New Zealand Beer Festival – Auckland 2014 – Review

The New Zealand Beer Festival 2014 is different, it has been changed. Changed by the law. Changed by the interpretation of how to enforce that law. Changed by having to protect the people from harm.

Since it was only last night I am still thinking about how I feel about this event. I still need to talk to others, and collect information to decide whether these changes are good, bad or indifferent.

Just quickly here are my current thoughts. (there are no comments about the weather below, it wasn’t ideal)

165ml ONLY serve – people spent twice as long in lines, to get the beer they wanted to drink. Maybe they tried more different types of beers than they normally would. Maybe they drank the same amounts they normally would if they could get 330ml, and then spend less time in lines. Without doing a wrap up of exactly how much beer we sold (that’s Monday’s job), my gut feel is we sold the same amount as if we had done full pours.

People expressed frustration at spending so much time in line. Some deciding they would leave early and go to the pub (some saying they wouldn’t attend again).


Most of the second session we experienced 9+ people deep at our bar. I had staff commenting this is the first event they haven’t been able to take a break till near the end of the session. We were slammed. We weren’t able to converse with the public and educate them about our beer. The onslaught of people buying half serves was relentless.

If the half serves didn’t equate to less volume drunk. Then what it equated to was frustration and creating an unnatural environment. An environment where normal responsibly people weren’t standing back and relaxing and conversing about the beer they had purchased. They spent most of their time in lines, that could take 15 minutes to get served. How long does it take to drink 165ml of beer? Maybe 15 minutes? less? That meant as soon as you purchased a beer you really needed to get into the next line.

Some people though are happy with sampling 165ml beers, so they can try many different styles of beers. These people who have always done this now need to stand in line twice as long as the 330ml drinkers are in line twice as often.

Possible outcome of this is fewer people will come to the event next year. Why pay $40 to get into a beer festival where you can only by beer for 2/3 of the time of the event, you have to wait in line for 15+ minutes to get 165ml of beer.

165ml every 15 minutes x 4 hours = 2.640 litres is the most you could possibly drink. 660ml per hour, so around a pint. That is a fair amount, and 4 pints is a pretty good night. But that is a best case scenario for getting served. Most people did spend time with their mates.

Is there a better way of doing this. A way where people can actually enjoy themselves and not spend 4 hours standing in lines. If a goal from these changes are to make changes in the way the public drink, then shouldn’t there be some consideration to taking away the urgency of getting a beer.

4 hours of service ONLY – I’m OK with this as it seems to be about the right amount of time, before intoxication starts become visible in a crowd. I hate dealing with dickheads, who think they are pretty witty after a few beers.

The entertainment – yes the weather was poor, but if 8000 people turned up for the beer festival that was offering music that ended at 10pm how many stayed? It was pretty obvious that by 9pm there were only 1000 left watching the band, and the bars had closed at 8pm, the real reason people came to the New Zealand Beer Festival was for the BEER!!! D’uh!

Organisation – I have been involved with the New Zealand Beer Festival since the first year. David, Andrew and Gideon, have done an amazing job of making the event a success in the past. This is the first year where I could fault them on the smooth running of the event. It seems as though they had to put all their energy and resources into complying with condition from the licensing, council and police. They took their focus off the event.

The big question now needs to be asked of the Police. Was their more or less trouble from this event compared to last year? How many people were admitted to hospital with alcohol related injuries? and had they actually attended the Beer Festival? Was that more or less than last year? As this seems to be measure of an event these days. Is this event ever compared to an average Saturday night?

Was the additional cost of having 1 x security guard and 1 x bar manager (put in by the event organisers) worth it? Seemed extreme to have those two people monitoring the fill heights throughout the day. Maybe one would have been as cost-effective?

One thing that was unsettling and only talked about briefly was the videoing of the public entering the event. Videoing of staff serving. What will this video be used for. Will it be destroyed now that it isn’t required? I personally didn’t see this first hand, but it doesn’t make me ask the question – what is the footage for? Where was the notification letting the people know that they could and would be videoed? Is this something we just need to get use to so that everyone can be safe?

New Zealand Beer Festival 2014




Will there be a New Zealand Beer Festival in 2015?






See the Facebook Discussion here

Neil Miller does a little write up –

Geoff Griggs article –
Heavy-handed law interpretations take toll

P.S. Sorry for the above. After re-reading it I think I found my overall experience was less positive than I had had in the previous years. Love to get other people’s feedback.

13 thoughts on “New Zealand Beer Festival – Auckland 2014 – Review”

  1. We rocked up to the first session at 9.45am. Stood in the VIP line in the rain, thankful we were one of the first there. Then at around 9.55am the guards announced we all to shift to the general admission line. Suddenly, people who’d been waiting since before 9.30am were in the back of the line. A few minutes later we were all told to move BACK to the VIP line. Huh?! Then we got lectured three times about the perils of losing one’s glass. Thanks, we get it! Didn’t get the free food tokens promised. The VIP section was nice since we got to sit and relax but 165mls meant by the time you got your drink and wandered upstairs to the VIP section you needed another beer. Still, it was our choice to go VIP so I can’t complain. We had a great time and I got to sample lots, although I found the lines and the wait kept me close to the beers I already know and love. Shame about the weather – a few beers I was looking forward to (Parrot Dog) couldn’t be found as I think they were assigned outdoor positions.

  2. I did not attend this years event but last year was great until around 1930 where some man took it upon himself to have a pop at me for chatting to his girlfriend (which I did not), I had a amazing day from 1300 until 1930. I’ve been to many beer festivals in my time and NZ Beer Festival 2013 was my 1st in NZ. To start with there was a great amount of fellow beer geeks (like myself) having a great chin wag about the beers on offer. After 1700 it got far to busy with people just want to get pissed rather than enjoying the whole aspect of tasting the beer that was on offer, When I went outside it felt like a rave up and I did not pay my own hard earned money (for entry) for this. Where was Beervana was all about the beer and there was no muppets trying to start a fight with me, The measures where good and you got what you paid for like any normal beer festival, My next beer festival was the SOBA winter festival which was amazing where real beer fans drank and talked about the beer that they love so much. No DJS or live bands and what not. Same with Beervana keep it simple and keep it beer. Keep out the riff raff who are there to A get pissed B to have a rave up & C to start a fight!! I have loved beer trip in NZ but I would never recommend to anyone NZ beer festival when I know there’s so many better 1’s out there. Thanks Luke for showing and informing me what NZ have to offer but I do feel like I was very hard done by with NZ Beer Festival. Also the HOP ZOMBIE T SHIRT has been going down a treat from Milan to Glasgow Bro. Thanks again Matt xx

  3. I only drink half measures and don’t have a huge capacity anyway, so the changes didn’t make too much difference to me.

    What I did notice was the absence of the smaller, non Auckland breweries. I did hear rumor that some of the breweries intending to be there pulled out after the changes became known as they believed the shortened serving times made the exercise no longer economically viable – perhaps an issue if they were travelling from other parts of the country.

    If this is true, it’s a bit of a death knell for an event that for some is defined by a wide selection of smaller breweries from around the country.

    The food festival at Vic Park Market sounds like they’ll be looking for a new home now – perhaps it’s an opportunity to combine forces and please the council at the same time?

  4. While I enjoyed myself I definitely felt that there was a large focus on rules this year. I didn’t know they were filming until I read this post though!

  5. I went to both the 2013 and 2014 Beer Festivals and I was unfortunately disappointed this year. In comparison to last year, the quality of the festival really dropped this time around. The major success that was the festival from last year, was, in my opinion, tarnished by the dumbfounding pressure put on the organisers at the last minute, with little grounding in reality, for this year’s event.

    The weather was out the organisers’ hands but they did do a really good job of shifting everything around and made it work quite well. The exception was the entertainment which fell flat, especially compared to last year. They had no back-up plan in that regard for the loss of the outdoor space.

    I didn’t like that they split it into two sessions but can see the reasoning behind it and having gone to both sessions, the difference in atmosphere was shocking. The morning was really wonderful. We had the chance to talk about the beers with the staff and amongst ourselves and had little to no queues to worry about. Throw in some really good food and it was a festival to be proud of.

    The afternoon session could not have been more different. Far too many people struggling for too little space. Queues were outrageous and while the smaller serves were fine in the morning, they created havoc in the afternoon. It went from an enjoyable tasting session to a pitiful showcase of rules gone mad. I did not see a single person get too loud or drunk and obnoxious. Controlling the situation is good but I think the powers that be have taken it a step too far. I was ordering a final drink at 7.55pm and even though it had been poured and I had the money ready to pay, the staff member was ordered by security to pour away the drink and stop serving.

    Tickets were bought and paid for when they went on sale initially to attend the morning session from 10am to 3pm and the evening session from 4pm until 10pm to access good food and better beer. Obviously you had, as I proceeded to take up, the option of getting tickets for both. Initial expectation was for 5 hours or 6 hours of service which was then downgraded to 4 hours and 5 hours closer to the day and then reduced further to 4 hours for each session. Add in a minimum of a half hour queue for the evening session and you were left with at most 3 and a half hours of availability. Once you take in the queues for the beer itself and you were left with very little time to actually enjoy the beer, the whole point of the festival. The rules that were imposed changed peoples attitude from responsible enjoyment to frustrated efforts to fit in as much drinking as possible. In my opinion, a complete backfire.

    To finish, the morning session was precisely what I signed up for; the evening session a nightmare of bureaucracy against the avid beer enthusiast.

  6. Well this all sounds rather like a crap beer festival, as my buddies who went there told me; leaving at 7pm to get a ‘big’ drink at a pub.

    Queues 9 deep, treated like kids, policed by council beer Nazi’s, tiny glasses, more queueing than drinking, short opening hours and $40 to get in in the first place!

    Typical Kiwi nanny state. Go down Queen Street every Saturday night / Sunday morning and see how many drunks there are falling about… 165ml servings, and definitely no council officials checking volumes!


  7. After 5 years of enjoying the Beer Festival, this last one was VERY disappointing. Probably in reality no fault of the organisers but because of the strict council regulations and the over zealous staff of Chivalry Security. Read on!
    We arrived at 12:30 for the first session, queues were fine and food good. The pour sizes were awful at 165ml for a Festival but as queues weren’t bad at that session it wasn’t a major.
    At 2pm when bar closed we went upstairs and listened to a band then headed off as event was winding down.
    After lunch at a restaurant, the four of us, aged 47-57, returned at 4pm to large queues forming to get in. We waited patiently for queue to die down but as it was a steady stream we joined in and got in around 4:30.
    After a few sample downstairs we went upstairs at Shed 10 anticipating Black Seeds on at 6pm. The four of us were minding our own business, not talking loud or misbehaving in any way yet a Chivalry security guard approached the 4 of us and singled out one of us and started talking to him. He then declared him to be intoxicated. As we began wondering what on earth he was going on about, other security approached along with a rather excited policeman. We were then escorted outside where we continued to protest but the wheels had been set in motion and there was no going back. They had made a decision and were going to stick by it. There was no secondary assessment, no rational explanation. Nothing. We were literally gobsmacked that this had happened to us.

  8. ….we had been there for probably 75mins max for that session. I had a glass of water in my hand as we were removed. Based on the guidelines I have subsequently received there was no way my mate could have been assessed as ‘intoxicated’. It was a rubbish decision made on the basis of one security person probably less than half our age. We have as I say been attending that festival for 5 years with no issue whatsoever. We are all respectable well dressed, well behaved beer lovers out for an enjoyable day with mates. We were causing no offence or issues other than talking normally to each other. The situation was bizarre and I would not attend an event like this again were you can be evicted on a whim because maybe the security company had a quota of people to evict or something. We spent over $200 in tickets all up for less than 3hrs all up. We treated with contempt. I am still awaiting a response from beerfestival organisers and Chivalry security. Our treatment was a disgrace…I videoed the unfolding scene and the security company snatched my camera. Why? I was proving that my mate was NOT intoxicated but they didn’t like this…i am well pissed warned it could so easily have been you…so think twice about parting with your money for this event in future.

    1. Do you have that video? Did you get your camera back?

      So they can video the public with out notice, yet you can’t video them? In a public place.

      Did you receive a ticket for intoxication from the police?

      1. Yes as soon we said you can’t do that he let go. I have some footage but waiting for GM at Chivalry to respond before I release.
        No ticket from police was issued to my mate or any of us but we were not allowed back in. I was miffed as my major reason for being there was to see Black Seeds.

  9. I emailed on 18 March and have heard nothing in spite of resending the email.
    My comments to the organisers were:

    I purchased 2 VIP tickets to Saturday’s festival, each costing me $79. For the difference of $50 against the regular price I expected quite a bit more than access to the upstairs room at the Cloud, a free hotdog and a free pair of yellow plastic sunglasses.

    How can the difference of $50 extra to the regular price be justified???

    I certainly will not bother again and will pass the word that it’s not worth the money. I feel totally ripped off, especially as I bought 2 tickets – one for me and one for my friend as a birthday present!!!

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