#firstworld problems – beer Glastonbury woes

Even as I’m writing this, I am fully aware that there are real problems in the world which should merit writing and discussion. But this blog is all about me and stuff that I’ve done. So that’s what I’m writing about.

The Rainbow Project started in 2013, the idea coming from the then Head Brewer at Siren Craft Brew). In 2013, the Rainbow Project brought together seven breweries from the UK, Siren, Magic Rock, Partizan, Hawkshead, Kernel, Brodies and Buxton. Each brewery was asked to brew an IPA loosely based around a colour which was randomly assigned to them and a small launch party was held in London for people to taste these new, limited edition beers.

In 2014, it was decided to change things up a bit, and turn it into a collaboration brewing project. Beavertown replaced Brodies and Wild Beer Co replaced Kernel. The seven UK breweries were then randomly paired with European breweries and assigned a colour:-

Magic Rock + Evil Twin (Denmark/New York) – Red – Pogonophbia (fear of beards) – dry hopped Flanders red ale
Beavertown + Naparbier (Spain) – Orange – The Sun Also Rises – sherry barrel aged saison
Buxton + Omnipollo (Sweden) – Yellow – Yellow Belly – peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout
Hawkshead + Lervig (Norway) – Green – Green Juniper and Hemp Double IPA
Partizan + Mikeller (Denmark) – Blue – Cognac barrel aged quadrupel
Wild Beer Co + Toccalmatto (Italy) – Indigo – Indigo Child – sour ale
Siren + De Molen (The Netherlands) – Violet – Empress Stout – imperial stout

The beers described above were brewed and launch events happened in several places in the UK as well as the USA and Sweden. Like the previous year, a limited number of cases of all of the beers were also made available to buy.

In 2015, attention turned to the USA, with the process repeated to produce a new set of pairings and colours:-

Magic Rock + Cigar City (Florida) – Red – Cigarro Roja Mágica – red IPA
Buxton + Arizona Wilderness (Arizona) – Orange – Deep Rainbow Valley – gorse infused saison
Partizan + Prairie Artisan Ales (Oklahoma) – Yellow – Real Time Saison – saison
Hawkshead + Crooked Stave (Colorado) – Green – Key Lime Tau (2π) – soured zesty golden ale
Siren Craft Brew + Surly (Minnesota) – Blue – Blue Sky Blue Sea – seaweed and cloudberry gose
Beavertown + Dogfish Head (Delaware) – Indigo – Ajna – oak barrel fermented wild ale 
Wild Beer Co + Firestone Walker (California) – Violet – Violet Underground – wild ale

Launch events were held at seven bars in the UK, and 1,000 mixed cases were made available for sale at events and online. I have since had the Key Lime Tau and it was delicious – zinging with limey goodness!

This leads us to 2016. On Tuesday night, the full line up of beers for 2016 was announced on #CraftBeerHour (the colours and collaborating breweries, all from New Zealand this year, were announced quite a while ago). Burning Sky replaced Buxton this year, but otherwise the UK line up is the same as last year:-

Beavertown + Parrotdog – Red – Dortmunder Adambier – dark beer aged in Marsala barrels
Burning Sky + Liberty Brewing Co – Orange – Descent into the Maelstrom – “borderless” ale aged in white Burgundy barrels with orange zest & pink grapefruit
Magic Rock + Fork Brewing – Yellow – The Upside Down – Yellow ale – soured tropical fruit witbier
Hawkshead + Yeastie Boys – Green (yet again!) – Kai Moana Gose – salty and fruity gooseberry gose
Wild Beer Co + 8 Wired Brewing Co – Blue – Black & Blue – raw, charred, barrel aged sour
Siren Craft Brew + Garage Project – Indigo – Blacklight Banana – imperial stout with coffee and banana
Partizan Brewing – Violet – Royal Ale – barley wine style, inspired by the coronation ales of 1953

You’ll notice that Partizan don’t have a partner. They were assigned Panhead Brewery (I had their Quickchange XPA this year, very nice). Communication issues and the sale of the brewery to Lion Group (owned by Kirin) prevented the proposed collaboration.

September 17th was this year’s big day, with 1,500 mixed cases available from official brewery party launch events, and a limited amount of mixed cases available to purchase online, via HonestBrew.

This is where I come in. With no chance at getting to a launch event, and the good fortune to be free at 12pm on the day when the beers were due to be released online, I decided to stop what I was doing and hop online to grab a case, and then get back on with my life.

An hour and two minutes later, I finally accomplished that task. It took countless refreshes because their web site continually said out of stock. Their Twitter feed was trying to reassure people that there was stock, even though that appeared not to be the case. It would appear that they were drip feeding stock into the system at a rate of about 1 every few minutes, judging by how many orders appeared to be successful from others on Twitter.

I have no idea why they did this, because all it did was frustrate everyone who was trying to buy a product that they were being assured was in stock. “Just keep trying”. Not helpful, and probably the worst online shopping experience I’ve ever had. I’ve never tried to buy Glastonbury tickets online, but those who have seem to suggest it was less difficult than this!

After almost getting up and walking away (I was getting hungry!), I struck lucky and managed to add the product to my virtual basket. Then came more agony, whilst attempting to fill in delivery and payment details. The system kept rejecting them without giving a reason. On about the fifth rejection I did then get an e-mail with an order number. Hurrah. Success. Limited edition beer is on the way. Apparently.

Sadly not. A few days later, I received a voicemail message (from a withheld number). Sorry, it appears we didn’t take a payment for your order, can you ring us back so that we can take your card details. After several games of telephone tennis, they finally relented and sent me a link to do the payment online (which would have been the right thing to do in the first place).

And if that wasn’t insulting enough, this morning they tweeted that their were more cases in stock, because so many people ended up ordering more than one case due to all the problems on that Saturday, with orders not getting through correctly. (Edit – and then a week later more boxes were released that they had held back in case of breakages etc.) Essentially anyone who waited a week or two got themselves an easy ride to get hold of this box of beer, with the poor idiots who made the effort to buy them on the day feeling rather pissed off…

Thirteen days after ordering, I finally got hold of my precious beer box, with Mrs MOFAD retrieving it from the Post Office.

I hope they learn the lessons of this, because whatever they did this year clearly did not work. At all. After challenging #CraftBeerHour people on Tuesday night to “Come at us beer lovers”, they really were eating their words. We came, we saw, we struggled to order. The whole experience doesn’t encourage me to ever want to use Honest Brew again.

Anyway, enough moaning. I have beer. I will drink beer. Watch out for reviews of the beers coming over the next couple of months. And I’m really hoping that they improve the online shopping experience next year.

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