You Call That a “Beer Week”?

Three of the best beer weeks are on the horizon!

May 25 – June 1 is Asheville Beer Week. This annual event “celebrating a vital (and delicious) business (and pleasure) sector in WNC—craft beer; supported by main sponsor, Asheville Brewers Alliance – an all-volunteer committee of regional beer industry people” will be amazing. It is held in the town also known as Beer City, USA. And the week will include seminars, tastings, dinners, and special events with “beer celebrities” from around the country and the world.

May 31 – June 9 is Philly Beer Week. This is the largest beer celebration of its kind in America, “featuring hundreds of festivals, dinners, tours, pub crawls, tastings and meet-the-brewer nights to area bars, restaurants and other locations throughout Greater Philadelphia.” It is organized and operated by Philly Beer Week Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization overseen by a board composed of brewery owners, distributors, restaurant owners and others, to promote Philadelphia’s beer and hospitality industries. It is the grand-daddy of all beer weeks.

June 6 – June 16 is Portland Beer Week. Held in the city with more breweries per capita than any other in the US, Portland Beer Week “aims to celebrate and expand that culture, not just by promoting Portland brewers and breweries, but tap houses, restaurants, food, and underexplored beer styles. Craft beer culture is not just about the beer itself but about the people, food, camaraderie, and education that comes along with this art form.”

Harrisburg Beer Week, you say?

And now a Facebook ad tells me there is one coming to my area! But when I looked at the web site, I turned to my Best Beer Buddy and said, “You call THAT a Beer Week?”

June 10 – June 15 is Downtown Harrisburg Beer Week. On the web site, it is described as “a week of beer sampling and entertainment…Enjoy great beer, food, promotions and entertainment all week at different bars in Downtown Harrisburg.”

Really. Kamionka Entertainment Group?

I hate to be negative about a Beer Week in my own backyard, but promoting nightly events at four establishments that you own, serving sample glasses of beer that are imported to the Harrisburg area does NOT make it a “Harrisburg Beer Week”. In naming it such, you have already tarnished future efforts of any reputable group of beer lovers that may be interested in promoting local breweries and beer culture to the area under the label “Harrisburg Beer Week.”

Distributor(s) may be involved by association because they supply the beer, but I suspect the breweries themselves have never heard of Harrisburg Beer Week and are unknowing participants. I’d be curious to learn if any of them were involved in the planning or promotion of their beers for this “event”. Kamionka Entertainment Group attempts to give this “event” credibility by including an annual Tröeg’s Brewing Company event without any collaboration or credit to Tröeg’s see Improper Recognition of Efforts below.)

5 Reasons I won’t be at HBW

Here are just five of the many reasons, in no particular order, that I will not be attending the series of events I will now refer to as Kamionka Beer Week in Downtown Harrisburg.

Local Breweries Are Not Featured

Beer people in the Harrisburg area are proud to have nationally recognized award winning beers and brewers, yet none of them are part of Kamionka Beer Week.

Stoudts and Yards, while great PA breweries, are the only Pennsylvania breweries being featured. Kamionka Entertainment Group choose to feature Sierra Nevada (CA), Lagunitas (CA) and Leinenkugel (born in WI, but a wholly owned subsidiary of Miller Brewing Company), as well as serving samples of the Coors products Batch 19, Blue Moon, and Third Shift at a location that proclaims to carry 70 craft beers.

We’ve got Appalachian, Lancaster, Millbock, Pizza Boy and Tröegs, all right here in our backyard. Market Cross isn’t too far away in Carlisle. Liquid Hero and Mudhook are in York, and both Iron Hill and Spring House are in Lancaster County. Those are just the best known breweries nearby – there are certainly more!

Seriously, think about serving local beers – ones that can be obtained without an EZ Pass – when you are planning a Beer Week! I’m pretty sure any given night at Al’s of Hampden would trump the local selection presented during Kamionka Beer Week.

Improper Recognition of Efforts

Dating this “Beer Week” through June 15 to include Tröegs 10th Annual Harrisburg Brewers Fest® is a cheap trick. I’ve poked around, and it doesn’t sound like Tröegs Brewing Company was even asked to be involved in this little “Harrisburg Beer Week”. The link on the Kamionka Beer Week page doesn’t even go to the Harrisburg Brewers Fest® event – it is bookmarked to take the user back to the top of their own promotions. This Fest isn’t the culminating event to HBW, like Asheville’s 4th Annual Beer City Festival is to the ABW. It is an event that Tröegs Brewing Company and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Central Pennsylvania have worked 10 years to make into a don’t-miss event, and Kamionka Entertainment Group knew it was the only thing that would draw in true beer culture to the Week.

My advice? To run a successful Beew Week, take the time to build beer partnerships, and give those partners the recognition they deserve.

Tröegs, by the way, just completed the brewing of a collaboration beer for Philly Beer Week called Brotherly Suds 4 (as in “year #4” of making it) with Yards, Nodding Head, Flying Fish, Stoudts, Victory and Sly Fox. If Kamionka Entertainment Group can get a glass of THAT in my hand during HBW at any location in Dauphin County, I will rescind this entire post.

Does not Demonstrate Knowledge of Beer and Breweries

Knowing beer people, breweries and beer are key aspects to organizing a successful beer week. As I read about the sample glasses of beer that will be featured each night of Kamionka Beer Week (that’s right – between 3 and 5 sample glasses each night instead of pints from various kegs and firkins of rare, limited or special release beers), I was particularly stuck by the generic descriptions, clearly pulled straight from the brewery’s marketing materials.

One friend’s response, when discussing the beers being served, made me giggle in agreement:

I laugh at their description of Lagunitas as ‘A battle tested brewery that honors old world traditions’. WTF?! Lagunitas Brewing consists a bunch of California weed-lovin’ ass-kickers who stuff as many hops as possible into a beer! The only thing ‘battle tested’ was their ability to survive a Federal imposed shut down. And as far as honoring traditions? I think the good people of Lagunitas would say, ‘F#*& tradition, I got a nice big fatty and a 150 ibu IPA right here’!

In full disclosure, Lagunitas actually self-describes the brewery as “battle- tested”, but not in the noble way presented on the HBW site. Lagunitas says:

From our earliest days of striving to make consistently good beer, and instead making beer that ranged from vile, to barely drinkable, to wonderful, to elegant, to questionable-at-best. From being castigated by our West Marin neighbors to finally suffering an ‘eviction’ by our West Marin septic system. From landing in the welcoming arms of Petaluma, and actually getting our beer into bottles, onto the streets, and into the hands of sympathetic beer geeks, to steadily losing less money each month. From all this and more, Lagunitas Brewing Company is emerging as a battle-tested brewery capable of making great beer out of goat’s milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the Moon, if need be.

Having been to the Lagunitas pub many a time myself, I get this. They are not about “old world traditions”.  They are about making amazing, creative and flavorful beers. I haven’t had any made with the “asphalt on the surface of the moon” yet, but I have had Imperial Stout that was brewed with cacao nibs and white peppercorns, then aged in used oak whiskey barrels distillery, with brettanomyces and Sonoma County cherries added before being drawn from a firkin at 4:20 PM. I guess the firkin part was “old word tradition”.

By the way, if Kamionka Entertainment Group can get a glass of anything like that in my hand during HBW at any location in Dauphin County, I will again rescind every word I’ve said.

Lack of Diversity

By planning a “Beer Week” only involving the establishments he owns, Mr. Kamionka has limited the places and pints that could be game-changers in the success of a beer week.

  • A beer week should increase the visibility of local beers through programs, events, and consumer education.
  • A beer week should involve the area’s breweries, restaurants, pubs, caterers, retailers, entertainers, and other businesses with ties to the craft beer community.
  • A beer week should be a collection of curated events spanning multiple days and whose primary purpose is the promotion and celebration of independent craft beer.
  • A beer week should not be a single corporation doing a sub par job of holding nightly events, and then slapping the label “Beer Week” on it.

How much more fun would this week have been if just a few of the partnerships listed above had been asked to be involved?

HBW Events Do Not Promote Craft Beer

Essentially, we have a Blackjack tournament, a stuff-your-face crab leg dinner, a turkey leg dinner, a concert, a Burlesque show and a chili buffet, each with sample glasses of beer being handed out. In discussing the nightly “events”, one friend said,

I think the Burlesque show is particularly distasteful, and yet not surprising at all. I guess we should be glad he didn’t schedule the Little People Circus again or ask for people to bring panties to string across Second Street.

I’ve got no problem with Blackjack or Burlesque, but these are the sorts of events that would be planned by an Entertainment Group, rather than craft beer enthusiasts. Philly Beer Week has so much going on that they just run the web site year round. There are so many events that, when one pub is too crowded, you can just walk down to the next one to find a comparable event. And they have an app for that!

The Bottom Line

“Harrisburg Beer Week” has a commercial web site listing a single corporation’s events for the week, which I purposely did not link to during this posting, because it really is just about profits for one corporation and not for the love of beer.

I realize that Harrisburg is no Philadelphia, but there are so many people and resources that could be drawn upon. Breweries, pubs, homebrew clubs (like ReHAB), distributors, restaurants, public transit companies and beer enthusiasts (such as the Hummelstown Beer Nutz) throughout the area could have, and should have, been called upon to participate before this HBW label was so nonchalantly applied.

Maybe next year we can try again?


2 responses

  1. So, there are three major beer wholesalers that service the Harrisburg area. Wilsbach (that carries AB brands and Yuengling lager, Tröegs, Chimay and countless others) W&L Sales ( MillerCoors, Stoudts, Yards, etc) and Westy’s (Straub and a good amount of craft brands) The sales reps that work for these companies get paid to run promotions that feature the brands they represent. If they don’t run promos- they don’t get paid. This ” beer week” is simply a large scale promotion planned by the sales rep who has KEG as their account. The breweries that you feel are missing aren’t represented by the same wholesaler that is paying the rep to run the promotion. I’m sure those dates were chosen to maximize the success of the event, being that a ton of people go downtown for brew fest. I used to do this for a living, so I’m aware of the huge amount of work that the sales rep had to put in to make this happen, and what a huge deal it is for the rep and his manager.
    This end of the beer business isn’t common knowledge so I can see how the incorrect assumptions can be made about this event attempting to be a full scale “beer week”

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