It’s time for an airing of grievances.
Ironically, if you’re PJ Hoberman, co-owner of Two Parts, the craft-focused events company that puts on the annual Festivus-themed local beer festival, there’s fewer and fewer grievances to air. The humble and cheekily named Denver Beer Festivus he and his business partner Casey Berry started six years ago has grown into a premier holiday event for craft beer enthusiasts in Denver.
“I just hope that I get to try all the beer this year,” Hoberman said. “Being a producer, you don’t always get that chance.”
Berry and Hoberman crafted the winning recipe in 2012. They saw holiday beer festivals in other cities and thought Denver, with its growing craft beer scene, could support its own. They invited all of the approximately 20 breweries with a Denver address to showcase their brews at a “no frills” celebration of the local beer community and made 450 tickets available to the public.
“We wanted to get down to brass tacks and simply enjoy some really good beers,” Hoberman said. “That idea aligned really well with the 'Seinfeld' episode.”
Festivus is a made-up holiday that was popularized by “Seinfeld.” In the show, Frank Costanza explains that he created Festivus as a non-commercial alternative to Christmas. Celebrated every Dec. 23 in the Costanza home, the holiday features such comical traditions as the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.”
Merging that idea with local beer proved to be a hit. Hoberman and Berry sold out all 450 tickets within weeks and the event went off without a hitch. “That first Festivus was so successful that I quit my job,” Hoberman said.
They focused full-time on event production, incorporating as Two Parts and slowly broadening their events to the wider craft community. Today, Two Parts employs 12 people full-time, directs an army of about 200 volunteers and hosts a variety of craft-oriented events throughout the year, including the food truck showcase Truck Stop that launched earlier this year.
“We focus on beer, spirits, makers, and all that is local,” Hoberman said. “We want to bring those who love those things together with the people that make them.”
The year’s Denver Beer Festivus is scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Wings over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Lowry. Most of the 1,600 tickets have already been sold. As usual, Two Parts invited every brewery with a Denver address, including those owned by mega-brewers, and approximately 55 are set to appear.
“We’ve added a couple elements here and there [over the years]. There’s a silent disco. There’s a 'Bad Santa' that walks the halls. At Air & Space, they have a blimp, so we use it to drop gift cards,” Hoberman said. “The main focus is still the Denver beer scene, the beer, and the brewers. We will always keep that the same.”
For most breweries, attending the Denver Beer Festivus is an easy decision. It’s a relatively small commitment of time and resources and it’s a great opportunity to showcase seasonal offerings and celebrate the season with fellow brewers and fans alike.
“It is a great festival, one of our favorites,” said Ben Chenard, co-owner of Little Machine Beer. “The location is unique, and we love showcasing our beers along with other locals.”
This will be Little Machine’s third year at the Denver Beer Festivus. “Two Parts does a really nice job putting on events,” Chenard said. “If the organizer is good, and there is lots of participation, as far as the attendees, it makes a big difference.”
In the spirit of the season, Two Parts has increasingly incorporated philanthropy into the Festivus event’s business model. This year, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales – $40 for regular admission and $65 for the “feats of strength” package, which includes early access and a food voucher – will be going to New Era Colorado, a nonprofit that works to enhance youth participation in the political process.
According to Hoberman, approximately a third of the participating breweries donate the beer they bring to the event. The rest charge Two Parts retail prices or a nominal fee. “We tell breweries that if they are able to donate beer, that allows us to donate more money to the nonprofit,” Hoberman said. “But we also understand that beer costs money.”
“If every brewer charged full price, there would be no festival,” Hoberman added.
As for the fun part, the variety of beer available is constantly evolving, reflecting the industry at large. Two Parts suggests that breweries bring two beers, one that is always available in their taproom and one that “makes the beer geeks go crazy,” Hoberman said.
“We used to see a lot more barrel-aged holiday beers,” he said. “I think the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. A lot of brewers are focused on clean styles. Normal beers. Like straight forward stouts or porters.”
Little Machine, for example, will likely bring “Miner Threat,” a low-alcohol rhubarb grisette created in collaboration with Diebolt Brewing. “You’ve got to buck the trend somehow,” Chenard said. “There’s so many breweries out there, you’ve got to really look around to set yourself apart.”