Yesterday I attended Beertopia Hong Kong 2013. Actually I was hired by the event organizers to shoot the afternoon session. However, I enjoyed it so much that I went home at 5 PM, picked up my gf, and then returned for the evening session just because I was enjoying it so much – and I’m not much of a beer drinker.
(Photos will follow on Spike’s Photos soon.)
So here’s the deal. The event was organized by Jonathan So. Jon’s from Toronto, lived in NYC and decided to put together a craft beer festival in Hong Kong. He did the first one last year at Western Market in Sheung Wan. It was so successful that he needed a larger venue for this year’s event and so it was held at the West Kowloon Promenade. It was my first time going there and it’s just great that there’s this lovely park and event space right on the waterfront, just a 10 minute walk from the ICC and Elements mall. Clockenflap was also held here but I was unable to attend that because I was traveling at the time.
I didn’t attend the event last year and didn’t look at the web site for this year’s event so I didn’t really know what to expect. Watching Jon brief the vendors and staff before the gates opened, I was immediately impressed by how well he seemed to have thought through everything. There were plenty of toilets (a must for a beer festival, eh?), plenty of security guards and arrangements for keeping the area clean, even as the number of empty bottles was piling up. There were two sessions, one running from noon till 5, the other from 6 till 11.
I’d say there were roughly 25-30 booths there. Two rows of booths featured somewhere around 100 different craft beers from microbreweries around the world. Of course the U.S. and Europe were well represented, but there was even a booth from a restaurant and microbrewery from Shanghai and another from Korea. Cider was also well represented, with at least 10 or 15 varieties on hand.
Of course if you’re going to go with “gourmet” beer you can’t have run-of-the-mill food to go with it. Most of the food booths were from companies that do home delivery and catering rather than having restaurants. The most popular booth seemed to be the one from the guys at MeatMarket.HK, serving up a hearty steak sandwich on a seriously crusty baguette. There was a stand called Flying Brats and I asked the guy where I could buy his sausages (I got one of his bratwurst and finished it in seconds) and he told me that with rents being what they are, right now it’s simply something he’s trying out in events such as this. Only two actual restaurants were represented among all the food stalls – Brickhouse and Koh Thai. Another stand that I enjoyed was one that was serving brownies that were made with stout and bacon.
Along with booths featuring beer games and beer lectures (!), there was the main tent, featuring almost non-stop music from 10 bands, most of them booked by my friends from the Underground. The afternoon set opened with the Joven Goce Band, a particular favorite of mine, and closed with an energetic set from Canadian band Van De Kamp. How is it that I’d never heard of these guys? Well, they’re not only Canadian, they’re from Quebec, and mostly sing in French. The evening show included other local favorites including The Sleeves and Thinking Out Loud.
About 1,500 people attended the afternoon session. They were expecting 3,000 for the evening session but I think they got more. Obviously there was much more of a party atmosphere at night – so I’m glad I was shooting during the afternoon when it was less crowded and more relaxed but also glad I went back to hang out there at night.
Negatives? Very few. I think at night the area around the food booths was too crowded. Trying to move around was like moving through a human car wash, as Robin Williams once called it. There was this point as I was trying to make my way to a particular booth that I could just sense the lens cap coming off my camera – and indeed it did. It was way too crowded and also too dark for me to try to search for it. Argh. Despite this one personal inconvenience, I’d say that the crowd was remarkably well-behaved.
Also, since I was working in the afternoon and driving both sessions, I was looking for something non-alcoholic to drink – and that was not to be found. I had to exit the venue and walk about 20 yards down to a bank of vending machines to buy bottles of water. To be fair, I don’t suspect there were too many others there looking for water or Coke, but I should mention that there were more than a few parents there with children and I don’t know how they coped when the kids got thirsty.
Overall, it was a really great event, well run, well attended and a great venue. I hope there will be a lot more events at the West Kowloon Promenade and I know that when Beertopia returns next year, we’re going to return.
(I’ll be processing my photos from the event today and will post some on Spike’s Photos later in the week.)