Beer, bourbon, bacon, and BBQ. What’s not to love about this combination? Needless to say, when we found out about this Digital Surgeons event that was coming to New Haven, we were all over it…and apparently so was everyone else because both sessions sold out fast! Not only did we buy tickets, but as bloggers of all awesomely edible things, we also shared some of the vendors that would be there, and even interviewed David Salinas, organizer of The 4b Festival. That was back in December…now let’s fast forward to March 22 for the event.
After we waited in a fairly long line to park, we made our way over to the venue. It was a bit of a walk but we didn’t mind because it was a beautiful day out. Even though we got there a few minutes before the 12-4 session started, there was a HUGE line that wrapped around the parking lot like a sinister slithering snake. Because we were given press passes, we were able to go right into the Press/VIP entrance, get our IDs checked, and head on in, but we had friends in line and felt awful for them and everyone else because we knew it was going to take a while to get through that line. This is where things began to get ugly…
The 4b Facebook page almost immediately LIT UP with complaints from people waiting in line, some for an hour or two…some even soaked by a brief rainfall. But the worst part about waiting in a seemingly endless line is that people had paid good money for four hours of an event and only ended up getting in 2 or 3 hours worth because that’s how long the line took. And, yes, they would definitely need that time, because this is where things got uglier…
We already talked about the line outside to get in, but once inside the lines to get a sample of beer, bourbon, or food were WAY too long, some 20-30 minutes long. And it was impossible to know where the line began or ended because it was so crowded…way oversold. This made for some “almost” brawls between irritated attendees.
The venue had potential, but there seemed to be a lot of empty rooms that were closed up, which is too bad because it would’ve been great to spread the event out more to prevent some of the back up. It was freezing in there too, which would’ve been worse if the day were chillier and could’ve been better if were able to have enough alcohol to get warmed up. Speaking of…
Beer samples were poured out only to a quarter of the way in tasting glasses. This equaled one or two sips. And the bourbon samples? Yeah, just enough to taste it on your tongue. Why? Because everyone was afraid they’d run out.
The selection of beer itself was not ideal, featuring just DC Brau, Thimble Island, Shebeen Brewing Co., Two Roads, and a few others. Most CT breweries were conspicuously not present, even though they were advertised at first. Actually, it seemed like many vendors that they said would be there, didn’t show up.
There was barely any BBQ (Bobby Q’s pulled pork pizza was awesome, though) to try, and if you wanted anything substantial (like a sandwich) you had to buy it. Yes, you had to pay MORE money for food, even after paying $50/75 or $125/$150 for tickets. And, we found bacon in only a few places: a small bit atop a deviled egg and in candy for purchase at two tents. For a festival with bacon & BBQ in its name, this was disappointing and quite the misnomer.
People became so sick of it all, that they opted to leave early and go to places like Bar, Cask Republic, and Anna Liffey’s to get their food and drink fill. Heck, we even did this, along with several of our friends an hour and a half before our session ended.
According to Facebook posts, there was a similar kind of experience during the second session. There were reports that vendors were running out of supplies (to be honest, some were already running out during the first session) and there were even vendors that had left early. People were also reporting that the 4b volunteers started taking off their shirts because they were embarrassed to be a part of the event.
And, to top it all off, the 4b Festival Facebook page administrators deleted many people’s comments (and froze wall posting ability) about how upset they were and how they felt scammed and lied to…which only makes things worse and gets people more fired up. Social Media 101.
The only things that weren’t ugly was VIP entry because it had no lines and you had about 15-30 minutes to hit up all the vendors before the huge lines made it in. There was also a decent variety of bourbon and whiskey, from lower shelf brands like Jack and Wild Turkey and better options like Woodford and Bulliet. We were expecting more of the better options, though. Even still, at $125/$150, VIPs were upset, feeling cheated out of even more money with very little in return for paying double the price of a regular ticket.
Yes, we all had high expectations for the 4b Festival overall, but we should also remember to keep our expectations grounded. This was the first year of the event and there are always kinks. For example, we had an O.K. time at the first Harbor Brewfest…although there was an amazing beer selection, the lines were long and it was crowded. But, the next year it was an amazing event that we loved…probably our favorite beer festival.
The question is, now, will the organizers of 4B be able to improve upon this fatally flawed event? While they might make changes and improve the organization, we feel like they will be up against hundreds of people who felt cheated, scammed, and are still demanding refunds. We can see the potential in this festival, but not unless they make major changes and apologize to all those who rated the event as 1 star (averaging 2 out of 5) on Facebook. Just acknowledging that lines were long and that they were listening to comments is simply not enough.
Our verdict? We’re skeptical of future plans for the 4b Festival, but we’re willing to keep an open mind. There are several things they could do to improve the experience…guess we’ll have to wait and see.