Archive for August, 2013

August 19, 2013

An “alternative” year

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 (https://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.

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August 15, 2013

An admissions admission!

I’d like to think that, amongst the friends I’ve made in life, and particularly amongst the friends I’ve made through my relatively short and occasionally disengaged online life, that I could definitely include the erstwhile blogger @Filrd [don’t worry, I’ll get less sycophantic very quickly!].  An online community may meet once in a blue moon, but the meeting of minds can be a far more frequent occurence.  But there was a moment, back in July 2012, just as we were getting stuck into the planning of Birmingham Beer Bash, when I got really wound up by a relatively innocuous paragraph in a post Phil had written extolling the (undisputable) virtues of the Hawkshead brewery festival that had just taken place.

Looking back now, there’s a hint of the prophetic about it.  Remember that this was before Leeds and Manchester had burst onto the “alternative beer festival” scene just a few months later.  Many more months before Craft Beer Rising and London’s Brewing had provided their own take on the concept, and about a year before Liverpool and finally Birmingham got in on the act.  Why prophetic?  Well, Phil said “Further top marks for the inclusion of a keg bar, YES you read that correctly a KEG BAR at a festival”.

But look at what followed in the next 12 months!  I’d like to hope though, that the readership of this blog wouldn’t mistakenly assume that that was the sentiment I disagreed with.  There was a little bit of a sting in the tail – “with FREE entry too, how novel”.

Bloody hell!  Is this where the bar is now set at?  In setting up a new festival to challenge the old order, do we have to do all of this without even charging for admission?  I’ll be honest, I felt a kick in the teeth, and another one somewhat lower down.  Over the following months, as we looked at the sums involved in putting together a festival, in fact just looking at the cost of hiring a venue, it all felt a bit futile.  Until October.  Until IndyMan.  An event that did the sort of thing what *we* wanted to do, in a way that felt us feel a bit inferior to be honest.  Suddenly the challenge of doing this all without an entry charge went away.  Clearly there *was* a price to be paid for attending a truly amazing festival.  We just had to make sure ours was also (nearly) as amazing.

And, to be fair, I think we may just have done that.

So why, you may ask, is this all coming out now?  Well, it’s been a funny old day, in which the issue of admission charges has been high on my agenda.  I’ll make no pretence of it, we had a bit of a nightmare over our ticketing for the Birmingham Beer Bash.  Naturally we knew we had to prove ourselves, so cost was a big factor.  Perhaps even more important than that was cash flow.  So we made a decision that we had to stick with, through thick and thin.  It proved problematic at best, and verged on disasterous on the event days, but I’d like to think that most people who attended the Bash had no idea about just how much trouble ticketing had caused us.

Let’s be honest, we can’t say for sure that there will be a Beer Bash 2.  Not yet, anyway.  If there is though, I think I can safely say that tonight we may have established who our future ticketing partner is.  And also discovered, thanks to belated news from the High Court, who they won’t be!

 

August 9, 2013

A moment of reflection…

I find it hugely inspiring to see people doing something they are passionate about, and even more so to see them doing it successfully. The feeling when those same people get so enthused about something you do, something that they are an integral part of, is truly uplifting. It is an inspiration to carry on, to do more of the same, and to do more of more. It raises you above the challenges and difficulties, and makes the negatives seem so much brighter. It also makes a return to the “real world” so much harder, as I have now learnt.

If you don’t know quite what I’m referring to, well, you probably weren’t there. Maybe you need to correct that next year.*

* Of course, officially, we aren’t talking about next year. And haven’t been for a quite a while.