Petty thieves turn Sierra Nevada events slightly skunky

Enjoying Old Chico Crystal Wheat during Sierra Nevada OktoberfestIt was wonderful that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. threw several events this year, including an Oktoberfest dinner next to its on-site hop fields and a 30th anniversary party in one of the brewery’s warehouses on Nov. 15. They also donated the beer for the Chico Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial BBQ. These soirées were huge and accommodated hundreds of people.

It’s unfortunate that some of the attendees were less-than-gracious guests when they started walking away with items. I don’t know if this would ordinarily be worthy of mention, but I was disappointed to see it happen at both events.

During Oktoberfest, there were large green metal buckets adorned with the Sierra Nevada logo filled with pretzels atop tables. There were tons of them throughout the tables under the gigantic white tent where the bulk of the event took place as well as outside in the beer-serving area.

As the night wore on, I started seeing people walking around with the buckets, presumably to take home. I also saw heaping piles of pretzels strewn about the tables where the buckets were.

I don’t know if the brewery intended for people to take the buckets or assumed that they might. In some situations, it’s common for guests to take home table centerpieces.

At the very least, I thought it was inconsiderate for people to merely dump the pretzels on the table, adding to the mess for people to clean. Also, the buckets cost $10 in the gift shop — not cheap, but they’re not priceless and immensely unique items either.

I thought it was a little telling that the table decorations for the brewery’s anniversary bash were less desirable as souvenirs.

During the anniversary celebration, the pretzels were set out in simple, shallow and utterly unremarkable baskets. The table decorations included trios of bottles of varying sizes with electronic tealights placed through holes cut in the bottom of each container. Perhaps more valuable were small, cylindrical vases about the size of juice cans filled with a modest bouquet of flowers and 30th Anniversary coasters used as cards.

I didn’t think these items would be worth taking, but some people proved me wrong. I saw people walking with the vases. Near a table, I saw an overflowing bag on the floor with a broken brown bottle of the same variety as the ones used on the tables. I have no idea why someone would take a common bottle with a hole cut in the bottom.

It seems people weren’t just content to take table decorations — someone stole my souvenir anniversary glass. This happened in the 30 seconds it took me to walk 15 yards to put my dinner plate in a compost bin. It was funny because I briefly thought about taking the glass with me, but I thought it would be safe in the sparsely populated part of the dining area in the short time I would be gone.

I don’t think it was an overly attentive staff person cleaning up my table — a newspaper I was reading was still on the table. I suppose someone could’ve assumed that I was leaving/left and didn’t want my glass (although a courteous person would’ve asked). However, I was gone for such a short time, I can only assume that someone swooped in and deliberately snatched their prize.

I was disappointed at this turn of events. Thankfully, one of the event staff was nice enough to give me a second glass when I told her my first glass “walked” away. She said it had been happening a lot that evening.

Needless to say, I did not let go of that second glass until I got home.

These incidents definitely speak more to the guests than to the hosts, who were absolutely gracious. I also wonder why people felt the need to scavenge. I don’t think money was a factor because each event cost about $30 to get in, but perhaps people felt they were entitled.

Aside from these minor moments, both events were great fun with wonderful food and fun music. Sierra Nevada’s events staff ran the events well, aside from running out of food toward the end of Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest featured glass-blowing demonstrations of steins and other drinking implements. The anniversary celebration had 30 beers on tap, including several rare and unbottled varieties. I loved the dark and rich barrel-aged Life and Limb, but the author in me was partial to the name of the beer Writer’s Block.

Ultimately, a few bad apples were just a minor note on two extremely fun events celebrating a Chico landmark.

Photo: One of the buckets of pretzels at Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest celebration with a commemorative stein filled with Old Chico Crystal Wheat.