Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Another good reason to run upriver.
Think about it for a moment.
The first of what is hoped to be many folk music festivals is held at a public riverfront park in the state of Indiana. For many years, a major speedboat race, sponsored in large measure by Anheuser-Busch, has taken place in the same location. Another festival, a massive barbecue cook-off, features three Budweiser beer gardens.
But for the new folk fest, a libations tent is organized, and Budweiser is entirely absent from the scene.
Instead, two local wineries and two Indiana microbreweries constitute the only choices for alcoholic beverages.
Food vendors are similarly chosen to provide diversity, but to omit the restrictive pay-for-play practices of the bigger corporate players.
Indeed, Coca-Cola’s soft drinks may well be the only mass-market product available for consumption.
What’s more, only a handful of the hundreds of customers spread out over two days of music indicate displeasure with this unprecedented arrangement. Rather, most take it in stride, sip gamely at samples, and learn that craft beer isn’t that bad, after all, so long as someone is handy to help guide you through the options.
Of course, the scene I’m referring to in the preceding was observed first-hand at the inaugural Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison, Indiana, which ran on Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20.
The New Albanian Brewing Company brought two half-barrel kegs each of Elector and ConeSmoker, while our good friends at Upland Brewing (Bloomington) came stocked with ten: Wheat, Valley Weizen, Amber, Pale Ale and Dragonfly IPA.
As it turned out, we needed every last drop.
Between the two brewing companies, a broad and representative selection of American craft beer was on hand, with our only collective regret being that neither brewery had porter ready for dispensing.
Fortunately, one of Upland’s Indiana wholesalers is North Vernon Beverage Co., Inc., and a refrigerated trailer with draft equipment was available for our pouring and storage use. Having the trailer meant not having to use cold plates, reduced the mess from spillage and melting ice, and made for a far more efficient experience.
Fest goers were required to purchase dollar increment tickets for use as currency. Both breweries were charging $3.00 for a 12-oz pour, and both of us sold out completely, NABC at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and Upland at about 10:00. Given that the organizers had no idea how many people would attend, we came very close to meeting demand, and of course we’ll both bring more next year.
The percentage split with the hosts was very fair, and it was well worth the effort expended over two days, and not just because we turned a needed profit. The folk festival itself was marvelous, with top-flight acts – Roger McGuinn, Tommy Makem and Todd Snider among them – and suitably relaxed riverside ambience. Only a brief rain shower Friday night intruded, and it was over quickly. Saturday was a letter-perfect weather day, and the crowds were out in force to enjoy it.
Verily, the people in Madison know how to throw a party, and everyone we met was delightful. If they’ll have us again next year, we’re there.
(Note: Jim Bell was in attendance and took many more photos than I had time for, and if possible, some of these will be published at a later date. B & W photo credit here)