Friday, July 23, 2010

From the complaint box: Pitchfork's beer debacle

Last weekend I attended the fifth annual Hipster Pride Parade Pitchfork Music Festival, as I've done every July since 2006. In the last five years, I've watched the festival grow from not-enough-bodies-to-make-a-crowd to not-enough-room-to-fit-the-bodies, and I can say that the expansion--aside from the Great Toilet Shortage of 2009--has been graceful, holding the event true to its original form.

Of course, as the festival has become more popular, it's become a bit more commercialized, but this has hardly been a problem. The vendors and organizations have, for the most part, remained local, and those that aren't--Whole Foods, The Onion, Amp, and Cliff being a few examples--at least fit with the festival's mantra (humor me). Ads were not plastered throughout the park; commercials were not shown on the video screens between sets. Everything was good as ever.

Everything except the Heineken.

I don't begrudge Pitchfork for trying to profit or hold down ticket costs. They should be doing this. But by booting a local staple for a mass-produced import, they're encroaching on dangerous territory. The festival had been serving Goose Island (312 and IPA) from the beginning, before every sports bar had a 312 tap and the president was delivering cases of Honkers to foreign dignitaries.

But this year, they served Heineken and--before it ran out halfway through the festival--Newcastle Summer Ale. (All I can say about Newcastle Summer Ale is, do not buy this beer.)

Goose Island's IPA is hardly among the best, and 312 is one of the worst wheat beers I've tried. I don't mind Heineken either. It's fine. I drank a few. With the mercury pushing 95 all weekend, it wasn't exactly beer-guzzling weather anyway.

This is not the point, however. The substitution of Goose Island for Heineken was a troubling signal. Are we losing Pitchfork as we know it? Or was the cost savings just too much to pass up? I wonder what kind of market research went into the decision; I know I wasn't the only one grumbling.

So to Pitchfork, I say: Find a way to make the Goose Island partnership work again. By next year. This is not just a matter of taste but of the festival's image. Don't damage that because--let's face it--the image is just as important as the music.

I hope they get the message. If not, so be it. It's just beer, and it's just some music festival. Life goes on.

1 comment:

  1. Glad this message got as I was disappointed that Pitchfork sold Goose Island down the river here.

    I agree with you that 312 is rather pedestrian, especially among the somewhat underrated crop of wheat beers/Hefes in the craft world.

    However, Goose's IPA has grown on me over the years and is a very solid interpretation of the English styled IPA. No, it's not a hoppy dynamo that will kick your tongue's ass from the get go, but it's a more subtly flavored IPA that consistently provides you strong flavor on each sip. In Beer Advocate terms it's a solid B+ or so and on same days I could give it A- consideration.