Egalitarianism and the art of taking a leak.

(Adapted from a blog post)

July 20 was the occasion of the 18th Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival in Indianapolis. It’s a Brewers of Indiana Guild production, and the guild’s biggest annual showcase both of its wares, and of its ethos.

Overall, apart from some light rain at the beginning, the fest probably was plenty good enough for rock and roll and food and beer on a Saturday afternoon.

Speaking personally and as a director on the guild’s board, I’m always grateful that so many folks enthusiastically tolerate the discomfort, crowds and expense to come celebrate better beer with us. Without these fans, it is obvious that there could be no “us” in any meaningful conceptual (or commercial) sense. At least the weather this year was cooler than usual for July, and the sun mostly muted.

Recuperating at home on Sunday morning, I began catching up on missed reading, having just returned from England on a transatlantic flight that seemed even more uncomfortable than those endured on previous trips. One article made an impression on me.

Class Struggle in the Sky, by James Atlas (New York Times)

During an intercontinental flight, I notice that “on the other side of the curtain” — as the first-class and business cabins are referred to — dinners are being served on white linen tablecloths, with actual bone china. Everyone’s got their “amenities kit” — one of those little nylon bags containing slippers, an eyeshade and a toothbrush. And legroom? Tons. While our seat width contracts — on some airlines by nearly eight inches in recent years — the space up front continues to expand …

… This stark class division should come as no surprise: what’s happening in the clouds mirrors what’s happening on the ground. Statusization — to coin a useful term — is ubiquitous, no matter what your altitude. While you’re in your hospital bed spooning up red Jell-O, a patient in a private suite is enjoying strawberries and cream. On your way to a Chase A.T.M., you notice a silver plaque declaring the existence within of Private Client Services. This man has a box seat at a Yankees game; that man has a skybox …

Small wonder the article grabbed my attention, seeing as it reinforced a point and gave a name (“statusization”) to something I’d already mentioned right here at on June 15: A VIP and an IBU walk into a beer fest.

… I’ll cite as a convenient example ticket packages available for the Brewers of Indiana Guild festival in Indianapolis on July 20, while hastening to add that this doesn’t constitute my singling out the Guild for scrutiny; after all, it’s my own trade group. In fact, I imagine BIG is coming to such strategies of ticket pricing rather late in the game.

VIP Experience: $100 (very limited, online only)
Includes early admission (2:00) and access to exclusive VIP
Experience Tent (special tappings and food pairings), tasting glass and unlimited beer samples

Early Bird: $55 (limited, online only)
Includes early admission (2:00), tasting glass and unlimited beer samples

General Admission: $40 (advance purchase)
Includes tasting glass and unlimited beer samples

It so happened that on the actual day of the festival, I stuck religiously to the Indiana brewer side of the Opti Park grounds and didn’t once venture into the “guest outside brewer” compound, the latter financed primarily by World Class Beer, and accordingly one devoted to featuring non-Indiana beers (a topic previously covered here: Indiana Statecraft, parts one and two).

Consequently, all I know about the VIP Experience Tent is what is noted in the above passage, and that it was erected adjacent to WCB’s Hopapalooza tent. I can’t tell you whether VIPs had their own port-a-lets (luxury grade or otherwise), although I was told there were plenty of portable toilets lined up on the “guest beer” side of the park, presumably owing to there being more physical space for placing them.

But I do know this: NABC was positioned at the very end of the long, narrow and quite crowded salient misspelled as “Allee,” located between the museum and the river, and directly to our right were five (5) port-a-lets. The line to use them was 50 (75? 100?) deep for most of the afternoon, until the very end of the festival.

In my June column, I wrote these words:

Back out on the pitch, those $40 beer festival ducats still comprise the bread and butter on the fest’s bottom line, and we need to see to it that these attendees are not subjected only to the mud and the blood and the (leftover) beer, while the VIPs strut the corduroyed catwalk, pinkies extended, constantly checking their iPhones to make sure the beer they’re drinking is the truly rare Rye Barrel release, and not that commoner’s Boubon Barrel version that just ANYONE can buy – and subsequently hoard.

Egalitarianism should be a craft/real/better beer ideal, but if egalitarianism even remotely was my own guild’s aim on July 20, then a toilet line like the one I witnessed obviously signifies a rather glaring failure. Granted, attendees who largely kept to the Indiana brewery area might not have been aware of port-a-lets on the “guest” end, and yet there was ample room for more at the “Allee.”

By the end of the afternoon, the ATC-mandated orange fencing defining our enclosure was being trampled in all directions by men and women looking for secluded tree trunks and underbrush. Subsequently, it was revealed that damage had been done to the museum grounds. It was disappointing, to say the least.

Note that as a director serving on the guild’s board, I’m not passing the buck with this column. It is entirely “our” and “we,” not “someone else,” and all of us on the board should be honest and introspective when it comes to planning improvements for a better performance next time out. Everyone involved, including organizers and volunteers, worked hard, and while I’m hardly implying they didn’t, the results weren’t uniformly dulcet.

I’m saying only this: If I’m ever asked to weigh in on the topic at a guild meeting, I’ll be voting firmly against a renewal of the VIP Experience. For it to exist alongside hundred-yard lines to use the port-a-let just strikes me as unconscionable.

I got into the beer business to bring better beer to the people.

I didn’t get into the beer business to foster statusization.