the ultimate toast to spring.

Windermere cider provided entertainment by sponsoring the hit band “The Professors.” This band knows how to get a party started, but more importantly how to keep it going. Our sales team didn’t want to leave because the festivity and ciders/beers were so good! – usually by the end of a festival we’re all tired and ready for home, we left at 01:00am!"

Overall, comments were positive about the food, the family orientated venue, the attendance and the music - although there were a few comments about it being too loud. For the smaller breweries, unregulated 'VIP tastings' caused a noticeable dent in the profits, something one can only hope is offset by the resulting publicity.

Yasigis Beer Garden broke it all down thus:

Blue Rock Resort handled the pre-planning well. The entertainment aspect was fantastic. Weather worked against the festival, however this had nothing to do with the organizers.

Door price was very reasonable and in line with current festivals.

Total visitors was approx 1500 pax over the whole day. Would have been better to have had 3000 - 4000 pax to increase the current sales and make up losses for free tastings. for a first beer festival we feel the it was relatively well attended.

Free tasting stock
Unfortunately we did not have much control over the tasting stock so we ended up giving away 30% of our stock for free. We recommend in future, to use tasting tickets, 1 per stall to eliminate giving away too much free stock and increasing sales.

Was disappointing due to all the beers were lined up on one side of the tent, and our bar was lined up right next door to the speaker. It didnt enable us to converse with the beer consumers.

Was fantastic, it was really a party atmosphere, especially thanks to Gerald Clark who managed to get a high energy going. It was a good selection of breweries, personally it would have been nice to see more breweries involved.

Personally we felt very welcome at Blue Rock Festival and see huge potential in future events. Certainly a venue we would like to be involved in more.