Untappd Virtual Festival, European edition

Events
Published: December 30, 2020
A huge amount of beer festivals around the world, like so many other events, got canceled in 2020 for obvious reasons. That was unpleasant of course, but if work meetings and concerts can be changed to online events, why not festivals then? Untappd, one of the leading beer portals, organized virtual beer festivals both in the US and in Europe in autumn 2020. We checked in to the European version of Untappd Virtual Festival, that Untappd organized together with Beer Merchants online beer retailer in late November 2020. In this post a short report of the event.

As beer festivals are mostly about tasting beers and finding new favorite breweries and brews, also virtual beer festivals need to be built around beer tastings. In Untappd Virtual Festival the participants bought a special package of craft beers from Beer Merchants online store as part of the admission, and the beers were delivered home before the festival weekend. Those selected beers were then tasted online in the Live Stage of the festival platform. Tasting sessions were lead by Greg Avola, the founder of Untappd, and in each tasting there were brewery representatives present, introducing the background of the beer. To make the event more social, there was also a chat for the participants, for commenting the beers, asking questions and sharing their thoughts in general.

Untappd Virtual Festival European Edition, virtual beer festival | Craft Beer Nomads
The "lobby" of the beer festival, with two main stages and 10 brewery stalls

In addition to the Live Stage, where the actual beer tasting happened, there was some additional program in the festival too. In between the tastings, there was an “on the ground” studio, with Britt from Untappd providing information about the ongoing festival and showing pics sent by the participants, about tasting beers, festival food, co-participating pets and so on. In Beer Merchants Stage, there was music performances and interviews. In addition, each participating brewery had made a video about the brewery, and there was also some video content about tasting beer and pairing beer and food. All the content was available for the participants for 30 days after the festival.

Untappd Virtual Festival European Edition, virtual beer festival | Craft Beer Nomads
Music performance in Beer Merchants Stage

Beer tastings in Untappd virtual beer festival

On the first day of the virtual beer festival, on Saturday 28th November, there were around 500 participants online in the festival, and the participation in the chat discussions was surprisingly active. The tasting session of Saturday was named as Hop Huggers, and it was all about IPAs. The first beer in the tastings was Big Mouth Session IPA, from Lervig, a Norwegian microbrewery. The live feed took the participants to Norway, to Lervig’s nicely set festival booth. Greg Avola interviewed the Lervig crew, who introduced the beer and the brewery, and answered questions sent by the participants.

The other craft beers of the first festival day were introduced in a similar way, and it was great to hear the stories behind each beer and get to take a peak inside the breweries. The second beer in beer tastings was Buy It, Use It, Break It, Fix It! NEIPA by Neon Raptor Brewing Co. from the UK. The brewers of Neon Raptor talked about the beer and the brewery, and revealed that they don’t really make test brews much, but rather develop the beers as they go.

Untappd Virtual Festival European Edition, virtual beer festival | Craft Beer Nomads
Live Stage, tasting session of Buy It, Use It, Break It, Fix It! NEIPA by Neon Raptor Brewing Co.

The third beer was highly rated Double Dry Hopped Green City American IPA by Other Half Brewing from Brooklyn, New York. Anthony from Other Half told that he had worked in the bar industry before, started to help the founders of the new brewery, and ended up being their first employee. Since then, Other Half Brewing has grown a lot and brewed over 1 000 different beers.

The next beer session was about tasting Softly Spoken Magic Spells Double New England IPA by SingleCut Beersmiths from Astoria, NY. The crew of this brewery is enthusiastic about (rock) music, and that can be seen both in their Astoria taproom and in the naming of the beers. Dan from SingleCut told that when creating a new beer, the name, statement label, logo and music come first, and then the beer is created walking backwards, deciding the flavor profile based on what the name and the graphics indicate, and from there all the way backwards to water chemistry.

The last brew of Saturday was ODSCENE Triple NEIPA by Garage Beer Co from Barcelona, Spain. Crew representatives participated from right next to the beer fermentation tanks of the brewery. They introduced the brewery and the beer, and talked about barrel aging beers and selecting right barrels for each brew. Spain is known as one of the leading wine countries, but nowadays also craft beer culture is growing. In Barcelona and overall in Spain more and more beer bars opening and more microbreweries are being established.

The participants of the festival seemed to enjoy all of these IPAs, and the beers mostly got very good ratings in Untappd. After the hoppy Saturday, the tasting session of the second day of the virtual beer festival, called Sunday Funday, was more varied, beers ranging from Amber Lager to Double Baltic Porter via Fruited Gose and Belgian Tripel. Participants could order either just one beer package, or “Bottoms Up” package that included all 10 beers that were introduced during the weekend.

How was it then, participating in a virtual beer festival, and is this the future of festivals? Well, we think that the technical implementation of Untappd Virtual Festival was successful, and both live and pre-recorded content was interesting. However, if we got to choose, we’d definitely head to an actual beer festival instead, as you can’t quite build similar beer fest atmosphere on your home couch. But in 2020, we couldn’t really choose (and same seems to continue in 2021), and Untappd Virtual Beer Festival managed to bring breweries and beer enthusiasts close to each other. Well done, cheers!

Would you consider participating in an online beer festival?

Related post: Latvia Beer Fest

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