REVIEW: Hoptober Freshtival

As threatened (have I threatened this yet?), I will also post reviews on here. I do a fair bit of reviewing on Yelp, and I wrote reviews for our college newspaper for about four years. I am a very opinionated guy, something you’ll find out if we ever drink BEER together.

Speaking of beer and opinions, check this out! I wrote a really, really long review for a local Boise festival called the Hoptober Freshtival. All beer present are made with fresh hops and it takes place in October. There, now you understand the name. Thanks to Yelp’s word limit, I wasn’t able to publish the whole thing… UNTIL NOW!

Bear witness to this review and as many pictures of it as I can scrounge up, in all their glory! AAAAAHHHH HA HA HA!!


Hoptober Freshtival Gets Me Buzzed, Mostly Sucks

by Justin A.H.

I’m not shy when it comes to bragging about attending my fair share of beer festivals. From Oregon to California to my main festival spot, Boise, ID, I’ve imbibed, quaffed, begged, cajoled, drank to excess, poured out swill, swelled with joy at tasting new creations and wept with sorrow at the feet of porcelain gods. I also drank some beer.

Gimmicky beer face!

If you don’t read any further, I’ll cut to the chase: IPA Wars was much better. This wasn’t the worst festival I’ve ever been to, but it definitely wasn’t the best. I am a pretty harsh critic, so I assume that quite a few folks won’t have the complaints that I had. However, I’m not the type to show up just to pour it all into my mouth mindlessly. Yes, excessive drinking does occur, but I do my best to remain thoughtful and articulate about what I taste right up until that giddy point where I start seeking out dropped “tokens” and food wagons, and begin taking selfies with strangers.

The Hoptober Freshtival, following quickly in the wake of 10 Barrel’s IPA Wars, arrived on a grey, drizzly day in October. To my mind, I couldn’t think of finer weather for a craft beer tasting. After all, who wants to guzzle seriously alcoholic, heavier-bodied ales when it’s 105 F. When my wife and I arrived, we were excited that we didn’t bring our baby son (who we almost didn’t find a sitter for; however, after being told this was a 21 and over event, and given how serious breweries are about us not bringing in our baby, we took the advice seriously… more on that later), because it was soooooo stinking crowded. People were up against the chain-link fence that surrounded the block on Broad Street between 6th and 5th. This would dissipate as people diffused throughout the festival area.

We stepped in line to present our printed out tickets (the will call line). The table was arranged so that a corner greeted you; step to the left for will call or the right to buy at the door. A gentleman was perched on that corner, so we didn’t know what line he was in. We stepped left, to try will call; they told us to get back in line behind that gentlemen. So we step behind him. Seconds later, a group of five or six enormous men make the same move we did by moving off to the left; however, they were helped while we stood there helplessly. To be honest, it was just two gentlemen who “cut” in front of us (truly, the event people should have spoken up and helped who had arrived first, so not really the customers’ fault). As time went on, these two gentlemen called back to their friends. Six guys later, none of which had their tickets out and had to dig around in their pockets and fanny packs for them, and probably seven minutes later, my wife and I are finally helped. This did not bode well.

o (1)
My very first photo bomb. I know none of these people.

Finally, we enter the event space. My first sight: Deschutes Brewery. Cue the brilliant shafts of light illuminating their tap handle, angelic music, and butterflies in my stomach. They almost immediately stop as I see the adjacent tap handle, which was supposed to be Deschutes’ “Chasin’ Freshies,” only to see a Hop Valley tap handle. Now, the gentleman working this booth was either deaf, mute, terrified of me, or some combination of the three. Throughout this ordeal, with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, he points back and forth between the Deschutes and Hop Valley tap handles, muttering, “Hops… hop hop hops… uh, this… hops?” It would have been hilarious if I weren’t so worked up. I asked if it was truly Hop Valley beer, or Deschutes paired with the wrong handle. He had no idea. After three or four minutes of him fumbling around and asking for help, I reach back behind the booth, wipe the ice off of the label on the keg, and see that it is, indeed, Hop Valley. Four million college students could have settled that dilemma in seconds flat. After identifying the beer for him, I then ask if the lines are correct (because, during many festivals, we’ve had to correct people who are telling attendees they are tasting one beer, when they are actually tasting another, due to crossed lines; I mean it when I say we give a sh!t about the actual tasting part, not just getting arse-faced). Five minutes later, with two gentlemen trying to see where the lines went, I stepped in and checked it in ten seconds. They were not mixed up. I know, at this point, I probably sound like an ass, but my reaction goes something like this: YOU HAVE ONE JOB! DO IT! Btw, the Hop Valley beer, which is one of my favorite breweries ever, was unpalatable. Too citrusy to be anything good and fell into my category of gimmicky (see my ten million complaints about pumpkin and jalapeno beers).

Quick note: about ten minutes in, we see several couples at the event pushing babies in strollers. One couple even had twins. I guess the 21 and up rule only applies in some situations, and we didn’t have to break ourselves both finding a sitter and paying even more money to attend this festival. Can we please post when rules are flexible? My wallet and cortisol levels would appreciate it.

I won’t regale you with any other stories of negativity involving intense, tedious description. Suffice it to say, the event got better as we spoke to some actual brewery reps and some volunteers who just downright knew their stuff. A few of the volunteers I had to ask if they worked for the brewery; no, but their reps equipped them with the right info. This leads me to another complaint: I was led to believe that we’d be speaking to brewery reps, but a large number of them (more than half, in my experience) bailed before the event started. I wish I’d written down which breweries, because shame on you for abandoning this great event and not better representing your company. Some of us give a sh!t.

o (2)
A few drinks in…

There were a few decent submissions to this event, but, and I hate to say it, things roundly tasted bad. The best brews were other ones I’d never tried (some decent ones by Mazama, Deschutes) or locals (Cloud 9). I didn’t like a single pumpkin / squash / gourd ale that I tried, but a lot of other people did (and there are a lot more opinions than just mine). Not surprisingly, the Rogue submission was downright disgusting. I couldn’t finish it and I tried it near the ass-end of the festival, meaning I would’ve drank some sweet, sweet Olympia if anyone had offered it to me.

The last thing I’ll cover is the cost and what you get for it. For $25 (purchased in-advance, $30 at the door), I’d say the festival was overpriced. The “commemorative tasting glass” was some total piece of crap little four ounce plastic thing that we threw away as soon as we left (versus IPA War’s totally awesome, actually event-appropriate tulip glass, which we still have and cherish). I’ve already kveched about the token situation (tokens, by the by, were little white tickets that said “BEER” on them), but it didn’t even matter, as only about half of the tents cared to take your tokens. Some of the fun came as I saw friends give tasters the little, white paper backings to stickers presented as tokens, which were accepted, and the friends who simply made good, beer-related conversation with pourers until they forgot they needed a ticket from you. I am going to chalk that up to their generosity and I genuinely mean that as a compliment.

The breakdown:

-Staff / volunteers ranged from amazingly insightful to totally clueless

-Speaking to brewery reps was hit or miss… mostly miss

-Food trucks were present and awesome (BFC, Mosaic Crepes, City Nuts… I didn’t try any, but my wife’s margherita crepe was amazing)

-As a tasting event, I liked less than half of what I tried, so kind of a fail there (but not sure who to blame… not Boise Brewing, except for their contributions)

-Crowd was mostly warm and friendly, especially by the end

-Event space was perfect for the crowd and the weather

-The price and what you got for it really stank

So… three stars. Did you go? Want to help me out by sharing your opinion? I, and the rest of this community, sure would appreciate it, especially if you have some pictures to upload.


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