Friday, July 23, 2010

The Oregon Brewers Festival

I got back from my little vacation just in time to fulfill my annual obligation to meet up with old Lewis & Clark College buddies at the OBF.  We bumped our little rondez-vous up to Thursday this year as it has gotten so popular that even meeting on Friday at the Noon opening exposes us to uncomfortably large crowds.  Fortunately Thursday is still reasonable and the weather yesterday couldn't have been more delightful.

But this raises the question in my mind (and in the mind of my fellow economics major): why after all these years is the price essentially the same as it ever was - or in real terms even cheaper? Put another way, why don't they double the prices and start to limit the crowds?  This suggestion was met immediately with derision form our humanities major friends who considered the suggestion elitist and just the sort of crap you could expect from economists.  I suspect that the answer is in the objective function of the OBF organizers.  The festival is supposed to be a showpiece for craft beer and the more people they can expose the better.  They want the festival as big as can be.  For those of us who dislike crowds fortunately there is still Thursday, which is reasonable in terms of population.  I shall get nowhere near the festival today or this weekend.

But you should: there are some great beers to be sampled.  I particularly liked Boundary Bay's German Tradition Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale.  It was excellent and the German Tradition hops interesting if a little astringent.  This year's Collaborator Pilsner is a real winner and will be an excellent choice for the weekend which is supposed to get hot.  Green Flash's LeFreak is interesting and great - hoppy Belgian.  FInally for you hop heads look no farther than THE HOPOPOTAMUS inspired Hop Valley Alpha Centuri Binary IPA.  Er, what were those hops again?  Ah yes, Simcoe, Cascade, Amarillo - a coincidence? I think not.  And I have become a huge fan of Kolsch, especially on hot summer days, so if you are looking for a refreshing beer in the 90-something degree heat try the Three Creeks Creekside Kolsch.  You will not be disappointed.

Oh and for the love of all that is good and true: avoid the Three Skulls Hop The Plank IPA, it is horrible.

Sadly THE HOPOPOTAMUS was not invited, but based on the AGs recent interpretation of the homebrew law, the OLCC would have banned its consumption anyway.

Anyway, go, have fun and explore good beers.  One obvious trend that mimics the local scene is the rise of Belgian styles, so this is a great opportunity to get to know those as well as the traditional hop forward styles we Northwesterners love.

Oh and check out all of the banners flying in the tents.  These things are getting seriously old now and there are as many defunct breweries represented as thriving ones.  Which just goes to my point about the inherently turbulent nature of the business.


Derrick Peterman said...

Pricing at beer festivals?

Well, they may also need to ensure large crowds so that more breweries will commit to the event, which will bring even bigger crowd and so keep the pricing low. A lower priced beer festival with many attendees and breweries may be more profitable that a smaller one with higher addmission and fewer breweries. And since the cost to add one more person to a beer festival is negligible, a low pricing strategy may make sense to ensure many people will attend, rather than just a few higher priced attendees. Maybe the math works out that lower pricing is more profitable.

Some beer festivals effectively price discriminate by charging extra for early VIP sessions, where special releases are poured and attendees are given more access to the brewers that the regualr attendees.

And finally, you'll notice beer dinners typically have a wide range of pricing, which I believe is due to the fact that the seating at a bar are restaurant where these events take place is a lot more fixed than an outdoor beer festival, and so the pricing is set to limit the number of people to the amount of available seating.

Patrick Emerson said...

That is true it all depends on the price elasticity of demand (along with the cost of extra space). It is quite possible that lower pricing is more profitable. My working assumption is a fairly inelastic demand.

I will say that, regardless, Thursday was a delight. Perfect weather and lines that never got too long.

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