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Planning a Military Vehicle "Brewery Encampment"

If your organization includes people who enjoy good beer (highly likely), this article will provide you with some insight on how to put together an event they’ll enjoy.
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by Kerry Bernstein

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Brewery Encampment is an event that builds club comeraderie.

For most of who are involved in restoring MVs and educating the public about them, it’s hard to beat the times spent getting together with friends and new MV owners at military vehicle rallies or shows. Sitting around outside the OD tent, or admiring a well-restored vehicle with a cold handcrafted beer in hand is a skill in which our club in Northern Vermont has been carefully trained.

Our club’s desire to extend the MV summer into Vermont’s Fall Foliage Season, coupled with our good fortune to live in an area dotted with high quality microbreweries, made an annual Fall MV Brewery Encampment a no-brainer. Planning such an event, however, is anything but!

If your organization includes people who enjoy good beer (highly likely), this article will provide you with some insight on how to put together an event they’ll enjoy. Let’s talk about how to make it fun, safe, wholesome, and legal for your members, as well as for the brewery staff and the visiting public.

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Advertising the event ahead of time build excitement in
the community.

The explosion in the number of microbreweries around the country is a welcomed trend. Most regions of the country proudly boast of hometown brews which incorporate local flavor or products in their beer. Many microbreweries have a pub on the premises, and actively plan weekend events to entice tourists in to sample brewery-fresh product.

So here’s where we start. With guidance from beer-lovers owning vehicles that come standard with black-out lights, identify a microbrewery to engage in discussion.

The ideal brewery has open land on its premises or has a nearby state park. The goal is that once the trucks are parked in position, they are not moved again until the next morning, and no one gets a DUI. One MV owner’s spouse may be specified as the Designated Driver, and can shuttle as needed.

A good candidate brewery also brews root beer for kids, and is in a location with lots of traffic by it. Pay attention to the brewery’s neighbors. One of our encampments was next door to a major dairy processor. All was good until 0430 hrs when the milk trucks started rolling in and banging the weigh-scales!!

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Like MV restorers, microbrewers do it because they love it.
They’d have to!

Begin with calling the brewery’s general manager a couple months ahead of time to float the idea by her or him. If there is interest, follow it up with an on-site visit to discuss the idea and to recon the space, pick a date, and to “pre-sample” their beer to make sure it is up to the standards of your club. Remember, you’ll be taste-testing for the good of the club!

Our experience is that microbrewers are uniformly committed to what they do, and actively support their communities. Most likely you will be warmly received.

The issues that you need to discuss with the brewery include special events permits, liquor licenses, liability insurance, on-premises alcohol consumption, rules and times, advertising, food and catering, port-a-potty rentals, music, tents and lighting, and possible discounts for club members who’d like to bring home a case or two of memories from the event. For the more serious beer fans in the club, remember that the deuce-and-a-half can carry 5 tons of cargo on hardtop roads.

The brewery as host may need to secure a special events permit from the town in which they are located. Ask the brewery to handle this for you, as they most likely have hosted other events. MVs attract crowds in nice weather on weekends, and the town’s police, fire, and ambulance services need to be made aware of the event.

Any permit should be specific to the hours of the event. A Saturday display from 1200 hrs to 1800 hrs allows time for MVs to convoy in together from various parts of the state and setup beforehand, for public viewing, and for some club time for dinner and beer tasting until lights out. Usually the site is vacated by 0800 hrs the next morning. Put some time into planning the inbound convoys – half the fun is meeting for breakfast somewhere on the road, and then roaring into brew town en masse.

Advertising makes or breaks these events. Partner up with the brewery, and discuss how each of your teams will publicize the event. Posters in stores, signs on the road as you enter town, club banners erected at the driveway of the brewery on the day of the event, and TV/radio spots all will generate excitement and interest. Email to the brewery staff a few photographs for publicity use, along with a couple paragraphs explaining your club’s purpose, location, membership size and favorite beer, which can be used in a press release. It is reasonable to ask the brewery to handle any expenses here, as the event will dramatically increase business for them.

Having the brewer’s best on tap, cold, and available during the event is a real treat. For this, they need to have a liquor license. Again this is nothing you want your club to be responsible for, and something most breweries are already equipped to deal with. It is a real pleasure to wander from truck to truck with 16 oz. of Oktoberfest in hand. Brewing staff will be trained to know when not to serve guests who have had too much.

Most MV owners are quite responsible and will drink prudently during hours when the public is present. Give incorrect directions to the brewery to those members of your club who are not. You, as the event planner, have a responsibility to our hobby to extend our positive image by not allowing MV owners to appear to be “a bunch of drunk grease-monkeys” as a former officer of our club puts it.

Our club’s mission is to honor our veterans who drove these steel soldiers into harm’s way, and to educate the public. Trying to honor the mission and operators of these historic “load warriors” when you’re hammered or “blowing groceries” just doesn’t fly. We have found this is not a problem at all, and that our members have consumed responsibly throughout the afternoon while still dealing with the public.

Encourage your members to hold off on drunken brawls and on cussing each other out loudly until after the event hours are over, and to change out of their vintage uniforms first.

It’s a really good practice to check in with the brewery management once every hour or two to make sure there are no problems or concerns, and to find out if there is anything that you as club representative need to fix fast.

Early in the afternoon, before the beer starts flowing, before the crowds start arriving and everyone gets busy, offer the brewing staff a personal tour of your vehicles, and if there is time and interest get a walk-thru of their brewing facility. These folks are proud of their work, and will be most happy to provide a private showing to an appreciative audience like yours.

The staff at both Long Trail Brewing in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, and at Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, Vermont are wonderful people who love military vehicles and would be happy to answer any other questions I missed here. They both also brew fantastic ales.

Real or replica weaponry of any type, whether or not it is correct to the truck vintage, must be kept far, far from this event, to remove even the slightest question of safety when alcohol and firearms are in the same place.

Conversely, club members should be encouraged to dress in period uniforms associated with the era of their truck. They should also be prepared to describe them if asked. Any other accouterments displayed with the vehicle lend credibility to the experience.

Having a CD boombox or cassette tape player playing music all afternoon adds a very important component to the event. The music should fit the vehicles, i.e. Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” playing where the Vietnam-era trucks are corralled, or Kate Smith belting out “God Bless America” where the M38s are huddled.

We have found it very helpful to arrange the vehicles in a herringbone fashion chronologically, with the various war eras clustered with example encampments or re-enactors. Another alternative is to arrange the trucks from smallest jeeps in front leading to the bigger trucks in back. Either arrangement should make for a pleasing image to the visitor. Signage on each vehicle should explain key details about its application, as well as the specific truck’s history, owners, etc.

Bring a drip-pan to put under your truck if it piddles black puddles. And bring tools. These are old vehicles, and the public is sure to be treated to an impromptu MV repair demo. It is respectfully suggested that you complete your repairs before taking your beer tasting responsibilities seriously.

Liability is, unfortunately, a big deal, and something that needs to be nailed down with brewery management before any vehicles roll. The good news is that if the event is planned correctly, individual owners’ vehicle liability insurance should be all that is needed. Make sure that the brewer’s liability policy will cover any event-related exposures.

As the vehicles arrive on the grounds, request that brewery personnel direct the vehicles to the area used for the show, so that your club is not responsible for any grounds or equipment damage. Make it clear that none of the vehicles are to be operated during the hours of the show when the grounds have visitors walking among them.

Make sure your club’s personnel is completely out of the loop on serving any alcohol. Do not allow any public guests who appear inebriated to climb on your vehicle. Some time before the end of the show, drag away any visiting public who have passed out under your vehicle earlier in the afternoon.

Don’t ask the brewers to pay your club. Our experience has been that the brewers take really good care of us, and provide free rounds of beer for the club and a discount on whatever members wish to take home with them from the gift shop. Further, without asking, they have always provided us with lunch and or dinner, especially if they have a pub.

These are really good people who appreciate our presence and the message that we share. Dinner planning needs to be well defined in advance however, and explained to attending club members. The options include: a) having a fixed-price dinner brought in and catered; b) setting up a barbecue and grilling your own potluck dinner; or c) making reservations at a local restaurant, and loading your crew into a deuce for a drive into town. All three work great. If the weather looks good and everyone is sober enough not to fall out of an M35A2, then option c) is a lot of fun.

Check local laws governing these riders. Whether or not you cook dinner for yourselves, make sure your encampment has lighting and an open-sided “community tent” set up as a place to hang out after dinner. Either your club or the brewery can provide this. It’s a very nice amenity that extents the friendships in your club if malted barley and hops haven’t already.

Port-a-potties are needed, both during the event, and for your club’s encampment after the brewery closes. It is reasonable and appropriate to ask the brewery to provide this for your club. One subtle suggestion is to not set your tent up anywhere near them.

The next morning after everything is packed, be sure to take a last pass of the grounds before you leave to pick up any trash (or club members) left lying on the brewery grounds. One final suggestion is to make sure you thank your hosts. Mailing the brewery a framed photo of your club’s attendees taken in front of their sign, with a written thank you to the owners on it is a great way to show your appreciation, and will likely find a place on the wall of their hospitality room.

Good luck on your own event. Planned well, you’ll find that the historic MV is the missing fifth ingredient which, combined with barley, hops, yeast, and water, makes for a great, fun-filled OD weekend.

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