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Brewdependence Day 2012 - An Epically Well Attended Learning Experience

on Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:08pm

After getting a little rest and absorbing a ton of helpful live, emailed, Facebooked and Tweeted feedback from attendees at our inaugural 4th of July celebration, we wanted to share our thoughts.

First and foremost, we’re extremely grateful and proud of the team of 35 employees and volunteers, as well as the fantastic food vendors, who worked their tails off to put on this event. Next, we were thrilled to have had such a diverse, enthusiastic and patient crowd celebrate Independence Day with us. We were prepared to host our biggest event yet, and planned for about 1,500 attendees (we had about 1,000 RSVP’s on Facebook). Apparently, we vastly underestimated Richmonders appetite for great live tunes, delicious food, tasty brews and fireworks, as about 5,000 people ended up attending. We were overwhelmed. The lines got really long. And the heat and humidity didn’t help. We did our best to keep the lines moving, and are now doing our best to learn from the experience.

The common theme of the feedback you provided was that a ton of people had a great time, but the lines were too long for beer and for food. Based on your input, here are 5 ways Brewdependence Day 2013 will be better:

  1. Standardized price for all beer: 1 token
  2. Centralized, much larger and better staffed token sales area extending between the two entrances
  3. More beer service areas (two bars flanking the parking lot, two beer trucks in the field, two bars inside, and five mobile single-keg service stations spread out in the field)
  4. More food trucks
  5. Entry fee or pre-sold tickets to control overcrowding

Thank you, RVA, for supporting local, for coming out to celebrate with us, for providing honest and constructive feedback, and for your thirst for great beer.



Duane Moore's picture

One thing that would really help would be much bigger signage with a clear description of how things worked. I brought my growlers and stood in four seperate lines, only to find out each time that they weren't he lines I needed. There was no cue in front on the bar with growlers refills. It was madness. You need real ques set up and maybe some folks that can direct traffic and answer questions. No one knew what was going on. The first line I got in was just to get into the brewery. Then I found out I was in another line which I thought was for tokens, but in fact were only for bottle sales. Then I got into a token line only to find out that I didn't need tokens for growler refills. Then I stood in the ameoba for a while until I was told that I wasn't actually in a line for a growler refill. So I gave up entirely. My family hung out and enjoyed the music and the fireworks though and that was nice. But no beer at all makes for a sad, sad Fourth! We'll try again for a growler on the weekend.
Lisa Christina's picture

You had more attendees han Facebook "friends". What's a brewer to do? We were there early and really loved the SB604. It got too hot and we bailed before 7pm. Sounds as if you're ready for next year. Thank you for having us.
Trey's picture

I commend you guys for acknowledging these issues. I attended the festival but it was a bit to overwhelming so I went over to Metro to enjoy a singel in the AC. However, I look forward to future events! Keep up the good work!
Erin's picture

Congratulations on a screaming success of an event, and double props for already addressing the problems! Would it be possible to sell tokens in the tasting room in the weeks before the event next year? That way people won't all have to wait in the caps line, and it might give you a better sense of people who are committed to coming out.
john's picture

Good for you guys.
Courtney's picture

Filled two growlers and had a great time - good work!!
Andrew's picture

Appreciate you posting this. Already stated but all the different lines for beer and needing caps for beer and then not taking caps for growlers made for a very frustrating time. Also, food lines of that size are not suitable for families trying to enjoy.
Tim's picture

Your event was a good idea and you have an excellent problem, too much demand for your product. All the assessments were correct, the lines were too long due to not enough vendors and the token system was difficult. The positives were your staff was very courteous and when you did run out of a 4 or 5 token beer they would provide an 'up charge' beer for a 4 or 5 token price. I will be attending next year and will RSVP so you guys know we're coming.
Gayle's picture

My husband, daughter and I attended and had a great time! The lines were long, but it was a great time to get to know the people around you ... After all, what else were you going to be doing? The Bourbon Cru was amazing and love my new mug. Thank you to your staff for being so friendly. We will be at your next event and yes, we did RSVP.
David L's picture

Appreciate and thanks for putting this event together. The band was great, the only complain, there were just two ( 2) portables outside. lines were long, the wait was 20 to 25 minutes. I agree, dual lines were confusing, all in all I would give Hardywood a 8 out of 10.
Rebecca's picture

I definitely agree with the 5 ways to improve it for next year. I was saddened, when after standing in line for quite some time and just making it to the threshold of the doors into the brewery to get beer, that I had to get out of line to buy tokens. By the time we figured out where the ends of the lines were and waiting in the heat, it was too much and we had to leave. I was really looking forward to this and am a big supporter of local everything, but particularly have a fondness for craft brewers like you. I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to try the new beer at the tasting room this weekend and look forward to attending other future events. Congrats on a hugely successful first event.
John's picture

We had a great time, and it looks like you have some good ideas for improvement. The one thing I would say (in addition to more food trucks), would be to have 'less complex' food preparation. Don't get me wrong, I love Station 2 and Pizza Tonight, but with a crowd like that, more simple options would have helped move the lines. A few simple hot dog carts selling dogs/water/soda/candy would have gone a long way. With the number of kids there, quick, simple options would have been great (along with the fun, local trucks that were there). Again, it's hard to criticize when you have 5x the expected crowd show up, so definitely keep up the good work!
Caroline's picture

I think the event was great in theory. Having been to many other outdoor events in this area. I would say having people buy tickets at the same time as they get a wristband to show they're 21 would be helpful. Then having the beers poured and in groups for people to come and pick up and deposit a ticket per beer would save a lot of time. Regarding the food, in the instance of Station 2 I think they should have put 20-50 burgers on the grill at a time they can still cook them 2 different ways and add cheese as each person places an order. It would also be helpful to have multiple people taking orders so you don't have to wait over an hour for a burger till you get to the front of the line. Also having a few food trucks and vegatarian offerings would great! Good luck for next year!
Hardywood Fan's picture

I very excitedly came and both happily and disappointedly saw the crowd. Unfortunately I only had about 45 minutes before going to a cookout so I didn't have enough time to wait in lines to try any SB 604 because of the reasons the HP folks have already acknowledged. Definitely wish I could have tried the new brew but most of all I'm really pumped that we have a tremendous craft brewery putting out one outstanding product after another - and we can call them our own. Thanks for acknowledging the shortcomings and so quickly letting everyone know how the event will improve next year. Can't wait!
Michael's picture

In addition to the corrective action items you've already noted, here're a few more: 1) Beer service took way too long because servers would take an order, then pour. You should follow the long-established process used at similar events where one or more people are dedicated to pouring beer and stocking a table in batches - then those taking orders can just grab from the table while the others keep them replenished. 2)Another time-sink; Square. Yeah, it's cool and hip - but not for a high-volume of transactions. It's unnecessary - most people are accustomed to and have no issues with cash-only. Cash is much faster. 3) We counted 5 porta-potties. Um, you need a LOT more!
Pat Williams's picture

Like everyone else, the fact you all recognize the issues is great! My suggestion, when pouring beers for large crowds, never turn off the tap! Skip the wiping down of each mug with a papertowel, skip the nice mugs entirely. It was a nice touch but the handling of those slowed down the pace. I have faith in you all and look forward to next year!!!
Q's picture

A few more ideas and comments regarding Brewdependence. We were there sort of early and did not experience the full brunt of the total crowd, although we were experiencing up to 1 hour waits for beers served inside the brewery. 1. Ensure that signs are correct. There were outside beer signs indicating that Burbon Cru was being served, when in actuality, it was only being served inside. 2. Consider a limited number of advance sales. If you really had 5000 in attendance, then you had more than 1/2 of the total in attendance at the Richmond squirrels game. Impressive ... but that is a huge group of people and it adds immensely to the large lines at your event as well as additional traffic issues which are present after a July 4th game. 3. Get some good quality volunteers - The Jaycees (Richmond or West End Chapters) would be a great asset for your event. These guys know how to pour beer (They know to never turn the taps off) ensuring little or no wait for a cold beverage. 4. Consider an all inclusive event. The Shriner's have their all-inclusive pork festival event at RIR and there are really no lines (or minimal lines) for any of the food or beverages. They seem to have mastered the ability to feed and water thousands without much of a wait. Maybe you could contact them for some info on how they achieve that. It seems that much of the food they serve is cooked, wrapped in foil and placed in coolers to keep it warm. If you were to do burgers and hot dogs this way, it might eliminate lines altogether. 5. As many of Hardywood's beers are quite strong, consider limiting beverage consumption - kind of like they do at Innsbrook. I personally like strong beers, but it would really be of benefit to your attendees as they have really upped the DUI laws again this year pushing the cost of a first offense into costing something like 5 digits before it's all said and done. 6. Consider a DD program where a DD can get free food and beverages.
eric.mckay's picture

Thank you all so much for this very valuable feedback. We'll be incorporating many of these suggestions into all of our future events, and I'm sure they'll make next year's Brewdependence Day a much more enjoyable experience for everyone. Going forward, we welcome and greatly appreciate any feedback. Sharing it publicly via our website or our Facebook page or Twitter helps generate some great ideas, so please keep it coming. Cheers!
Jim Wolf's picture

Is this event wheelchair accessible? Even if the area is built for wheelchair access is it too crowded for a wheelchair person to enjoy? One sees only a mass of waistlines if the place is completely crowded.