Saturday morning Avalyn and inkbot went to a march protesting poaching of rhinos and other endangered species. I opted to stay home and work on backing up stuff on my computer. We had plans to go to Vegan Oktoberfest in the afternoon however so around 1 i walked over to the Tar Pits to join them. When i got there i spent a little while trying to coordinate our locations during text messages, during which time i got to listen to part of a speech which managed to incorporate a number of logical fallacies and misconceptions into an argument supporting something i generally agree with. This would be one of the reasons why i'm hesitant to attend such things =P Once we finally managed to find each other we Ubered over to Santa Monica.
The Vegan Oktoberfest had started at 1, unless you have the special VIP tickets that got you in at noon. (Those tickets were all gone by the time we got around to buying them.) We arrived at 2 to find a very long line that wasn't moving much at all. There were first rumors and then an official announcement that there had been some kind of miscommunication between the city of Santa Monica and the people running the event about how many people they were allowed to have in the area. As such they had hit that limit and the fire marshals were not letting anyone else in until some people had left.
We debated for a bit trying to get a refund and leaving but decided to stick it out. A little while later the line did finally start moving again. Weirdly, despite the theoretical problem being a limit by the fire marshals on how many people could go in they decided to stop checking ID and tickets in order to process the line faster.
Needless to say when we did get inside it was pretty packed. The event was in a fenced off area in one of the parking lots next to the beach. I would make a _very_ vague guestimation that it was about 200' x 400'. The stands were mostly along both the sides, with a couple food trucks and other larger vendors on the west side, while there were tables taking up most of the middle and a stage over on the east side.
We'd been told by some friends, who'd gotten there early and then chatted with us a bit in line before heading off, that the pizza stand was very good, so we went and got in line for that. While Avalyn and inkbot were waiting i went for a tour of the rest of the stands to see if i could figure out where some cider was.
So one of the main reasons we came to the event was that it had promised they would have cider and gluten free beer. We didn't care much about the gluten free beer but we were very interested in the cider. I generally only like darker beers but i'm very fond of cider. Avalyn on the other hand used to love beer, but a couple years ago she developed some kind of allergy. We're not sure to what though we're guessing _maybe_ the hops. But in any case she has become a fairly avid cider drinker as well since discovering that it doesn't contain whatever makes her allergic to beer. So yay cider!
I started wandering around and immediately noticed some problems. One of the attractions of the event was that you paid a cover price for the tickets but once you were inside all the beer was free. The cover price included a free "stein" in which to put that beer. They were little tiny (hard) plastic steins that probably held about 6 oz.
So the beer was free, all you could drink, but served in little tiny cups. (Though i saw a number of people circumventing that somewhat by wandering around with two cups at a time.) Which meant there were huge lines at pretty much every stand, because you could easily consume the beer you were given at one stand while just waiting in line for the next stand.
Those huge lines at every stand pretty much filled up the space between the stands and the eating area in front of the stage, so it was rather difficult to move up and down the stands. Each stand had a sign proclaiming which brewery they were, but none had anything proclaiming from a distance what kind of beer they were serving. So if you were more interested in the kind of beer than the particular brewery you had to shove up to the front to see what they were pouring out and then move on to the next stand.
In the process of doing this i saw a _lot_ of very pale beers. I did not spot any cider. I went all the way down the line of stands on the south side. Then i crossed over to the north side. I went all the way down that line without spotting any cider. Finally at the _very_ end of the line i spotted an Ace Cider stand! Huzzah! I got to the end... and found that they were packing up. They had already run out of cider. I asked, just in case i'd somehow missed someone else, but they said they were the only stand there with cider. It was 3:30 at this point. Halfway through the scheduled time for the event (not counting the VIP access) and they were out of the primary thing i'd come there for =P
I went back to the pizza place and found that Avalyn and inkbot were still in line, but had run into some more friends. Avalyn was of course upset to hear about the depletion of the only cider stand, since that meant there was nothing else alcoholic there that she could drink. I then left again to do some more scouting to see if i could find some beer that i would be interested in drinking. I spotted a girl with a (little tiny) glass of dark beer and asked her where she'd gotten it. She pointed me to the Sierra Nevada stand. I went over there and it looked like they were only one kind of beer and it was a very pale kind. I went up and asked at the front and they said that was all they had left.
But the next stand over was some independent Huntington Beach brewery that had a raspberry beer! That sounded good! So i got in line for that. It was a long line. It moved slowly. Two girls got confused about where the line ended (because it was impossible for it to go straight in the confined space) and the group of guys in front of me told them the end was farther back, but they could join them if they wanted =P A number of the people in line ahead of me had two "steins" each. I think some of them may even have been carrying four. Then, when there were only about four people left in front of me, they announced they were out of the raspberry beer. Since i'd been in line for at least 5 or 10 minutes at that point i went ahead and got some of the other kind of beer they had. It was fairly light stuff, not terrible but definitely not something i would have chosen to wait in line for.
So right next to that stand was a Karl Strauss stand, which had to spouts, one of which had an a handle labeled "amber", so i got in that line. This line wasn't nearly as long, though it still moved rather slowly. Then, when there were two people ahead of me the guy removed the "amber" handle and said "i think there might be enough for one more person." The person in front of me then asked for the amber while i gritted my teeth. Then when i got to the front i asked if there was still any amber left, and there was! I don't know how much longer he kept having "just a little left", but i at least got my glass. All 6 oz of which got consumed rather quickly. It was pretty good, and i would have gotten in line for some more if there had been any left.
At this point i had been wandering around looking for decent stuff to drink for over an hour, and so far i'd managed to obtain two 6 oz glasses, only one of which was really what i wanted. As far as i could tell almost every stand was serving IPA or some other light beer. And as far as i could tell every stand that also server some darker alternative had run out of that alternative. To me this would seem to indicate that the IPA thing is being overplayed and the breweries ought to diversify a bit more, but what do i know?
So i went back to the pizza stand, where they had gotten through the line and Avalyn was now waiting for the pizza to be ready. Since the pizza was made to order she'd been told it would take 30 minutes to make and she'd already been standing there for a bit. I noticed the next stand over had pretty much no line. They were serving some chocolate stuff and little bowls of quinoa, mushrooms, sauerkraut, and some other stuff mixed up. I went over and got a bowl of that for us to snack on while we waited and it was pretty good. We finally got the pizza and went to join inkbot and their friends in the seating area. While Avalyn had been waiting for the pizza they'd gotten funnel cake, so at least after a huge ass wait (which to be fair, i mostly didn't stick around for) we at least had a fair bit of food to share.
At this point i noticed that all but possibly one or two of the stands on the east side had shut down, apparently out of beer. When i checked the west side it looked like several had shut down already, though the ones that remained still had long lines. By the time we'd finished eating most of the stands on the west side had closed up as well. We got some vegan ice cream and wandered around the lot one more time. With about an hour left to go (at least by the original listing, we heard rumors they were actually going to stay open until 7) about 90% of the stands were out of beer. At that point we decided it was time to head home. We walked the friends most of the way to their car and then caught an Uber back home.
So what we got to try of the food and beer was pretty good, but there are definitely a lot of areas that could use improvement.
They either need to make the venue larger or they need to limit the number of tickets sold. They need better line management. The stands need to bring more beer. If they're going to list something special like cider in the ads then they better have more than one stand selling it and better be sure those stands bring enough. And really i'd rather pay a lower cover charge and then have to pay for drinks, as long as those drinks were of a decent size. Having to wait in endless lines to drink 6 oz samplers just wasn't that fun.
Oh, and found a random blog post talking about the Vegan Oktoberfest that actually has some pictures, including of the little baby steins, so i'll link that here :)