Posts tagged ‘festival’

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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June 26, 2013

The final countdown…

If you know where to look, as you head south out of Birmingham New Street on the train (just as I did as I wrote this) and glance out of the window at just the right moment, you can briefly follow the canal cutting its way through the back streets of Digbeth.  A building stands proud above the former industrial district currently getting its second wind as a place of business and arts, its upper stories leaning out over the narrow strip of water, a large blue banner hanging down revealing its identity.

The Icehouse, centrepiece of the group of Victorian buildings now known as The Bond Company.  A place of history where once upon a time huge quantities of ice were produced for use in the local markets, surely making it the coolest place around.

Exactly one month from now, once again this site is destined to be the coolest place going as it makes another little dent on history.  The first Birmingham Beer Bash.  July 26th and 27th.

The list of breweries sending beer, and in many cases attending in person, has continued to grow and there are still a handful left to announce. It is, quite frankly, a stunning list, the like of which Birmingham has never seen.  From established breweries that have been at the vanguard of bold and progressive brewing for some time, to some of the new upstarts only recently coming to the scene and even launching their beers at the festival, we think we’ve found some of the best the country has to offer.  We’ve also had to make hard choices about breweries that aren’t there.  It simply wasn’t possible to include everyone we wanted to, but we think we’ve made the right choices and hope you’ll love what we’ve put together.

It isn’t just about drinking great beer though.  The “fringe” programme has been gradually coming together, and a week or so ago we finally announced our headline acts.  The seminars on hops and malt are a unique opportunity to learn more about what goes into the beer in your glass and they’ll both be presented by industry experts, Paul Corbett of Farams and Dom Driscoll of Thornbridge respectively.  We’re about to add to this with the list of tutored tastings that will be taking place throughout the weekend – places will be limited so you’ll need to sign up for these when you arrive at the festival, and if you follow our announcements on Twitter (@BirminghamCubed) and Facebook (BirminghamBeerBash) in the next week or so you’ll soon see why you’d want to do that!

Finally the food.  The beer and food matching dinners, served up by two of Birmingham’s finest chefs – Brad Carter (Carters of Moseley) and Luke Tipping (Simpsons, Edgbaston) – are a gourmet masterpiece and (if it really worked like that) would possibly make us the first Michelin-starred beer festival!  Take a look at the menus on our website and book quickly to avoid missing out on a fabulous opportunity because tickets are selling fast.  There’s also a great selection of local street food from great suppliers so there should be something for everyone.

We’d love to see you there.  All of you.  But we probably can’t fit you all in.  So make sure you get your tickets in advance because there really is no guarantee of tickets being available on the door.  Come and say hi to me (@OthertonAleman) and all of the organising team – Carl (@CarlDurose), Chris (@ckdsaddlers), Dan (@mediocre_dan), David (@mrdavidj), Jen (@ilovecherryreds), Krishan (@StirchleyWines), Shaun (@19irishdragon), Stewart (@TheRealStewbert) and Tim (@PolymathTim).

You might also want to watch out for an article on us and our stunning new poster in the Birmingham Post this week, and if you’re listening to BBC Radio WM on Friday morning you might just hear us on the Adrian Goldberg programme.

30 days to go.  My how time flies!

March 26, 2013

Birmingham Beer Bash – a personal view

In exactly four month’s time it will be day 1 of the Birmingham Beer Bash.  Just four months.  Eeek!

It’s fair to say that being involved in the organisation of an event like this sometimes has its perks.  Holding meetings (not just within our group but also with potential suppliers, sponsors, presenters and supporters) in pubs over a pint or two is a pleasure that I don’t get to enjoy in the day job.  Maybe that’s for the best though – if all the meetings I attended were like that then I’d really struggle.  More than that, there’s the occasional chance to visit one of the great breweries we’ll be featuring and taste a few beers with them.  To meet the people behind the beer, and other people who have a role to play in the industry whether it is brewing, marketing, reviewing, promoting or simply enjoying beer.  It reinforces just what a positive and exciting industry this is.

It can also have its downsides of course.  To be honest, it is exhausting.  So much to think about that it becomes nearly impossible to switch off.  Dealing with the fun stuff, such as what beer we’ll have and who we can talk into coming along, is one thing.  The realities of finances, bank accounts, advertising, providing enough toilets, worrying about whether anyone will turn up, have we got enough space, who’ll sponsor this & that, what extra equipment do we need, how much security, can we get it set up in time, will we have too much beer, what if we don’t have enough beer, insurance, first aid, volunteers, ticket prices.  All of these things and more.  They are all somewhat less glamorous than selecting the beer, but without considering them all the beer part simply won’t happy.  It’s a team effort and everyone has their own part to play, their own jobs to do, but at the same time all these things are still there, swilling around in my head, needing to be sorted.  Someone’s dealing with them all.  At least I think someone is.  Are they?  See, there I go again…

So why do it? Why get involved in organising what is perhaps, at least in this country, the first ever beer event quite like this that was born so intrinsically out of social media(*), a beer festival for people who share our vision of bringing as many great beers to Birmingham as we can?  Because no-one else was, and we all wanted to bring something like this here.  Ironically we’ll probably all be so busy over that weekend at the end of July that we won’t get to enjoy it in the way I suspect we all originally envisaged.  However I do know that it is going to be so thoroughly satisfying to make a success of this that I for one am not going to get too bothered about missing out on some of the fantastic beers that have been discussed so far (and news of some of these will be starting to trickle out very soon). Or of the undoubtedly splendid beers that have yet to be finalised.  You, of course, don’t need to miss out.  You’re all cordially invited.  Ok, you’ll have to buy a ticket, but that will be possible very very soon.  I promise.  Watch this space, and perhaps more importantly, watch our twitter feed @birminghamCubed where news about all those lovely beers, and the imminent launch of our tickets, will be coming soon.

* for those who didn’t know, Birmingham Beer Bash was arguably born of Twitter.  Birmingham’s first twissup back at the start of 2012 brought together some (apparently barmy, it now seems) hugely enthusiastic sorts who weren’t going to sit back and wait for someone else to bring an event like this to the Midlands.  Oh no.  We’ll do it ourselves we said.  How hard can it be we said.  Someone’s got to do it we said.  So we did it.
January 29, 2013

Shaken, not stirred: the Birmingham Beer Bash finds a home

A significant sum of money has just changed hands. When I say significant, I mean that in a number of ways, and I don’t use it lightly. It is certainly significant in terms of the amount involved. More importantly, it is significant in what it represents. It is a deposit. A commitment.

This deposit was paid to secure the venue for the Birmingham Beer Bash, a celebration of beer and brewing which, as I’m sure you’ll already know, will take place on 26th and 27th July 2013. For those of us involved in organising this event it is a huge milestone. Finally we have a site on which to put together an event that has been on the cards for more than six months now. Without a venue nothing else could really be done. And by paying a deposit suddenly everything changes. For a start, that deposit is non-refundable, so there really is no looking back. We can no longer afford (quite literally) for this event not to actually happen. We now need to sell enough tickets to cover the costs, as well as to make a little extra for the charity we’ve chosen to support through this event, and so we need to deliver on our commitment to bring some great beer to Birmingham in order to make those tickets an attractive proposition. We’re working on that, and there are some great names being lined up already. We’ll be announcing details as and when we can over the coming weeks and months so keep following our Twitter account (@birminghamcubed), our Facebook page (BirminghamBeerBash) and watch out for the new website coming soon (birminghambeerbash.co.uk).

Of course you all have a part to play too – make sure you have the dates in your diary, keep watching out on Twitter for news of when the tickets will go on sale, and encourage everyone you know who loves great beer to come along.

Want to get involved? Once the website is up you’ll be able to register to become a Beer Bash volunteer. Volunteers are going to be key to the successful running of the event, all the organisers are volunteers too but there simply aren’t enough of us to do everything particularly in the final week as we set up and then operate the event. Watch out for full details on the website.

So where is it going to be then? This has been the question on our own minds for quite some time. Many sites have been considered, and rejected for various reasons. Finally, we settled on The Bond Co, a former canal warehouse on Fazeley Street in the Eastside area of Birmingham, near to Digbeth. It is well situated, probably no more than 20 minutes walk from all three of the main train stations, and only a few minutes from the coach station in Digbeth. Several bus routes are not far away, and a taxi from the city centre is not too costly either. So, it is reasonably accessible, which was a major factor in its selection. It also has some interesting spaces for us to use for the event, and the connection with the canals, such a major feature of the Birmingham landscape, seemed appropriate too. We like it. I hope you do too. See you in July?