Bourbon, bacon, beer and barbeque. Who wouldn’t love a festival full of all those mouth-watering B’s? Created by Digital Surgeons/David Salinas, 4B celebrated its inaugural year on Saturday at The Old Swimsuit Factory in New Haven. With a concept so appetizing, it’s regrettable to report that not many of its attendees were celebrating along.
Before we arrived to the festival, word had already begun to break on Twitter from the afternoon attendees that the wait to get inside the door was well over an hour. Reading the tweets that were flying in just minutes before what was supposed to be the best bacon experience of the year left me with a lingering feeling of doubt that I couldn’t shake. Though line issues seemed to have been mostly alleviated for the second wave of bourbon-guzzling bacon lovers, there were still plenty of foreseeable problems awaiting us through the doors.
In sum: the 4B Festival was more like a 2B Festival. Having said that, let’s start with the Pros: The beer and bourbon.
On the beer side of things, there was a pretty OK showing. Local favorites like Two Roads and Thimble Island were pouring out tastings, but my favorite beer of the day was Shebeen Brewing’s Bacon Kona Stout. Unlike Rouge’s awful bacon attempt last year, Shebeen’s brew had just the right amount of smoke added to an already solid stout that wasn’t too heavy in body. I went back multiple times.
Crabbie’s Ginger Beer was a highlight as well. Served on the rocks with a lemon or orange slice, Crabbie’s offered their original (alcoholic) ginger flavored beer along with an orange variety – both were tasty!
Other breweries showing face included Lagunitas, Founders, Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Bluepoint and more, though we quickly learned that it wasn’t the breweries themselves taking pride in their creations…it was their local distributors. Minus cool points.
The bourbon was the best B to be found. If you wanted to, you could’ve gotten fall-down, shithouse wasted on the bourbon alone. These were also the shortest lines to wait in (and believe me, there were LINES FOR DAYS). The two favorites in this department were both from the Willet Distillery out of Kentucky. Their Willet Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon had hints of honey and citrus with a nice smooth finish. For the braver souls, the Rowan’s Creek Small Batch Bourbon boasted a 100.5 proof glass of liquid courage without any of the harshness of the usual higher-proof spirits. Delicious and recommended – both of them.
After all that delicious alcohol, you’re going to want some serious barbeque, right? Sure, the BBQ Pork Pizza from Bobby Q’s was out of this world and my friends enjoyed some deviled eggs topped with local veal bacon from Oak Haven Table & Bar, but beyond that – food was scarce. Like Hunger Games-scarce.
If you attended 4B hoping to make the rounds and fill up as you went, you were sorely mistaken. Besides these vendors and Deep River Snacks (really good chips!), I couldn’t name any other vendor serving up hearty samples. There were five or six food trucks outside, but (wait for it…) they were all charging additional money. To clarify: 4B charged $50 and $80 a ticket, and then people had to unknowingly cough up even more money to fill their bellies.
And to the food trucks we went. Dinosaur Barbeque hooked us up with some pretty affordable, and beyond amazing beef brisket sliders – a cool 2 for $5 deal. (We should’ve skipped 4B and just made the trek to Stamford instead. Because DINOSAUR. BARBEQUE.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we did stop by The Jerky Hut a few times – they graciously gave us scraps of delicious meat, like their hottest variation, Chernobyl, or their rightfully recommended Habanero Teriyaki. Their jerky was SERIOUS, but we were too hungry to spend enough time there or to even consider buying a $20 bag of dehydrated deliciousness considering the circumstances. They’re worth looking into though.
Now for that elusive fourth B – maybe I shouldn’t even mention bacon. Maybe that would help explain the amount of meat candy (or lack thereof) that was at this BACON FESTIVAL. Apparently there were two bacon eating competitions, but no one knew about them. So I guess in order to have any bacon, you had to have a contest and eat 100 slices of it? Binge on the bacon, or get none at all! If I had known, I would’ve thrown my hat into the ring.
Even the guy running the Bacon Bites booth, a store showcasing chocolate covered bacon/pretzel concoctions – ran out of samples 30 minutes into the second session. I would’ve bought something from him had I gotten to try some more of his product (I had one single chocolate covered pretzel with a small bit of bacon on top.) His booth looked rad though.
Needless to say, the 4B Festival has a lot of work to do. To start, they’re going to have to respond to the hundreds of people complaining on their Facebook and Twitter pages right now (good luck with that). They did send an apology email, explaining last-minute cancellations of some vendors, the lack of attention to ticket-taking, and a plethora of other grievances that are too long to list here. The fest insists that they gave a large portion to charity. I hope that’s true.
This year’s guinea pigs will have the option to buy tickets in advance for next year along with a 25 percent discount to make up for the lack of pizzazz, but with the less-than-stellar word of mouth that’s floating around right now, it’s going to be an uphill battle to turn this around. Personally, I’ll most likely skip Round 2 and await reviews, though I do hope they can pull it together. But for this year, all that’s left to say is that they had a fantastic concept, but poor execution.