Sacramento craft beer may be thriving, but if you stumbled upon a recent Facebook thread about the upcoming Sacramento Beer Week, you’d think the whole thing was headed for disaster.
Is the 2017 Beer Week going to be amazing? No. Will the best beer bars and brewery tasting rooms still be absolutely jammed and rake in big bucks from March 2 to 12? Absolutely.
Yet some in the industry have grown concerned that the local beer scene is falling short of its potential by not organizing a Beer Week commensurate with the region’s growing stature as a force in craft beer.
Are they right? Well, sure. Are they jumping the gun? Probably.
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Beer Week is causing many to fret because the Sacramento Area Brewers Guild was slow to hire someone to run this increasingly high-profile and bustling event.
Kate Whelan, an event planning expert and craft beer enthusiast, has been on the job for just two weeks and hopes to pull this year’s Beer Week together so that it’s far more than a flop. She told me the all-local Brewer’s Showcase that kicks off Beer Week is going back to the California Auto Museum after last year’s disappointing venue at CalExpo, where $10 to park on top of the $40 admission left a bitter taste before the drinking even started.
The showcase is one of the major events, and it’ll be terrific, but after that, things get confusing. We’re bombarded with all kinds of events big and small, awesome and ho-hum, and they all get equal billing on the Beer Week calendar. It adds up to chaos and confusion.
My head hurts just thinking about sifting through that online calendar and trying to pick which shindigs to attend. Let’s see: Do I want to go to a multicourse beer-pairing dinner at one of Sacramento’s best restaurants or a $1-off pint night at some lackluster bar at a suburban strip mall? For years, the calendar has given both options equal billing and it has been difficult to sort and focus your interests.
This has to change, but how? When it started eight years ago, there were a handful of breweries, and the idea was to create more awareness about craft beer and put some money in the pockets of local breweries, bars and restaurants.
That’s no longer necessary. Going forward, Sacramento Beer Week is a chance to showcase the region’s brewing prowess and sell it to a much larger audience as a craft beer destination. With more than 60 breweries and more on the way – and with several breweries winning major awards and developing serious followings – Sacramento is poised to be a place people visit simply for the breweries and the exciting diversity of options. If you’re here for a business trip or convention, popping over to three or four breweries or beer bars is easier than ever.
So how can Beer Week sell all that? By doing less but doing it better. Just ask Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association and the creator of the Sacramento-based California Craft Beer Summit.
“It has not been as well organized or as coherent as some other beer weeks have been, most notably San Francisco and San Diego. I’m optimistic it will become better organized,” he told me. “Sacramento certainly deserves a beer week that is known outside the region because we have a lot to offer.
“A great beer week is defined not by the total number of events. It’s defined by the quality of the events. There are a lot of pint nights and tap takeovers but not a lot of educational events and food-pairing events.”
If you’re in the industry and concerned about what’s about to go down for Sacramento Beer Week, here’s your chance. Make it better.