Welcome to my first part of the review for the 2010 Weekend of Fire at Jungle Jims. I had some high hopes for this years event because there was more promotion for this year which would me a larger crowd. That coupled with what was being promoted as 55 booths this year AND loads of new competitions I was psyched. I loaded up the car with beer and my good friend (and Passow trained/certified chile-head) Eric “Chem” Chmielewski was coming along too.
We hit the highway at 7:49AM on Friday, July 30, 2010. By about 11AM we were at our first destination; The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucy. Ohio has ridiculous laws about beer having an alcohol cap but lucky Kentucky (which is about 20 minutes south of Jungle Jim’s) does not. The Party Source is an all in one beer and booze snob’s paradise.
Chem and I stocked up on some rare and hard to find beers. Some over 16% abv, some that I had never heard of, and some that I had tried but just had to have again. We packed it up into the cooler and were off to our next stop, the Hofbrauhause in Newport, Kentucky. It’s only a mile and a half from The Party Source and I had never been to one, so this was going to be a real treat.
The Hofbrauhause was amazing. It really felt like I was home in Germany (or at least back in Parma, Ohio) and I never wanted to leave. Then the beer came out. Traditional. German. Beer. One of my favorite things in the world and I was having it fresh off the tap. Behind the bar was the lauter tun and boil kettle with the assistant brewer behind it. I asked him a question to which he answered and then asked, “You a homebrewer?” I replied, “Yep, I’m also the assistant brewer for Hoppin’ Frog Brewery. His eyes widened and he shouted, “Hoppin’ Frog?!?!!? I LOVE your beer! Your B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher is AWESOME!! You want a tour?”
That’s one of the things I love about working for a brewery. There’s such love for the other companies out there and it’s always amazes and humbles me as to how many people know of our beer. So, he finished up what he was doing and gave Chem and I a little tour of the facility. Absolutely pristine, shiny equipment everywhere, just as I had imagined a German brewery to be (we have a thing for precision). After the tour, I gave him two bottles of our beer as a thank you and we went back to the bar.
Now it was time to order the food. Chem was going to order a soup because, let’s admit it, the food was a little pricey. But I pointed out to him that one simply does not walk into Mordor…wait…that was a different time. THIS time I reminded him that “you have come to an authentic German restaurant/brewery. You will be served food of such quality, quantity, and tradition that you will not come across very often. The experience is worth the money.” He agreed and ordered the brauts with potatoes. I ordered the Schweinwurst with potatoes and sauerkraut. The meal was worth every penny. I didn’t want to leave.
But alas, we had to leave. 20 minutes later, we were unpacking at Jungle Jim’s and not after 3 minutes, there was Jeff Stevenson from Crazy Uncle Jester’s giving me some sauces for review. Well, get ‘em early I guess. After unloading we snagged our hotel room and we were off to another brewery. This time it was BJ’s brewery which is about one exit east of Jungle Jim’s.
After that, we headed over to our hole in the wall hotel to check in. I had stayed at the Econo Lodge last year (which is now renamed Budget Inn) and the place was still the same. Although, they did get rid of the bullet ridden van with no tires that was parked in the back last time. With that, Chem and I were back at JJ’s for the vendor meet and greet.
Here’s where things started to get a little rude and “corporate”. We were there no more than 15 minutes until someone walked in announcing that we needed to start wrapping things up. 5 minutes after that, they wrapped all the food up and took it away. They packed things up so good I got the feeling that the food wasn’t for us, but for another event and they were just giving us a taste of it to make us feel good, giving the rest to some other event. 5 minutes after that they shut the lights off on us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that JJ’s went out of they way and gave us some food, but the way they did it reeked of “here’s some table scraps now go away”. It reminded me of what happened last year. They promised us food and an open bar, but when we all got there the food was some veggies and dip and the open bar was a cash bar.
Most of the vendor’s went out to dinner at the local wing place and that’s where I really got the behind the scenes info. Prices of the booths doubled this year, vendors were being told that they had to buy tickets for employees to work the booths, and a few other hassles and hoops had to be jumped through. One vendor told me that next year their participation would be diminished greatly and wasn’t at all happy about how things were being run. This should be a fun show not some huge money maker. Yes, making money is a big part of it but not to the point of getting every last dime from the vendors that make up your show. This was actually just the start of many odd behaviors from the staff of Jungle Jim’s but I’ll report on that as it happened later on in the days at the Weekend of Fire. With that, it was the end of the first day. Saturday and the start of the event was right around the corner.