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Organizers plan to improve circulation at next year’s event

With a capacity crowd at the inaugural Whistler Village Beer Festival on Saturday (Sept. 14), organizers are hoping to see it established as a must-attend event for the region’s craft-beer lovers and producers.

Nearly 2,000 people filtered through the festival grounds at Olympic Plaza to sample more than 100 different beers on tap from 45 regional and international brewers. With the sell-out crowd driving Village business, and room night bookings pacing ahead of the same weekend in 2012, according to Tourism Whistler, event organizer Liam Peyton saw the festival as a major success for the resort, with plans to improve guest circulation for next year’s iteration.

“There are some things we can work on for next year,” he said. “We want to open it up a little bit. Obviously in Year 1, I didn’t expect to have my floor planning absolutely dialed, and it got a little cramped in certain parts.”

Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Rob Knapton echoed Peyton’s comments, saying next year police will request vendor booths be placed further apart to both lighten crowd density and expedite dispersion at the end of the day.

“When you have that many vendors, dealing with a hard shut-off … can be problematic,” he said. “Pulling (2,000) people out of a licensed area within the 30 minutes you’re allowed can be a problem.”

Knapton added any changes requested will be minor and not diminish the festival experience, noting the event went smoothly with no reported incidents to cause concern. Peyton indicated that one man was turned away at the festival entrance because he appeared to be heavily intoxicated, but otherwise feedback from attendees and visiting brewers was positive.

“Some of the breweries said it was one of the best events they’ve been to, and some of them were saying it was on par operationally with well-established events. Most of them were completely blown away for it being a first-year event,” he said.

For next year, Peyton said festival organizers will likely draft a brochure providing attendees with a list of available beers and a map of event grounds.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden applauded the execution of the first-time event, and said it showcased “the versatility of Whistler Olympic Plaza for programming.”

With producers from across the Pacific Northwest serving up some of the world’s most sought-after craft beers, Whistler Brewing Company’s general manager of operations Colin Pyne sees the festival as a way to engage beer aficionados in the resort.

“It was a good way to show there’re actually a bunch of beer geeks out there who were really looking forward to this event,” he said. “A lot of people I know that are into beer had it marked on their calendar and were dying to come try everything, and wanted this festival in their backyard.”

— Brandon Barrett

Brittia Thompson