There’s a pivotal moment in the 2006 seminal comedy Beerfest that serves today as an allegory for the increasing prevalence of beer festivals throughout the country.
Landfill, a rotund and relatable alcoholic played elegantly by Kevin Heffernan, is pushed into a giant vat of beer by Cherry (Mo’Nique) for reasons that don’t matter whatsoever for our purposes. The yeast, acting as quicksand (science), pulls Landfill to the bottom. In a desperate effort to escape drowning, Landfill opens his gullet wide and gulp, gulp, gulps as much beer as he can, attempting to drink his way to safety.
He fails and dies a bloated slob, as we humans are wont to do. Should we (we should) ascribe symbolic attributes to the scene’s key players, Landfill represents the consumer while Cherry is the industry. Our thirst for craft beer is insatiable, as evidenced by its meteoric rise in popularity over the last 30 years, and to appease us, the industry is taking over the calendar with more and more beer festivals and beer weeks than our doctors feel comfortable allowing us to attend.
The question is, how many times can we go bottoms up before drowning?
October brought the Great Pumpkin Fest to Cambridge and this week, the 4th annual Local Craft Brew Fest hosted by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts will roll kegs into the Moakley Courthouse (presumably so you can be easily arraigned should you drunkenly piss on someone’s leg). After that, we’ll have Extreme Beer Fest in March, American Craft Beer Fest in May, and more sprinkled in throughout the new year.
Here’s why: they all serve completely different purposes. There’s a reason people celebrate Christmas and Easter rather than just Christmas twice (I have no idea what the reason is, but I’m sure there’s one). The same applies here.
At SBN’s festival this Friday, beer drinkers in the Hub will be celebrating local libations from all across New England. Sam Adams, the biggest name in craft will be there, but so too will lesser-known New England breweries like Blue Hills, Baxter, and Smutty Nose, among others. It’s a chance to see what’s out there and hey, what do you know, this shit is made in your own backyard, so maybe you’ll find a new go-to brew.
Extreme Beer Fest, on the other hand, is meant for you test your palate. To explore. If it were a religious holiday, it’d be one of the weird ones that only zealots still celebrate and everyone else has sort of been like “…eh, I dunno about that one.” But that’s OK, because in this country we have religious freedom.
The American Craft Beer Fest is, well, I can’t find a discernible purpose for it other than getting hammered. There are way too many beers, which makes exploring difficult and they come from all over so it becomes a race to imbibe as much as possible to get your money’s worth (and these things are expensive, so I’ll concede that to any haters).
Then, of course, there are all the seasonal festivals, which roll out offerings meant to pair with the weather. You can find new meaning and purpose in every festival if you’re sober enough to keep your eyes open.
So are there too many beer festivals? Probably. Who cares? I can think of worse ways to die than drowning in beer.*
*Actually, that sounds pretty terrible, but you get the point.
[Photo credit: Graham Zinger for BDCwire]