by Kirby Lindsay
Hop Scotch comes early this year – a change the organizers of the Spring Beer & Scotch Tasting Festival expect most fans, and new visitors, to take with equanimity. Over the seven years of the Festival, it has changed name, location and dates enough times that it may well become part of the fun of Hop Scotch.
Hop Scotch, The Festival
Originally called ‘Hops on the Equinox’, the festival took place around March 2st at Seattle Center. Phil Megenhardt, owner of Bold Hat Productions and Event Producer, explained that the first few years they had people show up bundled in coats, hats and gloves. “People thought it was going to be outside,” he said, as most people think ‘outdoors’ when they think ‘beer garden’.
The event moved to Fremont four years ago, but the selected venue (Fremont Studios – 155 North 35th) asked to move the date to May. According to Megenhardt, the date shift grew the audience exponentially. This year’s date change also came at the behest of the venue management, and moved the Festival up a week or two to April 23 & 24. “We call it the Spring Beer Festival,” Megenhardt said, “and this is still spring.”
It has also grown to be so much more than beer. They offer samplings of over 60 handcrafted microbrews, import beers and small lot wines – specifically from new spring collections. In addition, they offer samplers of scotch and tequila, with experts on-hand, including Ari Shapiro, an authentic ‘Master of Whisky’, to discuss tastes and palette, and lead seminars. Ultimately, though, the festival raises funds – this year for the Seattle International Film Festival, coming May 20 – June 13.
Hop Scotch, The Date
In shifting the date, Megenhardt didn’t fear losing attendees – or distributors. “You always have competition in this town,” he said, about choosing a date. Bold Hat also organizes the Fremont Oktoberfest, Kirkland Uncorked and, this year, the Fremont Street Fair.
In years past, Hop Scotch has been on the same weekend as the University District Street Fair, and Megenhardt admitted that they’ve deliberately chosen that. One event they previously avoided, Hops & Props, a members-only gathering at the Museum Of Flight, this year takes place on the same weekend. No one checked, and as a result they’ve created some confusion, lost a couple of distributors (while gaining others), but don’t expect to see fewer attendees. Hops & Props only happens for 3 hours Saturday night – and sold out weeks in advance. Hop Scotch covers two days and has room for everyone, provided they are 21 and over.
In general, “you don’t want to be on the same weekend as Bumbershoot,” Megenhardt admitted. Otherwise, he seemed largely unconcerned about conflicts from other events. “What hurts festivals is if they take a year off,” he explained, such as the one-time possible cancellation of the 4th of July Fireworks display on Lake Union.
Megenhardt does work to find the right date for Fremont Oktoberfest which, unlike Hop Scotch, takes place outdoors and faces a more serious problem. “What’s the weather going to be,” Megenhardt mused. He aims for the 3rd weekend of September, and a ‘Fall feel,’ yet, “we are not a neighborhood festival anymore,” Megenhardt stated proudly, and last time the weather turned foul, “an audience came, in spite of the rain.”
Eventually, a festival “hits a critical mass,” Megenhardt described, “people care about the festival,” and make plans to attend whenever it takes place. He expects to see that with Hop Scotch, as it provides, “something new, something different,” and should be deemed worthy of rearranging a few plans
General admission to Hop Scotch is $25 ($20 in advance) and includes tokens to sample beer and wine. Spirit samplers (scotch and tequila) cost $10 for a self-guided flight of 5-quarter ounce tastes or $30 for 8-quarter ounce tastes of single malts, blends and vatted whiskies. For more information, visit the website or call 206/633-0422. This is a 21 + event.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.