Queenstown beer fest glass half empty

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Some punters and stallholders have a bitter taste from Queenstown’s beer festival – but an organiser is defending criticism of pricing.

Adult admission was $42.50 for the inaugural Heartland Craft Beer Festival at Remarkables Park Red Barn last Saturday ($45 on the door). 

It provided access to 30-odd brewers and a headline show by double New Zealand Music Award winner Greg Johnson – but not beer.

Tastings were an extra $2 for 100ml, while a full pour of 300ml was $5.

Strong winds also marred the day.

Punter Mal Price, co-owner of Queenstown’s Cow Restaurant, says: “The ticket price is too high, that’s what everyone is saying. 

“You’re not going to get the crowds at $45 to just get in. I know they’ve got to pay for the stage and acts but most people wouldn’t care if it was just local acts or there wasn’t any music at all.”

Designated driver tickets were $28 for those just interested in the music and entertainment at the 11am-7pm event.

Organiser Simon Green defends pricing, saying it was a beer festival and concert: “The plan was always for it to be more than just a beer festival.

“In Queenstown you need to create more than just one reason for people to attend events. It was a beer festival but also a concert with Greg Johnson, dDub, Rhythmonyx and Oompa Band.

“You’d pay $39 to see Greg Johnson in concert so as far as I’m concerned it was good value.

“We definitely could’ve done with more numbers but it was year one.”

Green says he’ll consider moving the event to later in summer next year, rather than sandwich it between Rippon and Gibbston Valley concerts.

One food stallholder says she’d paid $1000 but had no chance of breaking even: “It’s very disappointing. We’ve been at Queenstown events for more than 20 years and the pricing for this is all wrong. We won’t be back.”

Brewer Wendy Roigard, of Valkyrie Brewery Company and BeerNZ, also bemoaned numbers.

“It’s well organised but the crowds are a bit thin,” Roigard.

“I think we’ll probably break even. The wind is also just so strong, it’s a shame, but there’s nothing they can do about that.”

However, Fernhill punter James Williams says his group of friends enjoyed it.

“We’ve had a dance, music’s good, and loads of good beer and food,” Williams says. “Can’t go wrong. Windy though.”

Queenstown brewer Eliott Menzies, who runs Altitude brewing, says he had a good day and made a profit: “I met a lot of different brewers and made a lot of different contacts.”