The hype on Beer Advocate suggested that with Voodoo supplying a tent and port-a-potties, the crowd was going to be huge. Voodoo posted their bottle allotments and we knew that there were only enough bottles of Laird’s Apple Brandy Black Magick for the first 87 people in line. In order to guarantee that we were able to purchase the full allotment, we arrived at Voodoo at 2AM.
Fortunately for us, we were one of the last people to set up our chairs inside the tent. In fact, only one person came in after us before the tent was full. Thank God for that tent. I have been to multiple beer releases where the temperature has been in the 30′s and 40′s the entire time, but temperatures in Meadville, Pennsylvania were in the 20′s that night. 10 degrees makes a huge difference, in my opinion. Voodoo had the insight to put 2 large outdoor heaters in the tent as well. For the first 3 hours, I didn’t need to wear my coat. As the night wore on, the heaters began to die, but by that time, Voodoo was clearing out the tent any way. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The majority of the people in the tent had been at Voodoo on Friday night and simply moved outside when the bar closed at midnight. Therefore, by the time we got there, that group was slowing down and sleeping. We were just beginning our drinking. At one point, there were only 12-15 people awake out of the 67 people inside the tent. And all of those people had not spent the evening drinking at Voodoo. The tent was set up with roped off columns, which really alleviated the ability for line cutters.
In fact, there was only one instance of line cutting and that was immediately rectified by a bunch of shouting beer drinkers who policed the line themselves. Someone attempted to bring in chairs and set them up by friends who had arrived 2 hours earlier. After a very heated debate, those two people were sent to the end of the line in their rightful spot as to when they actually entered the tent.
Voodoo brewers were constantly walking around and mingling with the customers. I must have seen the brewers come through 3 – 4 times between 2:00 – 6:00. At 6:00, the initial wave of wrist bands was handed out and we were forced to clear the tent. At this point, we lined up outside the building as if at a typical bottle release. The tent was cleared so Voodoo could provide seating for those interested in partaking in the pig roast that they offered. Yes, you read it. Not only did Voodoo supply a heated tent and port-a-potties, they also had a pig roast and beers on tap outside for anyone interested.
A few more times before the official tickets were handed out, Voodoo brewers passed out wristbands to those at the end of the line. I can’t thank them enough for their attention to detail. This truly stopped anyone from cutting in line. There just wasn’t an opportunity. Tickets were handed out at 10:00 and the brewery doors opened at 11:00. The line moved a bit slowly at this point, as there was only one cashier. However, the cashier tends to be the longest part of any release if there are options available. By 12:00 we were inside the brewery enjoying delicious beer on draft and eating pizza. By 1:15, we had our boxes in hand and were on our way home. The boxes had been pre-created to have the full allotment in them. This saved a lot of time for most people.
For a first ever release, Voodoo certainly set the bar high. Other breweries could definitely take some of Voodoo’s ideas and help make their own releases run more smoothly.
heated tent, port-a-potties (early in the evening), roped off street so drinking was legal, pig roast, brewers interacting with customers, Rite-Aid across the street for later in the morning, well-policed line in the tent and while waiting to get into the brewery, wrist bracelets handed out early and at steady intervals, hot dog vendor, roped off lines, boxes with full allotments were already made up, brewer knocking down icicles so customers wouldn’t get impaled, meeting tons of new drinking friends, the bottle share in line (unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the dead soldier wall), the beer on draft, etc. This list could go on.
port-a-potties (through no fault of Voodoos) became a disaster of bodily fluids and liquids that no one should ever have to encounter, the time it took to purchase beer – I don’t think this had anything to do with credit card usage. We used a credit card and it took us 1 minute to tell the cashier what we wanted, swipe the card, and sign the receipt. I think the time had to do with those who didn’t want the full allotment and from those who were buying other merchandise (i.e. shirts and glasses). My suggestion is twofold. 1. Don’t allow merchandise sales to go through the same cashier as the beer allotments. 2. Have a beer menu that people are handed as they enter the brewery and turn in ahead of time. Then those who aren’t buying the full allotment could be wrung up quickly without considering what to purchase.
Once again, I am extremely impressed with Voodoo. I will definitely go back to another release at this brewery. In addition, we opened 2 bottles yesterday and both were fantastic. Kudos to Voodoo for doing it right all the way around.