It seems that the year of “alternative”* beer festivals runs from September to August (as opposed to the more compact “season”, which it might be argued goes from March to October). In the past 12 months there have been, I reckon, seven** debuts. Three in the North, another three in London and one in the Midlands. As we approach the end of August we come full circle and it is satisfying to see the first of them coming back round in just a few weeks’ time, marking the start of year two. To be honest though, looking back on them all it is quite incredible that seven such events all started up within a 12-month period.
I’m sorry to say that I only actually managed to get to three of these this year – IndyMan and Craft Beer Rising, along with (obviously) Birmingham Beer Bash. That said I’ve seen enough reports from the others to get a real feel for how they all approached the task of being different. And the thing that really strikes me is just how different they all were. Yes, there were common aspects, shared aims, but all delivered in a variety of ways. It’s going to be interesting to see how each one changes in their second year, and I’m confident that most if not all will be back for year two, each bigger and better than the first. Will there be more? That remains to be seen. There are certainly parts of the country that are under-represented but I know from first-hand experience that it takes balls to put something like this on, and financial success – at least in year one – is not guaranteed.
What has certainly been proven this year is that there is a market, an appetite, for something different, and I think it is fair to say that is exactly what has been provided, with a helping of flair. I look forward to getting to visit a few of the events I missed out on this year.
* I’m refusing to use the “c” word here, while noting that three of the events in question use it in their own names, while one uses it for the legal entity behind the event. I’d argue that these are all the true beer festivals, rather than the rather more prevalent cask ale festivals, but I’ve done that already, here (http://othertonales.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/so-is-it-a-beer-festival-really). I find it hard to group things together in this way though without applying some sort of label.
** I struggled over whether Edinburgh, spread across several bars rather than a single venue, fitted into the same mould. It probably does, but it wasn’t a debut this year, so I’ve not counted it here – I would definitely include it on my calendar of such events for the future though.