Friday 6 February 2015

Session #96 : Festivals - What Are They For?

I don't often go to beer festivals.  I don't like crowds or noise much, so when I do go, I pick the quietest day.  Usually Wednesday or Thursday.  Also, I find them slightly alienating, as I always tend to be there on my own.  I'm guessing it's not like that for other people.

No, other people LIKE massed throngs, and that's what you can get at beer festivals.  A massed, drunken throng at that.  It's a social event with beer.  And for your average beery type, be it Beard or Crafty, then there's few things better on this Earth.

Festivals come in many types.  My local cricket club holds one every so often with about 50 local ales on.  I've never been, but I've heard more reports of rowdy behaviour there than anything at a CAMRA event.  Then you get the charity fundraisers, the ones held at a local hall or museum space, who think a good way to get cash for a good cause is to sell beer cheap and write it off against tax.  Often about 100 on or so.

The most popular ones are the Festivals run on strictly commercial lines.  One my town's pubs, The Continental, runs one every three months or so.  It's always absurdly crowded.  If you're lucky, you can queue up to get your glass and get three pints in before the place closes.  Stops people getting pissed and falling into the Ribble, I suppose.

Like everything in life these days, it's all about the money.  Festivals in my experience are ok, but no more than that.  They often make big promises they can't fulfill, be it either that special rare beer that got lost between the programme being printed and the opening day to the sheer unexpected demand meaning they've run out of beer.

The mid-size Beer Festival, save for a few major events, probably has it's days numbered.  Few Crafty Hipster brewers, even if they do brew cask, will have either the will or capacity to supply 100-beer events.  As Craft becomes more popular, those wanting it will be disappointed when they see a large selection of mediocre bitters and golden ales.  The massive events will stay, if only for publicity purposes.

They are mainly for neither Geekery nor Dissemination now.  They are just there.  Because certain people expect them to be.  A demand is there, and a service is provided for someone who wants to make money out of it.  That's how Capitalism works.  And while we prefer to believe the beer world is friendly and cheerful and for the love and everything, it isn't.

There's more good and rare beer around than ever.  And unlike the old days, it's probably near you.  So who will need the festival, with it's hope-for-the-best beer presentation?
I was so drunk, I bought a tin advert for Lout. Photo by Cooking Lager
I have to admit though, the last beer festival I went to I ended up staying rather later than intended, putting the blogging world to rights with Cooking Lager. If only I remembered what I was talking about...

I drank far too much real ale that day.  I've stuck to the Evil Keg ever since.


  1. Thanks for your contribution, Matthew. It is funny to see how Beer Festivals are regarded in different parts of the world. I've attended 3 different beer festivals in the UK and I can agree to your saying that "they are just there". A funny way to put it :-).

    It is very different from what we have in Barcelona, though. Cheers!

  2. I went off UK beer festivals back in the summer of 2013, after attending the excellent Annafest in Forchheim, Franconia. After sitting out under the trees, in an amazing forest setting, and wandering from Keller to Keller, drinking some excellent beer, I just couldn’t face the claustrophobic “atmosphere” of a faded English town hall!