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Brewvival Evolution

Written by Timmons Pettigrew on Monday, 11 February 2013. Posted in Magazine, Eat This Spring 2013, From The Tap

(and other words with lots of “V”s)

Brewvival Evolution
In 2010, the last Saturday in February became an annual, shining beacon on the Southern Beer Geek calendar. Brewvival was born. Charleston, like most cities, had its share of prior beer events, but COAST Brewing Company and The Charleston Beer Exchange set out to produce something unique. This would be an outdoor event with “hand-picked” written all over it – from the food vendors, to the live music, to the focal point: the beer.

Know it, like it, or not, most beer festivals work on a pay-to-play basis — meaning, the majority of beer shown at these events is donated by the respective breweries. In some cases, the breweries further pony up sponsorship fees. Organizers sell this as a chance for breweries to showcase their products to a larger audience. Breweries send what they can afford to donate. Often this means flagships or mainstay seasonals are shown, often without in-person representation. There’s nothing wrong with this model, it’s simply how most beer festivals work.

The Brewvival model (and the model for festivals like it) is different. The organizers pay for the beer outright. This translates into higher ticket prices, lower margins, or both, but it can also translate into a vastly superior beer list. Rarities, one-offs, barrel-aged beer, and cask ales are the order of the day. The selection is clearly the focus of the festival, and it’s what has catapulted Brewvival into, arguably, “best in the region” status.

The inaugural event in 2010 welcomed a crowd of 1,300 (not counting designated drivers), and featured well over 60 beers. With a keynote address from Stone Brewing Co-Founder, Greg Koch, and a smattering of other national beer illuminati in attendance, credibility was established out of the gate, literally. This led to a bigger fest in 2011: 1,800 non-DD’s drinking over 90 beers. Once again, the fest was a grand slam.

The story changed slightly in 2012, the biggest Brewvival to date. 2,500 drinkers walked through the gates eager to try over 115 beers. Allagash Brewing Founder, Rob Tod, would be the main speaker, and food and music lineups were as solid as ever. Unfortunately, due to a combination of higher capacity and crowd shenanigans, some beer lines were out of control by midday. Nearly everyone still left happy, but a few left miffed.

Brewvival 2013 comes with a course correction. Capacity has been limited to 1,800. Designated driver tickets are not being offered (though your DD can still drop-off and pick-up, and are encouraged to!), and we’re seeing the first price hike since 2010. That hike takes care of not only three years with no price increase, but also goes to pay for the biggest festival ever in terms of beer, food vendors, etc., for a crowd limited to the size of year two. Throwing in a co-keynote from American craft beer superstars Ken Grossman (Founder of Sierra Nevada) and Sam Calagione (Founder of Dogfish Head) may seem gratuitous, but Brewvival has a reputation to uphold. Go big, or go home thirsty.

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