Everyone I talked to about the Bourbon, Beer & Bacon festival did not speak highly of the event. So, I was surprised when I arrived and found there to a large crowd waiting to get inside, countless liquors and beers to taste, vendors, a panel discussing brewing/distilling, and local BBQ to eat. But it was a really decent event.
Here’s my summary:
- Go to this event next year if you like to try different bourbons and beers and are more on the side of a brewer or distiller than you are consumer. There is a lot of networking that can be done and even some educational programming for you to enjoy. Plus you get to sample a lot.
- Don’t go to this event next year if you want to have a full drink, don’t like trying new flavors, or are looking to see a lot of food options. Basically if you think this is a BBQ with a bunch of beer and liquor, you’re going to be left dissatisfied.
Let’s get into more detail. First, about the event and space.
Space: Held again at the Fluid Events Center this year. There was plenty of room. Big up’s for there being a space for attendees to get some fresh air (or smoke) because it was kind of hot in the Center.
Cost: $5 at the door. Then you had to buy tickets for tastings ($0.75 each). However, you bought food with actual money, not tickets. That was confusing. $10.50 got me 14 tickets. Strange. Tastings were 1-3 tickets each. A taste was probably 1/2 oz of liquor and 2 oz of beer.
Flow: I found the booths to be well spaced and most times there was plenty of room to move about. I had to wait 30 seconds for a taste of beer or bourbon and under 5 minutes for food. I was able to move through the event quickly.
Here’s a video of walking through the event. It should give you a good feel what it’s like:
Staff: Friendly but not knowledgeable. Often times I heard, “Here’s this bourbon… sorry I don’t know much about it.” I also overheard an event staffer managing the line outside drop the F bomb. So, there’s that.
Now lets talk bourbon, beer and bacon.
#1 Tasting: 1776 Straight Bourbon
- Tastes: Sweet.
- Burn: Significant, not the smoothest I’ve had.
- Reminds me of: Jim Beam and Makers Mark.
- Final: Nothing special, buy if on sale.
#2 Tasting: Unknown mint bourbon in a chocolate shot glass wrapped in bacon
- Tastes: like an alcoholic thin mint shot in which a girl scout accidentally dropped a bandaid (the bacon) into.
- Burn: none, so sweet.
- Reminds me of: Chewing on a bandaid.
- Final: Do not mix cooked bacon and chocolate.
And then there was the beer.
#1 Tasting: Black Jack Espresso Porter
- Mouth feel: flat. Perhaps because the bottle had be open for some time?
- Flavor: a lot of porter and not much espresso at all
- Final: nothing special, but for your friends who say they want to try an espresso beer
And then I was hungry.
I looked around at the options: Destihl, JT Walkers, the snack bar built into the facility, a stand with meatballs and chicken skewers.
I decided on something that was both new to me and looking delicious: Chester’s and Esther’s Kitchen. First, Chester’s.
#1 Tasting: Chester’s, Bacon Wrapped Pork with Peach BBQ sauce
- Temperature: 4/5: It misses a point because the bun was cold. To be 5/5 the buns should be slightly warmed as not to cool off the meat.
- Smoke flavor: 4/5: There was plenty of smoke in the beginning of the bites but it soon dissipated
- Heat: 4/5: There was no spice while I was eating the sandwich but it did come after I was finished and was a slow, mild burn.
- Tenderness: 3/5: Could have been more tender.
- Sauce: 3/5: Very sweet sauce. I could use a little more up front spice.
- Portion: 4/5: Although not huge, I think for a festival where you want to try different foods, the portions should be bigger than 1 bite but no more than 4.
- Value: 2/5: It was $6 which is too much to spend on a taste. Cut the portion and the price. It did have feta cheese in it, so they were getting fancy. But I’d say cut the fancy, the portion and the price.
#2 Tasting: Esther’s Kitchen, Pork Wing
- Temperature: 4/5: The meat was plenty warm but the sauce was cold.
- Smoke flavor: 0/5: No smoke at all!
- Heat: 0/5: There was no spice to the meat and thus lacked flavor either from smoke, spice or seasoning.
- Tenderness: 5/5: It was cooked just right. Just tender enough for you to get it to your mouth and let your teeth gently pull it from the bone effortlessly.
- Sauce: 2/5: I had the Signature Spicy sauce and there was no spice to it at all. The meat was the same.
- Portion: 4/5: I got the small and it was just right 3-4 bites and it was gone.
- Value: 3/5: it was $5 which I felt was too much to spend on 3-4 bites of BBQ.
And then I was thirsty, again.
So I looked for some water. Unfortunately the only option was a $2 bottle available at the snack stand. If you’re serving people liquor and beer, you ought to have a water jug available for free sips for many reasons. First, you need to clear your palate somewhat. And second, help people stay hydrated while drinking. C’mon BBB, give up the H20!
All in all the event was good. I would go again. I hope to see some small improvements (making it clear about tickets versus cash, free water, smaller portions of food, crafts, more crafts! Let me spend my money and take something home!). It is for sure something I want to see come back to the C-U area and clearly people had a fun time.
Here are some more photos from the day. See you next year!
About the author: Sam Logan
Sam Logan is the Smile Politely photo editor and head photographer. Find him (and his photos) on social media or by emailing him directly.