Wings and Beer: What Better Life is This?

Wings and Beer. Is there any better combination? (Ok, yeah…pizza and beer.)

This past Saturday, Knoxville hosted both the Big Kahuna Wing Festival and Knoxville Brewfest. On the same day. Guess who attended both?

Before we get to that, though, the weekend started off with a wonderfully rainy boat day on Friday. I’ll be honest…for a while I just wanted to go home. Then Jimmie gave me a trash bag…and this happened.

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What can I say, we were cold. And it was raining.

That night, we spent 5 hours at a brewery restaurant. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Did it go on too long? Yes.

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Moving on.

We found out about the Wing Festival the day before, and the boys declared that of course we were going. Because wings and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly. Except the festival people must not have known that, because they were about 3 miles from each other.

Wing Fest shared a location with the Pride Fest, which I have to say, looked like a whole lot of fun, and I’m seriously going to check it out for next year.

Anyway. Saturday morning we met with the other couple going to Mexico with us to talk about the upcoming BIRTHDAY BEACH BASH TRIP. Wing Fest was from 12-8, and Brewfest 4-8. We planned to get up to Wing Fest first, then head over to Brewfest. We had a good time, though weather and horrible organizing tried to ruin it.

Here’s how it all went down.

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We arrived around 1:30. We didn’t have tickets, so we had to wait in line to purchase them. Shouldn’t have been a big deal, right? WRONG. I think this is the first year they’ve done this festival, and man, could you tell. There was a tent for tickets, and a very very very slow-moving line. Which was really more of a clump with line-legs. No joke, it took us 45 minutes to get up to the front of the line, and not because there were a lot of people in front of us. If I’d had to guess, I’d say there were maybe 30 people in line before us? Maybe? The worst part was that nobody had any idea what was going on, so we were all just clustered trying to get into the tent.

When we did finally get up to the table, we found out that you paid $10 for a ticket, but then it was an extra $1 for a wristband that allowed you to exit to use the bathrooms. That lovely fact wasn’t listed anywhere on the website, and honestly, was a bit of a scam if you want my honest opinion. You also had to purchase drink tickets – for beer, soda, and WATER – at the ticket line. They said you could come back to the tables once you got in the festival, and buy drink tickets then….ok…? So once you had your drink ticket, you had to then go to a beverage tent and stand in another line. Ok? Since we were going to Brewfest later, we just bought water tickets.

The $10 got you a sample from each of the wing competitors – there were 29 in total. They gave us a brochure that the wingers were supposed to hole-punch. That would have worked well enough, had it not been raining. As it turned out, our brochures fell apart, and a lot of the booths were having trouble punching them. Some just gave up and let people have as many wings as they wanted.

Speaking of rain…we got in finally, got in line for a wing stand, and then were promptly informed that the festival was closing because of the lightning storm overhead. Sigh. We hadn’t gotten a single wing, and by this time it was after 2:30. We’d planned to leave for Brewfest at 3:30. So I thought, well maybe they’ll give us our money back since we just got here and now they’re closing, and we aren’t going to stay.

No.

They wouldn’t. And that wasn’t so much of an issue, except that the way we were spoken to was pretty rude.

So we did stay, but we rebelled and instead of going inside, we stayed in line as long as we could. I have to give props to Buckethead Tavern….the organizers were yelling and being mean and trying to get everyone to shut down, and Buckethead kept giving out wings. And their wing was hands down the best one I had all day (and not just because they stayed open, though that helped.)

When they finally convinced Buckethead to shut down, and shuttled us all away from the wings, we decided to wait right outside the gate with some other people. Kristin and I took pictures while the boys looked menacing.

We took another one, but even with the umbrella in my face this is still my fave

We took another one, but even with the umbrella in my face this is still my fave

Before I go any farther, yes, I understand that they were just trying to keep us safe. I really, truly do, and I appreciate that. I don’t think it was handled well, and I think everyone needed an attitude adjustment. There were a lot of power-trips going on, and I just don’t have the patience for that. Ditch the ego and be a human, humans.

Eventually they let us go back in, and we FINALLY got some wings. And another photo – which is hilarious because the girls in line behind us photobombed us, but they didn’t like the first one so we had to retake it.

Have I mentioned I love people?

Have I mentioned I love people?

Otherwise, it rained almost the entire time we were there, which wasn’t horrible, but made it a little difficult. Thankfully Kristin had brought an umbrella, since we all left our raincoats in the car. Jimmie fashioned a poncho out of a trash bag, and pretty soon, we saw a few other people doing the same thing. He’s a trendsetter, the Original Garbage-Bag Man.

0621141507aSo, ok. I’m not really a wing person. I mean, I like them fine, but I don’t seek them out. That said, I was surprised by the number of BAD wings I tried. Of the 13 or 14 I made it to, only 3 of them actually tasted good enough to finish. Most were undercooked, a few just had weird flavors, and there was one that I couldn’t even bring myself to try. I think they were trying to cook them too quickly, and it really took away from the experience.

One other suggestion I’d have had for them….so at beer festivals you get a plastic cup that you have to keep track of. Not a big deal. The breweries pour beer in your cup, you drink it, there are buckets where you can trash beer you don’t want, and water stations to rinse it out. Here, each wing stand gave you a plate or cup or napkin or piece of aluminum foil. Some places had thought it out, and some hadn’t. It’d be nice if there was something like a plate that you had to hold on to. A lot less waste, too.

Despite the rain and the horrible lack of organization, we had a decent time. Would I go back?

Nope. But mostly because I’m just not a wing person.

And then it was time for Brewfest.

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Kristin had to leave after Wing Fest, so it was just me and the boys. Wish she’d been able to make it, but there’s always Brewer’s Jam in the Fall!

We arrived about half an hour late, but didn’t think it would be a huge deal. I’m actually really glad we were late….because if we’d been on time we’d have waited in line even longer. I wish I’d taken a picture of the mess we found when we got there. Didn’t think about it, sorry folks. But imagine a really long curving line-blob of people, none of who have any idea where the line ends OR where it’s going. Yup. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many people there were. Way too many.

There was one line to get a wristband and your ID checked. Then you had to get in another line and wait to get in. Ummmm…….

Eventually the organizers sorted something out, and it got a little better, but only because half of the line suddenly ran over to the gates. Someone in front of us summed it up pretty well when he said the integrity of the whole event was compromised. It really was. I don’t know what happened, if it was a new venue, new team, what….but it was bad. Very, very bad. We didn’t get into the gates until almost 5:30….and it was supposed to have started at 4:00. Thankfully they ended up extending the fest about half an hour, so we had just about enough time.

The location was pretty cool – it was on a street in the Old City. Basically a bridge. The boys didn’t think it was a good venue, but I actually liked it. It was small, and there wasn’t really a lot of space to hang out. You pretty much had to get in line for beer. And the bathrooms were in the middle, which was a little bit of a pain. But, it had a fun atmosphere, and it wasn’t as hard to find people as it is in larger venues. And the backdrop was cool.

In terms of the brewers there….there were some good ones and not so good ones. A few of the more mainstream ones (Abita, Lagunitas, Highland, Duck Rabbit) and plenty of smaller/local ones I’d never heard of (Bluegrass Brewing, Blue Pants, Wolf Hills). I enjoyed the mix though, because there were a lot of different beers. I’m an IPA fan, but they had plenty of porters, stouts, lagers, pilsners, and even a few shandies. I can’t tell you what my favorites were, because frankly I don’t remember.

Yup.

I tried, guys. I really, really tried. I paced myself, I sipped, I didn’t drink the whole glass. And I failed miserably.

But I had a ton of fun.

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It started off well….

Got a little worse...

Got a little worse…

And then it got better...

And then it got better…

Drunk people are the best people, wouldn’t you agree? We took a picture for a big group, and they gave the guys snacklaces…..how had I never heard that term? Pretty amazing. As you can see, they were stoked.

0621141908We ran into a few high school friends, so it was nice to catch up a little – even if we were all drunk. When the festival closed down, there was no way in hell we were driving, so we walked downtown and figured we’d grab some food.

And um, I vaguely remember telling a very nice police officer that “I promise we’re not driving. You’ve got your work cut out for you don’t you? I promise we’re going to eat.” He smiled and told us to have fun. That kind of restored my faith in humanity a little bit.

So we walked what felt like forever, me hanging on (rather unattractively I’m sure) to the guys. Wandered into the Downtown Grill and Brewery, grabbed a table, and ordered drinks. Well, Richard and I did. Jimmie was driving later, so he stopped after Brewfest. The waiter comes back with the drinks…plops my beer down, then tells Richard he can tell he’s been drinking so he only gets one drink.

That didn’t exactly go over well.

I’ll spare you the details, but we left. Left, not kicked out. (And yes, I still feel guilty as hell about it.)

And I’m still flabbergasted, because believe me….I was the drunk one. Of the three of us, I was definitely the one who shouldn’t have been allowed any more. And while I get that the guy was probably just doing his job, he didn’t handle it well and was pretty rude. Plus, one of us wasn’t drinking….so wouldn’t you make the assumption that that person is driving?

Shrug.

So we went to Tupelo Honey instead, where I had no desire to eat but knew I needed to choke something down. I’m sure it was yummy, because it’s always yummy there. And that was more or less the end of the evening….Jimmie drove us home, I went to bed, and woke up with the mother of all headaches.

Before you tell me I’m almost 30 and should stop behaving like a college kid…..yeah, nope. Not listening. I was never this cool in college.

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So, what are you up to this summer? Any good festivals?