So is it a *beer* festival? Really?

Let’s imagine there’s a city – we’ll call it Davestown for sake of argument – which has had an annual beer festival for many years. But Davestown Beer Festival only sells real / cask ales. Some enthusiastic upstarts want to hold a festival celebrating a more diverse range of beers – including many that don’t fall into the real / cask ale definition. A festival that is perhaps more befitting the broad term of Davestown Beer Festival. But obviously calling it that would be confusing at the very least – there can’t really be two. And there’s no intention to compete with the existing festival, the plan is to complement it, so there’s no desire for creating antagonism with the organisers of the existing festival.

So how do they name their festival? Some useful adjective to better describe the scope of the beers on offer perhaps? But what? It’s about good, or even great beer, but calling it the Davestown Great Beer Festival feels like a dig at the existing Davestown (presumably not so great by implication!) Beer Festival. Good Beer or Fine Beer have the same problem. What other term is there? Davestown International Beer Festival? Well that might work as long as there is definitely a good showing of international beers, but that isn’t necessarily the case, or the focus might be primarily on British beers. What else can the organisers do? Perhaps it can be Davestown Craft Beer Festival? Well it works, but as we all know Craft is a hugely subjective term and causes all sorts of disagreement. Could it even alienate key parts of the target market for the festival who object to or interpret differently the use of the word?

The problem is the original Davestown Beer Festival has (in hindsight, and no doubt without any ill intentions) rather unfairly taken the generic term and used it for a very specific purpose – real / cask ale. So there’s a need to have a word to help categorise this beer festival as something other than a real / cask ale beer festival. I don’t mind if that word isn’t craft, but I don’t know what else it would be.

And if it is craft, then a clear explanation of what that is understood to mean by the organisers of the festival is essential so that everyone else can at least understand what the event is all about, even if they don’t necessarily subscribe to the same definition of craft themselves.

In the meantime the debate about the “C” word rages on, particularly recently with this post from Hardknott Dave and this one from Zac Avery.

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5 Responses to “So is it a *beer* festival? Really?”

  1. How about the Birmingham Independent Beer Festival?

  2. Obviously I mean Davestown Independent Beer Festival… ahem.

    • Hi Tom. Great to see you reading the blog! Love the bread 😉
      Independent is an interesting term, and on the face of it feels like it ought to be right. After all it seems to work well as a category in the food trade. However under analysis I’m not sure it has a sound enough meaning in the context of breweries. Is it about not being owned by a larger corporation, not being tied to a pub estate, or even having its own pub estate etc. And if I’d had the benefit of listening in to planning discussions in Davestown I don’t think any slant on independent would get an equivalent cross-section to what is being considered for their event i.e. matching a collective view on what craft *might* mean. It only goes to highlight the difficult of categorisation…

  3. Dave, whilst I think “Craft” is very much a polarising term in this context (as demonstrated last night to a certain extent), it still makes more sense in this instance than “independent”. Not that I’m knocking Tom’s suggestion at all, but the very nature of microbreweries are that they are independent from big brewery influence. This may have have been muddied or clouded recently with some if the bigger ‘family’ run breweries, and their increasing forays into smaller brew length production. However at best I would view this as less microbrewing (or by extension ‘craft’) more just willingness to experiment with a pilot kit to inject a little more thought into products without having to go wild and do it at 100bbl+.

    Going back to the term “Craft” it is being seen more and more (by certain quarters) less as a clarion call to injecting more interesting brewing processes into the current micro/nano/pico community, but more as a return to mass kegging that led to the formation of CAMRA. Whilst there has been a recent resurge of small breweries adopting a desire to put out their products as keg, this is not an attempt to return to the year zero situation that gave rise to the aforementioned public interest group. It is an attempt by the brewers to find a method of dispense that best suits the end product. Be that cask or bottle conditioned or indeed kegged!

    In conclusion at the moment I think that Davestown Craft Beer Festival is still best served at present as being a craft festival for the time being until such a time a better term comes along!

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