A Beer-y Good Story: Competition Partners

 I understand: “Beer-y Good” may not apply to this one, except as a warning flag to keep up with your sponsors. I was glad I did.

Written by Ken Carman


 Be watchful who you dance with…
 Last year I partnered with a local organization for my competition. This is a case of, “Uh, oh.” When I heard everyone I had worked with last year was gone I knew in my other, more professional, life this rarely is a “good” sign. There’s a reason why “a new broom sweeps clean” is usually stupidity to the max. People know how things work, and more important how they didn’t. The best example I can think of; from before I started my life as a full time entertainer, is a car dealer I did transfers for. The company sold twice and the second time they fired everyone and radically changed the business model. The doors shut six months later.
 In this case I should have been not even a gnat in their ointment: no complication at all. To understand why I do this competition the way I do it you need to know it is in an area that has come very late to craft beer world, and hesitantly so. Not abnormal: tiny town in a tourist area that veers towards what works. So as far as sponsors I went solo: I knew it was impossible. Then the third year this organization hopped onboard because they wanted me to add a People’s Choice feature where patrons of their beer festival win a weekend in this woodland paradise. They would pay for it, I was told, only to find out the guy I worked with last year paid for it because no one would donate. (Yup, got that right.) He also told me he wanted a per entry fee as a donation to his organization, and knowing this competition had been free, and was part of the attraction, told him I would pay $7 per entry up to 50 entries. The competition has a 100 limit and we’re still building upon that every year.
 Shoot forward to 2017. I had a meeting with the new folks and discussed how it was done last year, made several suggestions and told them I would live up to what we did last year. Understand: 3 of the winners get medals, the top two get nice wood scrolls and $50 each, number two gets $25. My wife and I pay for all that.
 That’s fine. To paraphrase one of those old wooden postcards from the late 50s/early 60s, “We ain’t rich, but we do what we can.”
 I knew local motels had to be contacted, discussions needed to be had, volunteer servers need assignments. Last year we had 3 beer judges serving and people kept sending patrons over to Brent, moi’ and my wife Millie to answer questions. Seemed like something they’d want.
 What followed was pretty much an absence of responses to my inquiries. Living a thousand miles away there wasn’t much I could do. I did call and was told they were having a problem getting brewers. So I contacted several brewers and passed them on to the organizers. Then there came the time I need to inform pourers and potential judges for my own competition. I needed to know what the arrangements for the motel had been made.
 Silence.
 I kept E-mailing.
 Silence.
 I finally came back to the area and asked if they needed me to contact the various motel owners. That they simply said, “Yes.” So I ran around town, found out of course no one would comp the weekend. One merchant ranted on and on how much they disliked my partner: let’s just say I wasn’t a virgin when it came to complaints like, “Everything is a fund raiser and we’re expected to give everything away.”
 So we, as they say, “Came down to the wire.” I had to know what their decision was after I E-mailed them both the results. Well the response came back that I was, basically, expected to pay for both: $7 per entry and the weekend in the woods. I told them flat out, “I will not pay for the ‘privilege’ of working your festival. If you drop the per entry fee I will pay for the weekend, and I will choose where.” Then I told them my time limits.
 No answer.
 Decision day came and I was furious. I knew this would happen. So I pre-contacted the local brewery and they readily agreed for me to move it over there if the issue wasn’t settled in my favor. I even E-d them that there was no money involved here, they simply didn’t get both the donation and the weekend paid for. Literally a few hours before the deadline, “We’d be happy to drop the per entry fee.”
 I have avoided naming the organization. They are a big dog in town and I have friends on the board, who are supportive… I partially grew up here and I understand how necessary local support is for charitable organizations.
 But they won’t be part of my competition next year unless I’m offered a really sweet deal I can pass on to my brewers.

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A Beer-y Good Story is a column by Ken Carman: BJCP judge, author of several columns an beer and Inspection, on social, political and religious issues first published in 1972. A Beer-y Good Story goes where beer reviews don’t: history and perception of a brand being reviewed, as well as personal anecdotes.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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