Thursday, July 3, 2014
SKB5: Who was the party really for?
Last year, the Sun King anniversary party was one of my favorite events of the summer. The beer was excellent and there were tons of special release tapings. The music by St. Paul and the Broken Bones was insanely good. And of course the always loved Grapefruit Jungle IPA was released at the event. There wasn't really much room for improvement on such an awesome party.
The party was huge this year. They sold out at least a week before the event, so obviously their good reputation and whatever they did to promote the event worked great! As a beer geek and overall craft fan I thought the party fell short in a couple of areas compared to last year.
Last year was all about the beer, this year felt more like a concert that also had beer. We all know that Sun King is one of the most popular and well recognized breweries located in Indianapolis. They have beer in bars all over the place and at most of the stadiums for sporting events. They've started to become the beer of the people here in Indianapolis. Sadly (for us at least), that means they may not want to be the beer of the beer geeks around here. At some point a brewery has to decide on a strategy, sell to the hard core fans or sell to the masses, maybe some breweries can do both.
First and probably foremost for me as a standout from last year's event that was missing this year was the tappings. Sun King's Kings Reserve beers have been coming out almost every other month this year. Last year we got an awesome preview at the party of what was to come, this year we got Mellow Johnny, a raddler. For those of you who are not familiar, a raddler is a beer mixed with a juice or fruit soda. Although the raddler was well done, and perfect for the summer heat, it's probably the most approachable "beer" around and isn't nearly as exciting as some of Sun King's sours or barrel-aged offerings. Not only did we not have any King's Reserve releases, we didn't have any uniquely timed releases. They had their standard canned line up, plus Popcorn Pilsner, Lavern, Shirley (which had been in the tap room), and Grapefruit Jungle.
The second thing that disappointed me was that Grapefruit Jungle wasn't available for takeout at the party. This is an awesome beer. This is one of those beers that I can drink a case of in a weekend. If you haven't had it lately, try and grab a four pack while you can.
Really minor things that could have been better were bringing back the picnic tables that they had last year. Yes the internet and invite all said to bring a chair if you want to sit, but this looked a lot more like a concert at White River than it did a beer event. I prefered the music last year, but that's totally a matter of taste, and the food trucks started running out of stuff pretty early this year (obviously not the breweries fault at all).
The final thing that set me off a little was the overall cost. The event is totally reasonable at a $10 entry fee, but once you're in you have to get $5 tickets for beer. Please note this is the exact same set up as last year, but last year they had some amazing beers being tapped and I would gladly pay five bucks to have a taste. This year we were limited to their house beers and some pretty basic releases. If I came in the day before I could have gotten any of the house beers in a growler for $5. A day later, after paying to come in, I have to give you five dollars for a can... this is higher mark up than a liquor store by a lot. It was even a mark up for GFJ, which I gladly pay my $18 per four pack for. If you're going to charge like I'm going to Deer Creek... Verizon... Klipsch... whatever, I should be coming for the concert not the brewery's anniversary.
All in, I still love Sun King and I think GFJ is an excellent beer that I will keep drinking as long as I can get it. Tons of people were rocking out to the bands and having a great time all around. Every beer was easy drinking for people that aren't really fans of craft beer which can bring a whole new crowd in. The party only disappointed me because I had such high hopes after last year. I know last year the tappings were limited and a lot of people got shut out, but at least the beers were there and people had a chance to try everything. As a beer geek, I felt like I spent fifty bucks just to try Grapefruit Jungle a couple days early. It all just begs the question, who was the party really for?