The idea is that they take out a giant hall in the convention center, bring in a lot of beermakers (some local, some national "microbreweries" like Rogue. Miller Lite was there too, humorously placed next to the water station. They were the only ones who brought Booth Babes), and they'd all give tastings of the various beers that they made.
I think if I was 10 years younger, and gone with all of my grad school drinking buddies, I would have loved it. As it was, I think it wasn't really for me.
First of all, the "tastings" were (we measured the glass when we got home) 5 ounces, or about 1/3 of a bottle. Which adds up over time, especially since lots of the beers we tasted were pretty high in alcohol content. Theoretically, you could get 25 tastings (they gave you tickets), but really you could probably have as many as you wanted, because hardly anyone actually took the tickets. There were dump buckets around, but it took us a while to a) find them, and b) get over our innate dead of WASTING BEER(!). I think if you wanted to spend an evening drinking lots of good beer, this format works great. If you're interested in tasting, it doesn't work so well.
The other problem was that it was hard to decide what to taste- the place was pretty packed, they didn't really have maps of who was there, and when you could find a sheet of the various breweries, you had no idea what kinds of beers they brought. So you had to plow your way through a ton of people, get to the front, see what they had, and even then, the names of the beers don't tell you much about what kind of beer it is. Sure, it's cool that you named your beer "Original Sin", but what sort of beer is it? Karen wishes they had programs, and while I think that would be an organizational nightmare, I wish there was something. Some of the breweries had large posters describing all their beers, so you could read it from far away, and that was a good idea. Other places didn't seem to put much thought into things. Once place had 2 different kinds of ciders, and I asked them what the difference was. His response was "They told me to say that this one was organic, and the other was more pasteurized". Which doesn't really enter into my decision making at all, so that was useless.
Also, I was hoping for a lot more.. wacky beers, I guess. Some mead, some blueberry beer, stuff you couldn't get normally (one guy had cranberry cider, which looked cool, but he ran out before I got to him). Instead, most places had a stout, and IPA, an ale of some kind, and maybe a porter if you were lucky. And what I learned was that it doesn't much matter (to me, anyway) what the differences are within a category, as long as I choose the right category. So, I'm not a fan of IPA (too bitter), so none of the IPA was worth trying. I was hoping to see some new _categories_, but it was pretty straight-foward.
But it was a fun experience, even though we went in with the wrong kinds of expectations. I wouldn't mind going back, and just treating it as an excuse to drink lots of good beer, which is probably the right approach to have.