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Home » Beer News

Ohio Forces Beer Festival to Limit Tastings

Submitted by on May 10, 2011 – 4:56 pm6 Comments

Image courtesy of I-X CenterRoad Trips for Beer recently gave away a pair of tickets to the International Beer Fest taking place Friday and Saturday at the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The post announcing the contest also offers a discount code for buying tickets.

We received an email today from the organizers that was sent to ticket buyers, outlining an unexpected issue they had with the state.

Thank you for purchasing a ticket to the International Beer Fest, the Largest Beer Fest in the Midwest.

By the request of the State of Ohio Department of Public Safety, the I-X Center was directed to clarify and quantify the tasting policy for the International Beer Fest, in Cleveland, Ohio.  The I-X Center’s number one concern is for the safety of all our patrons visiting our facility.  For clarification purposes, please note the following NEW tasting amounts per session:

$45 (single-session General Admission ticket includes 30 tasting tickets for 2-ounce pours)

$75 (single-session VIP ticket includes 40 tasting tickets for 2-ounce pours)

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank in you in advance for your understanding. We look forward to welcoming you to this great event, and are confident you will have a fantastic brew-tasting experience!

Further, we are pleased to announce we have added a new feature for both General Admission and VIP ticket holders: The Real Ale Bar.  In this area, you will be able to sample “Real Ale” or cask conditioned beer that is unfiltered and unpasteurized so that you can experience its full flavor.

If you have any questions, feel free to call 216-265-PINT.

International Beer Fest Team

I-X Center

Refunds are being issued for anyone who has a problem with this. They can call the ticket distributor directly at 1-877-772-5425.

The email also announced that the festival is offering a free app for users of iPhones, iPods or iPads. Go to this link to download it.

What follows is the opinion of Road Trips for Beer editor Gerard Walen and is neither endorsed nor influenced by the International Beer Fest, its organizers or the I-X Center.

Now, my two cents:

The International Beer Festival previously had announced that there would be unlimited sampling at its 3 four-hour sessions. When ticket holders found out about the new limits, quite an uproar began in the comments section of the festival’s Facebook page. The criticisms focused on how the per-ounce price was now too steep, and those who purchased tickets (especially with a hotel package) felt ripped off. I can understand how being taken by surprise like this less than a week before the festival can be upsetting. But 30 samples in four hours seems more than reasonable to me. Though the festival advertises 800 different beers being poured, many of them will be already familiar. After all, AB-InBev will be there.

A beer festival like this is not a frat party. Anyone who attends to drink the maximum amount of beer in the allotted time misses the point. For the most enjoyment, seek out new beers and breweries. Taste the beer, don’t gulp it and run to the next station. I can’t recall ever going to a decent festival where I tasted every beer that I wanted to try, even if it were unlimited sampling.

And there will be a lot of other things going on at the festival. Seminars, presentations, classes, etc., by some craft brewing luminaries.

Though I don’t know all of the details, I’ve dealt with enough government bureaucracy to suspect that this took the organizers by surprise as well, and they are doing the noble thing by offering refunds.

If your goal is to get drunk this weekend, take your refund and spend it at the liquor store. If your goal is to expand your beer-tasting horizons and knowledge, you may find yourself having done that with a few unused tasting tickets in your pocket at the end.


  • Thom says:

    With all due respect I just don’t agree. $45 for a 5 pack of beer is kinda silly. And, not everybody who drank the over 30 beers was going to turn all John Belushi. Was I going to drink more than 30, yes. Was i going to get a little happy, yes. Was I planning on driving, no. Come on we aren’t wine snobs, we are beer drinkers (I brew too). So out of 800, I only get to taste 30. This discourages you from trying new things (which you pointed out was the purpose of the event). If it was as advertised, I just might try something I would never try. Now I will probably stay to what I know I will like. In a real tasting I might try new items and if I don’t like, pitch it. Not now. The breweries will be the ones who lose because of this. What about the people who are flying out, do they get an airline refund? No.

    What we might agree on is that there isn’t much they could do. I might have offered partial refund, maybe $10 on the general admission, and $15 on VIP. That probably would not have been enough, or pleased most.

    It’s a real shame, another Cleveland Black eye because some project manager did not do their job.

  • Chris says:

    So I’ve been to several beer festivals down in North Carolina. These events are 4 hours, 2 oz pours, with unlimited tastings. Based on my experience, I think it would be very difficult to limit myself to 30 beers. If I don’t like a beer, or sometimes even if it’s decent, I will dump it out after I take a few sips…that way I can taste more brews over the course of the festival. Of the three festivals I’ve been to, I believe I’ve probably averaged ~40-45 samples over the 4 hour period. I by no means finish all those samples, but if I’m sitting there with 3 tickets left, I don’t like the stress and pressure that would put on me to “pick a good one” to try.

    I agree that a festival isn’t the place to get drunk. You should be trying new breweries and unfamiliar styles. I also agree that there’s no way you’ll ever try everything you want to try at a festival…so it’s not something you should be aiming to do. However, with that said, down in North Carolina, All About Beer Magazine manages to pull off the World Beer Festival four times per year (Durham NC, Raleigh NC, Richmond VA, and Columbia SC) without the world going to hell due to unlimited tastings.

    If the government insists on limiting how much I am allowed to drink because I’m too irresponsible to control myself, then I wish they’d allow me 40-45 tickets…that way I’ve got a little wiggle room to experiment. Sure, 40 tickets would get you drunk. But for most, so would 30. I see that difference as negligible, since you shouldn’t drive regardless. And those 10 extra tickets aren’t gonna send you to the hospital or cause you to go around looting in the field outside the IX center.

  • Jenn says:

    I agree with those who have already commmeted – the limit doesn’t allow for mistakes. I will often get a sample and dump it out if I don’t like it, or ask for just a small amount so I van try more beers (especially ones that aren’t my preferred style). I wouldn’t drink that many full tasters but could definitely surpass that in beers I take a sip of. Ive been to many beer fests and have never seen problems with people drinking too much – yeah, they are drunk, but no fights or other obnoxious behavior. Craft beer lovers are responsible drinkers. Wanna get rid of the potential problems? Get rid of the big brewers to eliminate those just aiming to get trashed. There are enough beer fests that I’m glad I didn’t make arrangements to go to this one.

  • Gerard Walen says:

    Thom and Chris,

    You both make some valid points. In the interest of full disclosure, this will be the first time that I have attended a “ticket for a taste” beer festival, though I know it’s a common practice in some areas of the country. If anyone has experience with these festivals, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    I attended the Scene Magazine beer fest last year in Cleveland, an outdoor event with 12-oz. tasting cups. Most of the samples were still in the 2-oz. range, some more, and unlimited. It really was the pourer’s discretion, kind of a “nudge nudge, wink wink, here’s your 2 ounce pour.” That’s been my experience at most every beer fest I’ve attended, though I can’t speak for any others.

    There were a noticeable number of drunks by the end of the festival, but that’s really beside the point. The festivals I’ve attended in Florida and elsewhere have been unlimited, but 2 oz. “or so” pours as well. Though I’ve never counted them, I’d guess that 30 samples would be around the upper limit of what I’ve consumed at most of them.

    I suppose people’s expectations for this festival are directly proportional to their reaction to this unexpected change. I’m looking forward to tasting some new-to-me brews (I’ll stay away from watermelon wheats and blueberry lagers to avoid the risk of pouring any out) and learning more about beers, food pairings, and home brewing. Those who are going to get smashed can just stick to the high ABV samples. (I am in no way encouraging or endorsing this).

    Thom, I don’t think it’s fair to blame this on an anonymous “project manager” not doing his or her job. If you’ve ever had to deal with government regulatory agencies, often one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, and it’s common for something that was approved suddenly becoming “not approved” because another department or bureaucrat realized that the project violated an obscure law or regulation that the approving bureaucrat didn’t even know about.

    I encourage anyone who attends and has a lousy time because of the sampling limit to contact me or leave a comment on this site. Also, anyone who expected to have a lousy time and found they enjoyed it anyway, give me a holler, too.


  • Gerard Walen says:

    Jenn, you make a great point, too. Cleveland has a fantastic beer scene and festivals all through the year. Anyone who thinks this
    festival is not worth the price of admission can simply choose not to go or get a refund. Relax. Don’t Worry. Drink a beer.

  • Chris says:

    All good points. As you said, you won’t be trying the watermelon or blueberry beer so you don’t have to risk dumping things out. That sounds like a compromise you’ve already had to make due to the ticket restrictions.

    For me, I would never in a million years pay money for those styles of beer in a store/bar…but I would love the opportunity to try them at a festival. I would say about 5-6 of my tastings at a given festival are random stuff where I just say, “I wonder what that actually tastes like?” Fruit beers are a perfect example of that for me. Another (embarrassing) example: I actually tried Bud Light Golden Wheat at a festival once because my curiosity got the best of me. I promptly dumped it out after two sips, but at least I had the option to try it on a whim without wasting a valuable drink ticket.

    Unfortunately, my schedule this year didn’t work out to attend this particular festival this year. If I did have a ticket, though, I’d of course still attend…but I wouldn’t be happy about the restrictions. If restrictions are necessary, then fine…I just feel 30 is a little bit too low and that takes away our opportunity to experiment or try some stuff that is really “out there.”

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