48 hour party people: behind the scenes at Timișoara Craft Beer Festival 2019

For the second edition of the TMCBF, we decided that attending as mere beer drinkers is not enough, so we spoke to Adi from Bereta about documenting the making of the festival. The result is a timeline of the 48 hours leading up to the event, with all manner of insights, logistical details, as well as the organizers’ feedback on the previous event and expectations for future editions. 

But first…

There’s several reasons why we decided to document this particular craft beer event taking place this summer. For starters, Adi is the most transparent brewer/event organizer we’ve come across, and he’s always eager to play along with whatever harebrained schemes we come up with. Second, this is the only event in the country when the organizer is also a brewer (and one very familiar with events both in the country and abroad). And last, it’s interesting to note that the event has no sponsors. The organizers funded the event from their own pockets and, even more surprisingly, they still have some overhead left over from last year’s edition.

A brief breakdown of the event:

Date: June 14 – June 16 2019
Place: Parcul Rozelor – free entrance
Organizers: Adi Biebel from Bereta & Nelutzu Muller from Bibliotheka 
Participating breweries: 10 attending for the first time (BerărescuHophead, Kutuma, Perfektum, Capra Noastră, Bere cu MiereBlackout Brewing, Double Drop CrewOneTwo Brew, and the newly launched Owl Brewery), and 13 familiar faces from last year (Clinica de Bere, Zăganu, Sikaru, Nemțeana, One Beer Later, Bereta, Hop Hooligans, Carol, Klausen Burger, Bere a la Cluj, Urban Brewery, as well as Harvester and Clarks Cider).

So let’s start the clock and get cracking:

Wednesday, June 12th

21:30 – After a needlessly long trip (the road from Cluj to Timișoara is filled with such a clusterfuck of confusing road signs, it’s a wonder we didn’t end up in Narnia), we are here

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We inform Adi that we’ll be following him around for the next 48 hours. We give him a chance to pull out now, or for ever hold his peace. He valiantly accepts the challenge.

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If that’s not the face of a man ready for anything, we don’t know what is

We have a few brews and discuss some of the event logistics. He expects everyone to be set up by 12:00 on Friday, and then have the whole thing kick off by 16:00. Deep down, we all know that’s not gonna happen. We ask him if there’s any special beer he’s brewed for this event; sadly, they didn’t have the time.

This year’s festival is still in the same location as the first edition (Roses Park), but there’s some changes following things learned from past events. Rather than following the trend of creating a huge lineup of breweries that other craft beer festivals in the country take so much pride in, Adi has a more sensible approach. This year, he capped the lineup at 20 breweries (gypsy breweries and Harvester Cider wanting in at the last minute pumped it up to 23). Looking over the figures, he did a top 10 of the best selling vendors from last year (breweries that sold over 10,000 lei/ €2,100 – in 2018, top 4 were Bereta, Hop Hooligans, Carol & Klausen Burger), and after inviting those, he then looked to the local brewers. Most of them are participating this year, with the exception of Brauhaus Sincu, who did not have enough beer available. The participation fee was €250 + 20% sales commission – fairly standard for the industry.

We ask Adi what his expenses are looking like. Unlike other event organizers, he decided to save his budget and not spend it all on getting big bands to play on stage – after all, it’s not a music festival. The stage, however, still remains the main expense (there is a stage on site, however, after it was damaged by a storm several years back, it’s not safe to use, so they got a temporary one in). We’re curious about the cost of rending out a public space for the venue, but the cost seems pretty alright: 1,500 lei/ €315 per day. 

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There’s also some points to discuss about the whole mise en place. Looking over the figures from last year’s sales, Adi saw that the breweries posted right next to the stage also had the lowest sales. It’s not exactly clear why that is – perhaps it was the noise? Either way, this year he’s pushed back the beer stands, and used the space for coffee and bar stands instead. To increase exposure, newer breweries (such as Bere cu Miere, Double Drop CrewBlackout Brewing, and the debuting Owl Brewery) as well as cider vendors, were placed closer to the access points.

For last year’s event, the city hall estimated that 9,000 people will be attending the festival (the total number was closer to 10,000, with about half the attendance on Saturday). This year, they’ve cranked the figures up to 13,000.

00:00 – We decide that calling it a night is a wise move, so we go our merry ways.

Thursday, June 13th

9:00 – We arrive on site bright and early, just in time to see Berărescu try to set up their food stand. Shenanigans ensue already, as it turns out the stand will be 9 meters instead of 4. Adi negotiates it down to 6 and all seems good in the world (or so it looks; 13 hours later, that stand will not have made much progress).

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One of the first things we notice is the fact that the park has overgrown since we last saw it, as the venue is not properly maintained by the local council. Given the fact that we have mild PTSD after dealing with the Cluj authorities and their dubious requirements for events, we offer to pull out the dandelions and brambles growing everywhere. We suggest bringing in some goats to help with the process. Adi tells us to chill.

9:10 – We’re doing a brief headcount of the food vendors that will be attending the event. There were supposed to be 17 originally, but only 15 will be present. Adi explains that the Street Food Festival included a rather cheeky clause in their contract, restricting food vendors from attending similar events in the city that are less than 45 days in between. It’s a bit of a dick move, as it basically restricts the vendors to 2 main venues in the city for the entire summer. We’ve noticed this trend with Cluj festivals as well, and we find it rather concerning.

9:25 – Nelutzu from Bibliotheka is on site to discuss logistics. Numerous phone calls ensue.

9:44 – Given the fact that the Hop Holigans Tap Takeover is taking place tonight, we head out to the village of Giarmata to pick up some kegs that have been left at the Bereta brewery.

10:12 – At the brewery. We spend a lot of time ogling the place, and we’re in love – after the Oriel brewery, this is definitely one of the tidiest and most organized we’ve ever visited. Adi does his usual brewer business: testing the beers, purging some yeast, taking gravity readings. We have a sneak peak of 3 Down. After ‘One Down’ and ‘Another One Down’, we were really expecting it to be called ‘Another one bites the dust’. Adi confesses he’s not really into Queen. We are silently mortified.

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With copious amounts of Galaxy, Simcoe and El Dorado, this little hop bomb of an IPA is due to come out soon, marking Bereta‘s 3 year anniversary

10:43 – Heading back to Timișoara.

11:02 – In between waiting at stop lights and taking care of social media obligations, we do a bit of brainstorming for the beer Silviu will be brewing later today. This one’s going to be a sour, so Adi’s asking for some ideas for fruit to go with it. Being a bunch of hipsters, we suggest gooseberries for added tartness and mulberries for colour. Neither of them make the list. We silently weep.

11:23 – Kegs in at the Tap Rom. Adi chucks them in the fridge, hooks them up, and gives them a taste.

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12:02 – CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL but some fuckin bureaucracy first. We head out to the city hall to check if the paperwork needed for opening the tap room terrace tonight is ready to be picked up. The person who handles it isn’t in. Adi is told to be back in 1 hour.

12:11 – Back on the event site. Fridges, bins and food vendors start arriving as well. Outside temperature is 29°C, but it feels like 35°C. Soaked in sweat and sunscreen, we start unloading the fridges from the vans.

12:47 – Artur from Carol is the first to arrive on site. We chat a bit about this summer’s events, from the success of the Iași festival, to concerns about the Cluj festival. We’ve been hearing all sorts of negative feedback about Beer Crafters so we’re trying to get a feel for how things actually went. We’ll touch on that in a later post.

12:50 – Volunteers arrive on site, and just in time too, because these bad boys need shifting.

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13:15Kutuma is in the house, so we head over to help set up. Adi heads back to the city hall to check on the papers. Turns out that the person in charge of them was swallowed by the void, so no terrace for us tonight.

14:05 – Adi informs us that there will be a significant amount of loitering coming up while we wait for everyone to arrive, so we head out to Bibliotheka to grab some lunch with the volunteers.

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We’re going for a liquid lunch, because it’s important to stay hydrated

16:05 – Adi summons us on his mobile device. We have to go pick up the tents, so we need to get our move on. One of the volunteers stops to inquire about the health of some local cat before Adi whisks them away in a van.

16:30 – Things are picking up fast: Hophead pallet is in, Zăganu tent is up, the Terapia mobile is parked nearby and Perfektum are setting up. Our phones say temperature outside is 32°C, but it feels like DYING. The event site is a sea of sweaty, shirtless men of varying girth. Anyone who’s not shirtless is either very stoic or in denial.

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Complementary photo of shirtless brewer – if you know who it is, you’ve probably been hanging around shirtless brewers too long

One thing we really love about setting up events is witnessing the camaraderie between brewers. Whether it’s problems with the chillers and beer fobbing, missing connectors or gaskets, or you just need a bit of duct tape, all you have to do is ask around and you’re bound to get a hand. We’ve attended events with beer technicians on site, but really, the guys are always eager to help each other out.

17:09 – Adi arrives on site with the volunteers and a bunch of tents donated by the city hall, which they picked up from the arse end of nowhere. Most breweries brought their own, but there are still a fair few who were provided with tents by the organizers.

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The 20 or so volunteers who helped set up the event are absolute troopers, and deserve infinite shout-outs. Most of them helped out last year as well, so they know their way around, and they definitely were a key part in making sure the event runs smoothly

17:45 – Tents are up, so we’re heading out with Adi to pick up some lights. We ask him how he’s holding up so far, with the constant running around, making calls, sorting out labels for new beers and working on several side events (including tonight’s tap takeover and one on Saturday with Brokreacja), and his answer is something along the lines of:

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We’re guessing he’s probably several shades of knackered, but he’s putting up a brave face, so we give him an imaginary pat on the back. On a lighter note, he tells us that the person in charge of approving authorizations for events at the city hall has heard about Street Food Festival bullying local vendors about which venues they can and cannot attend, and made them call the vendors and say ‘Sorry’. We take great joy in the fact that justice was served.

18:40 – Back on site and catching up with latest developments. Ground Zero, Carol and the Berărescu beer stands are setting up.

19:00 – A caravan of food trucks arrives on site – just in time too, as the power is also being set up.

20:00 – Many breweries are still missing, and it looks like they’ll be arriving tomorrow. So far, Clinica de Bere, Kutuma, Perfektum, Ground Zero, Zăganu, Berărescu, One Beer Later and Carol are set up and ready to pour some beer.

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20:20 – Sound system on site.

20:50 – More fridges arrive – you can never have enough of the fuckers.

21:33 – There’s a very good chance that we have a bit of heatstroke going on, so we admit defeat and tell Adi we’re heading over to the Taproom for sustenance. By this point, there’s nothing we crave more than a couple of refreshing sours.

21:58 – Adi admits defeat as well and joins us for drinks.

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We’re all a bit tired but still in good spirits. The Taproom has an outstanding selection of beers, but after a day in the sun, we’re gravitating towards the Mikkeller Stedsegrøn and its 3.5% ABV

23:00 – We’ve had a bit too much excitement for today so we decide to call it a day. Adi calls us weak and Laurențiu from Zăganu pulls out the old emotional blackmail card by saying that it’s his birthday in an hour. We do not relent. Our sources later inform us that Adi also called it quits about an hour later – we hope he went home to beddy-byes because he sure as heck needed it. The rest of the merry men soldiered on and were up drinking till 3 in the morning.

Friday, June 14th

8:30 – We wake up bright and early and head back to work. The main tent is up, and the venue is slowly seeing more arrivals: Hop Hooligans, Capra Noastră, Nemțeana, Double Drop Crew and Klausen Burger.

10:00 – Adi is on site and starts setting up the Bereta stand.

11:15 – Fire inspection – beer is not good for putting out electrical fires, so local inspectors check that everyone has a fire extinguisher behind their stand.

12:35 – Volunteers going around asking who needs Autan (insect repellent). It’s over 30°C outside already, so we decline – chances are we’ll sweat it off within a couple of minutes anyway.

15:30 – Fire orientation 101. Everyone is reminded that fire extinguishers work much the same as penile implements: aim low, sweep from side to side, and don’t go against the wind. 

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With 4PM being the official starting time, the crowds are starting to gather

16:05 – Silviu from Bereta pours a pint of beer. It’s showtime!

16:07 – There’s a mild drizzle going on, which slowly becomes a sunshower. People are frolicking in the rain.

16:15 – Mild drizzle is officially a full on storm. We’re battered by wind and rain from all sides, like sailors aboard a ship out at sea. People are huddling under the main tent, but it soon collapses. We’re holding on to the Kutuma tent – literally holding on to the fucker, otherwise the winds will take it away. We are soaked to the bone, but hey, free shower.

16:45 – Monsoon officially over – get back to drinking, everyone!

17:00 – Volunteers manage to put the main tent back up faster than the Amish building a barn.

17:30 – After the stage was flooded, the sound system is now up and running, and is merrily blaring Annihilator from the speakers.

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All hands on deck: as the evening sets in, the flow of people is also picking up

20:00 – In spite of the really hot day and the vicious storm we had earlier, it’s starting to get busy. We have a good crowd coming in, so we settle down with a beer and a smoke to take in the venue. It’s interesting to see the different approaches breweries have for getting people’s attention. More traditional breweries aren’t shying away from calling folk over with a ‘Don’t walk around empty handed, son, come here, let me hook you up with a beer’ – it gets a chuckle out of people, and it works. Others are using hostesses to hand out flyers and woo people over to their stand. A couple (such as Clinica de Bere & One Beer Later) brought bar tables and stools, to encourage people to loiter around their stands – always a great idea, if you ask us. Modern breweries prefer to let their branding do the talking, and it’s interesting to see stands that don’t even have the words ‘bere’ or ‘artizanal’ or even ‘craft’ still get a lot of interest, even from those who are clearly new to the industry.

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Hophead make their festival debut in Timișoara with an outstanding 9 taps

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Just gonna Untapp the fuck out of that real quick

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21:25 – Our 48 hour ‘documentary’ is coming to an end, so after following Adi around, we decide to have a quick word with Nelutzu as well, to get his side of the story as an organizer. So far he’s pleased. He takes great pride particularly in the fact that he sees all sorts of event goers, from couples to families, from foreign students to local pensioners, from beer geeks to people who have never had an IPA in their life.

Given the fact that the market for craft beer in Romania is still very small (not even at 1% of total beer sales yet), he points out the importance of making such festivals as beginner friendly as possible. True, you could have an event that’s mostly targeting beer geeks. But when most people still walk up to the stands asking for ‘a normal beer’ (usually meaning a lager or a wheat) or mistaking hop aroma for fruit additions or even artificial flavoring, it’s crucial to grasp who your target audience is. Both him and Adi understand that the festival they’re organizing is mainly geared towards getting new people in – how else will you grow the consumer base?

Yet this festival is more than just craft beer, it’s a cultural celebration of the city: we have a theatre play by Auăleu, a lounge area with a vinyl fair set up by Viniloteca, a pop-up bookstore by Books&More, and even a beer and whisky pairing class.

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Septimiu Loghin, brand ambassador for The Lost Distillery, explaining the intricacies of pairing whisky and craft beer

Nelutzu also highlights the importance of placing the event on the city’s cultural map. There are currently 7 breweries in and around Timișoara (counting both brewpubs and gypsy brewers), and for a city that has a population of just over 300,000 people, that’s a significant amount. With Timișoara being designated as Romania’s European Capital of Culture for 2021, we’re hoping that the festival’s 4th edition will be marked as one of the city’s highlights.

Ultimately, it’s about sending the message that craft beer is an integral part of the local community, and that it’s more approachable than it seems. True, the array of styles and flavours may look overwhelming at first, and yes, it is more expensive. But at the end of the day, beer has been a social lubricant since the dawn of mankind, and nothing adds a human touch to our daily interactions quite like craft beer does.

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Epilogue

LATER EDIT

A total of 23 breweries attended the festival, with one (Owl Brewery) making its official launch at the venue. Total number of different beer types was around 100-ish (with all the excitement, we didn’t get to do a proper headcount). About 130 30 liter kegs were sold over the course of 3 days, with the best selling breweries being: Bereta, Klausen Burger, Hop Hooligans and Zăganu. Total cost of this year’s event was €16,400.

Did we had a gay olde time? Most def. Will we be back next year? You bet your arse we will. See you there!

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2 thoughts on “48 hour party people: behind the scenes at Timișoara Craft Beer Festival 2019

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