When I got home, I had an apology from Cigar City waiting for me in my email:
So, today did not go as expected. We realize that there were a lot of issues with duplicate tickets, way too long waits in lines, and all of that. We can promise 100% that we are going to make it right, whether it be refund, or whether we brew a batch of beer that we will bottle and make completely free to all attendees that had issues today. We’re completely sorry for all issues that happened today. It really sucked. We completely understand how much it sucked and hate how much it sucked. We don’t want it to suck ever again. We will do what we can to make it right.
I don’t expect anyone, lest of all craft brewers, to be perfect. It is a lot more important to me that they recognize when they’ve made mistakes and do better next time. So this apology goes a long way to making things right for me. And for the record, things went well-enough for me today:
- I showed up shortly before 11am (as encouraged by Cigar City on twitter, etc.) and I had to wait more than 45 minutes to get in. This is longer than I would have liked, but tolerable.
- I bought my three bottles that I was allotted based on entry to the festival, plus another case. But I spent several hours standing in line to accomplish this (and there were a ton of people around me in the scrum who still had their wristbands, meaning they hadn’t gotten their 3 bottle allotment yet).
- I was very happy with the changes in procedure this year. There were many more pouring stations, the small pours made it a lot easier to try more beers, and not having to pay each time made things flow much more quickly.
That said, the lines were still crazy, and there were just too many people for the space. The last time I looked at the line to get in to Hunahpu Day was around 1:30pm (because I was basically in line for bottles the rest of the time I was there), and the line was still around the corner, down the block and out of sight. I’m willing to bet many of those people didn’t even get in until it was too late to get bottles they were promised.
As 4pm rolled around, the crowd of people in front of the packaging hall started to get worried that there weren’t going to be enough cases to go around (or any cases at all, as one person said as they passed back through the line with their 3 bottles). Everybody was still being nice, but some people were clearly spooked. It all turned out fine for me, and I hope Cigar City can make everybody happy. But it could easily have been much worse.
So, for the advice: please move this event. I’m sure it’s great to have a huge festival at the brewery for many reasons, but there just isn’t enough space to do it responsibly. There’s a giant football stadium right down the road with a gigantic parking lot — maybe they could help you out? I’m sure there are a ton of other larger venues in town that could handle 3,500 people much more gracefully. Because there was plenty of beer. There were plenty of pouring stations. There was plenty of goodwill and good cheer. But there was simply not enough room.
Update: Just to clarify: by “plenty of beer” above, I mean there were plenty of beers on tap and pretty reasonable lines for those. I don’t know how many bottles of Hunahpu there were, but I suspect there were enough for everybody who bought a ticket to get their allotted 3 bottles, and for there to be some cases left over for people to at least have a chance to buy more. I don’t think it was a shortage of beer that caused the problems today — it was the lack of space and lack of active management of the bottle line.