An interview with Patrick Donagher, founder of Get Real and co-owner of craft beer bar Rattle n Hum…
Describe “Get Real” for me?
Which one? The one we just had? Okay… The Get Real Belgian Beer Festival specialized in the best Belgian beers we could get our hands on here in New York. It was the first of its kind. The pop-up bar worked very well on the second day. We had a lot of problems on Friday because it was a very, very late beer delivery, and then in the pop-up bar needed to be fixed. Once we got that done it all worked very well the second day.
How did you get into the “Get Real” concept?
We were sitting around my apartment one night talking about doing a cask beer event to coincide with Craft Beer Week here in New York City. And I was recalling that the last time there were way too many people there. So it made sense to look for a bigger venue and do a specific Cask Ale event. We first wanted to call it Real Ale Fest but then we settled on Get Real. I jumped on that and started contacting all the breweries and soon we had the first festival. We ended up getting over 100 casks… that was a pretty good lineup.
How did the idea come about to do the Get Real Belgian Beer Festival?
Well, I’ve done two cask beer festivals previously. Also, it was Belgian week in New York, and there were a lot of Belgian beers coming into New York. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to do a festival that specialized in Belgian beers instead of mixing them up with American craft brewers. We figured we would do the Belgian beer first and the next festival would concentrate on American craft beers in September. That will be more of an All-American craft beer festival with eighty draft lines and thirty casks.
How many of these “Get Real” events have you done?
That was our third. We did the first two with all firkins and cask conditioned ales. This is the first time we’ve done it with draft beer. The first difficulty we had with these draft beers was with our friends the Belgians and their high carbonation beers.
They operate on two atmospheres rather than one atmosphere (the pressure of carbonation in the Belgian kegs, especially the wheat beers are almost twice the pressure of other beers)?
What was the biggest challenge putting together the Belgian event?
The beers that day… The beers came in late, so we only had thirty minutes to get them on line. They were meant to be there at nine o’clock that morning and they didn’t show up until two thirty … and the festival started at three o’clock. That was our biggest challenge of the day. There was nothing we could do about that.
Selling tickets it was hard too. It is summertime and a lot of people don’t stay around the city too much. Those are the two of the hardest things up against us.
The one in September will be more along the lines of what you did last summer?
No… It will be mostly draft beer, although we will have the thirty casks along the wall. We’ll have the walk-in-box [pop-up bar] in the middle. I’ve made some modifications to it and built a chilling system into it. We’ve been playing around with it ever since we took it down. Just to make sure it works perfectly the next time.
Describe the pop-up bar and how that works…
It’s just what we build in bars it’s a cold walk-in cooler to which is 4 inches thick and is 10’ x 10’ x 10’ and we just drilled 80 holes in it put in shanks and taps, and put in our cask lines. We can assemble it all in one day. I’ve never seen it done before.
You said in September you going to be doing another event?
Yes. On September 23 and 24th … We are actually going to do a lot more food this time. This time were going to call it an All American Craft Beer & Food Festival. So going to try and get about thirty food vendors from all around New York and Brooklyn. We will specialize in small breweries and small food vendors to support them. We also have food trucks outside that will prepare food to be brought inside for their tables. We’ll have about eighty draft beers… There will be a lot more seminars downstairs such as Beer 101… We will also give people basics on homebrewing… and do more beer and food pairings.
What type of person shows up for these events?
All kinds, every walk of life… We get a lot of beer enthusiasts; we get first time drinkers, and see a lot of home-brewers. And then there are a lot of people who never ever had cask beer before. They might think that it’s warm beer and non-carbonated they know it’s not a usual beer festival where there’s a lot of ice cold beer. I think a lot of people were very surprised in a very good way and we were able to get the true flavors of the beer. I think that about 90% of the people who attended the first two festivals had never tasted real cask beer before… So I think we introduced a lot of people to craft beer.
How do you reach out to people who have no idea what craft beer is?
We use websites, beer websites; twitter… We try to attract as many people as we can to our websites where they can buy the tickets. We went through Group-on the last time and that’s a great way to reach people who are not already in a circle of beer drinkers. That was a good way to bring in a lot of new people.
What would you say would be the typical age of someone attending these events older or younger?
I thought it was very well mixed. There also seemed to be a lot of girls there.
That was my next question… What was the ratio between male and female?
I would say that it was about 50-50. At one stage when I had a chance to come out of my cooler I noticed as I looked down the line there was guy, girl, guy, girl, guy, girl and I would say the ages were from about 28 to about 60.
Looking forward to next year… Are you planning to have the same number of festivals?
I think we are going to keep it at three a year… one in the winter, one in the spring and one in the fall. In the spring and summer I don’t think we’ll do cask it’s just too hot. I think we’ll definitely do winter fests I like my winter beers I think Brewers get very creative when it comes to winter beers. That, and obviously a New York craft beer week festival.