Hoops and Hops is an event that promotes local craft breweries prior to Trailblazer games. A bar and restaurant called, The Game is a large room across from the main Rose Garden entrance. It occurs about every other month during the regular season. A few hours before the basketball starts to bounce, you will find beers from Laurelwood, Pyramid and Widmer since they are Blazer sponsors. However, there are four rotating taps that feature local beers and generally the brewers attend in order to answer questions about their operations and ingredients.
The last Hoops and Hops night of the 2011-2012 season featured, Mt. Tabor Brewing (Vancouver, WA), Two Kilts Brewing (Sherwood, OR), Migration Brewing (Portland, OR) and Heathen Brewing (Vancouver, WA). Since people will travel far for the beloved Blazers, it was great to see people enjoying beer that they can get again either near their home or a short distance away. Most people were congregating at the smaller breweries taps. Some people had purchased a package in which you get a game ticket and beer tickets, while others wandered in because they heard there was beer available. Although, Mt. Tabor, Two Kilts and Migration are not that new, they were new to many drinkers that don’t seek out new beer. Regular customers from some of the breweries came just to support their neighborhood pub.
Ovations Event Manager Casey Mishima is very excited to provide a public service for basketball fans. In reference to the event he said, “they are well attended, but could be better.” There are several reasons that Hoops and Hops might not be drawing in thousands of people at once. The first would be that it isn’t well advertised. Even if you think that you can not promote an event more than you already have and there is not a giant crowd, then you need to try something else. Beer media isn’t going to cover it too much as it is a regular event, but non-beer media could cover it more, which means that the event planners could hold a media event at the beginning of the season to get the word out early. The brewers can’t be the only ones promoting it. Another challenge is on-site marketing. Since thousands of people attend games, there is a great opportunity to get people in prior to the game even if they didn’t buy the package. Tickets can be purchased individually, so anyone can walk in prior to tip-off. Below is a lonely copy of a flyer taped to a random pole.
There is a chance to market the event as a happy hour place. Since there is food available, a person can leave work, go straight to the game, eat and drink and then go to the arena. A lot of people don’t show up until right before the game starts and the pouring stops at game time.
Regardless of the lack of press or understanding it is still a mini beer fest and Meet the Brewer event. As with many brewers who are working hard to get their creations out there, they enter in a new market by giving people access that do not normally seek out their beer or are simply unaware of the extensive craft beer market. Alex from Two Kilts seemed to be in heaven talking about his use of Scottish 1728 yeast, while Eric Surface from Mt. Tabor chatted with people who live in Vancouver, drive into Portland for the game, but did not know there is a new tap room in their neighborhood.
|Eric, Sunny, McKean, Eric|
The event was well attended, but I can see it being bigger and give more people an introduction to craft beer. There is some miscommunication, because I have had some brewers wonder how they get into Hops and Hoops and I have had people associated with the event indicate that they had difficulty getting breweries involved. That means there is some connection missing.