Springfield Mo., "the queen city of the Ozarks." Population 167,000 with an MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) of a whopping 450,000.
Philadelphia, "the city of brotherly love" (and those who buy their booze across borders). Population 1,526,000 with an MSA of 6 million.
Why am I comparing these two places? They both have a whiskey festival, although technically the one in PA is called the Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. "Fine Spirits" apparently includes things like Smirnoff Sorbet Light Peach and Ole Smoky Moonshine Hunch Punch, according to the masters of the mundane in Harrisburg.
So what do you get for your VIP dollars in PA? A chance to taste 304 spirits (really only 292, because some are listed twice!) of which about half (151) are something I would call whiskey or whisky. In Springfield you get at least 200 whiskies and none are called Hunch Punch. You can look for yourself. Here is Philly, and here is Springfield. Not even close, which just shows the sad state that the PLCB is in. If a magazine can sponsor and put together a pretty good whiskey festival in a town the size of Springfield, but the 3rd largest retailer of spirits has to scrape the bottom of the barrel and still falls short, that speaks volumes about how well the PLCB serves the citizens, and what the industry thinks of our backwards system. Yes, I know the Philly Festival is sponsored by a magazine too but they can't do it without the expressed approval and participation of the PLCB.
Look at all the spirits PA doesn't carry. Must be 100 of them -- but they all are available in the free market. Of course, a number of things at the Philly Festival aren't available in PA either, which means if you really want some, you'll have to break the law to get it. All courtesy of the PLCB, who approved all of this. Even the highlights mentioned by the PLCB are laughable. There are only three, and two are for items you can't get.
I especially like that Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey will be offered for tasting. It isn't carried at all by the PLCB, so the entire state is missing out on some pretty good whiskey. You can't get it if you did like it anyway. I guess they think the drive to State Line Liquors in MD is close enough. Which brings up the question: why even have this at the festival if the PLCB doesn't carry it? If you have no chance of buying some of the things they are offering, what's the point? It really does show how limiting and ignorant the people in Harrisburg are.
Face it, the PLCB is the reason why we can't even have a half-assed whiskey festival. People that do real festivals laugh at the PLCB and us the same way we laugh at somebody trying to buy a six pack at a distributor. You know that is the way it should be done, but somehow in PA it is never done right.
If you want to go to one of these things, plan a trip. There are numerous festivals in the US, far better than the PLCB ones in Philly and Pittsburgh, plus you have a chance to actually buy the products you taste and give your money to somebody that cares about the consumer. DC, New York, Boston Vegas, Nashville, LA, Bardstown, Atlanta, and more As a consumer you deserve the best, so why support the worst? The Free Market is the only real Modernization.