Showing posts with label beer festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer festivals. Show all posts

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Session 130 - Festival Perfection


The final first Friday of 2017 is upon us, so of course that means it is time for this month's Session, hosted by Brian Yaeger. For this month, Brian asks us to imagine our ideal beer festival, and so without further ado, let's dive on in....

Firstly I have something of a confession to make, I can count on the fingers of less one full hand the number of beer festivals I have been to. That's no comment on beer festivals themselves but rather an admission of the fact that if I have a choice, and a potential alibi, I will avoid big crowds at all possible cost. I can also count on the aforementioned fingers the number of people capable of coaxing me out of my introvert cave to attend such an event. Clearly then, the first requirement for the Fuggled Festival of Beer is that it be a relatively small and low key event.

To facilitate such a low key event, the venue would preferably be out in the sticks a bit. Not necessary in the wilderness of the beautiful Shenandoah National Park, but in a hotel in a small country village would do nicely. The event would also be outside so that those hardy souls who make the trek have magnificent vistas of mountains and fields to drink in as they drink their beer. If the venue has some kind of courtyard then all the better. Actually, if the venue were a hotel with a brewpub and a courtyard, with views of the countryside, that would be perfect.

As this is a beer festival we should give some consideration to the beer itself, and in keeping with my theme of being low key, I would limit the number of breweries in attendance to somewhere between 15 and 20, and then further limit them to having a maximum of 2 beers available. Said beer would be draft only, so that attendees get the freshest taste of beer possible. Breweries are free to bring whatever beers they feel like serving, whether it's flagships, seasonals, or one-offs, it's entirely up to them.


This being my beer festival, it would primarily be a drinking festival rather than a tasting one, as such beers would be available in either half pint or full pint sizes (and pint here means the 20oz imperial pint). We're all adults here, so the only limit on the amount attendees can drink is based on their ability to hold their bevvy, keep their significant other happy, not be a nuisance, and not run foul of the police. We're all adults here right, so personal responsibility is important.

So we have our venue and the beers sorted, but what about box office? Straight off the bat I will say that I hate the idea of buying tokens with which to trade for beer, especially when the price of the token is more than the cost of a beer at the festival in a local pub. I also hate the idea of having a set number of beers as part of my entry fee. As such, entry at the door would be relatively cheap but would include a half pint glass, made of actual glass and not plastic. If attendees would prefer a full pint glass, there would be a small surcharge on the entry fee. The entry fee would be as low as possible to allow it to cover the cost of the venue and glassware. Brewers would then be selling their beer to the attendees at whatever price they feel appropriate, so total cost to an attendee would be the cover fee plus however much they actually choose to spend.


Getting away from the logistics and the beer for a moment, I would want to have a snack stand as well pumping out food that goes well with beer. Think a central European sausage vendor and you're in the right ball park, we're talking snacks not meals. I would also arrange a couple of local bands to come and play sets during the festival, though it would be more a background noise kind of thing than a focal point of the event.


As I re-read this with my editor's hat on, two things strike me. Firstly this is basically my vision of a good pub writ large, and secondly it bears a marked resemblance to the first Slunce ve Skle festival that I went to in Plzeň back in 2008. It was at Slunce ve Skle that I met Max for the first time, drank plenty of good beer from small breweries I had never heard of, and hung out with an eclectic group of expats and locals just reveling in good beer with good company. It was a perfect afternoon's drinking, one that I would love to recreate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Longing for Sunshine

If I were still living in the Czech Republic there is only one place I would be this weekend. Assuming I had survived more rounds of redundancy at my old employer, I would have been taking advantage of their generous "benefits" system and have booked Mrs V and I into a plush 4 star hotel for Friday and Saturday night.


Said four star hotel has a bowling alley, restaurant with excellent Czech cuisine (anyone who says Czech food is rubbish is an idiot in my world - pigs and beer, what's not to love?), oh and they have a brewery in the hotel as well. The hotel in question is called Purkmistr, which translates as "Slunce ve Skle beer festival.


Translating as "Sunshine in a Glass", this beer festival was the first I ever attended, and is the model for what I think of as a good beer festival. Not so big as to be intimidating, not too small so as to be quickly over, oh and it is more or less a drinking festival rather than a 2oz sample thing. Hence why I would be booking a room at the hotel for the weekend if I were going, recovery time in a nice environment and breakfast included.


At this year's festival there are breweries from Slovakia and the UK being represented at the event, as well as plenty of good small Czech brewers like Kocour, Matu?ka and Pivovarsky dv?r Zvíkov, makers of the magnificent Zlatá Labu? range of beers, which compare very favourably with those of Kout na ?umavě.


So, if you are within striking distance of Plzeň, jump on the train, then take the trolley bus out to ?ernice and enjoy excellent beer in a wonderful location, and from what I hear meet some of the UK's best beer bloggers as well!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Random Thoughts

I followed Twitter yesterday with an unaccustomed intensity, waiting for the first person to tweet about the Barclay's London Dark Lager - the last I heard, it was unlikely to be on during the first day, and would likely make an appearance today.

When it was announced that the Champion Beer of Britain was Mighty Oak's Oscar Wilde, I thought for a moment that the hashtag for the festival was about to go into meltdown. In amongst the congratulations to the brewers was a swathe of criticism, howling that a 3.7% mild ale could in no way be the best beer made in Britain. Very few of the comments about the chosen winner actually commented on the flavour profile of the beer, preferring to stand aghast that a beer of such a low abv could possibly be the best British cask ale at the Great British Beer Festival - it was almost as though Ratebeer had a collective hissy fit.

The problem with any form of competition is that it is, in reality, the subjective judgment of a panel of judges, who we can only hope have a depth of beer knowledge and a good palate. I am not entirely innocent when it comes to be shocked at some of the beers that win awards, but I try to remind myself that competitions can only judge what is in front of them.

Pondering all this over a dinner of bangers and mash, I was reminded of a passage in Bill Bryson's magnificent valedictory to Blighty, "Notes from a Small Island" about how Brits approach food:

"the British are so easy to please. It is the most extraordinary thing. They actually like their pleasures small. That is why, I suppose, so many of their treats - teacakes, scones, crumpets, rock cakes, rich tea biscuits, fruit Shrewsburys - are so cautiously flavourful. They are the only people in the world who think of jam and currants as thrilling constituents of a pudding or cake. Offer them something genuinely tempting - a slice of gateau or a choice of chocolates from a box - and they will nearly always hesitate and begin to worry that it's unwarranted and excessive, as if any pleasure beyond a very modest threshold is vaguely unseemly".

Having never had anything from Mighty Oak, I am not in a position to say whether or not it was the best beer at the Great British Beer Festival. Given though that some of my favourite British brewers are at the festival, Fuller's, Everard's and the Durham Brewery for starters, I can only assume that Oscar Wilde is a damned fine beer, regardless of style.

I can understand people's frustration that the Great British Beer Festival doesn't have the likes of Lovibond's  and Meantime showcasing their superb beers to the public, but as I mentioned in a post a while back, the Great British Beer Festival is CAMRA's game and they can make the rules however they see fit.

However, it is clear that there is a market for a new national beer festival, one which embraces all of the beer made in Britain and Ireland, perhaps one that isn't tied to a given location every year? You could even call it the Festival of British and Irish Beer, one year in Birmingham, the next, Dublin, the third Glasgow and then on to Cardiff, travelling around the major cities of Britain and Ireland celebrating the national drink in all it's glory. Perhaps it could even take a leaf out of the Great American Beer Festival's book and not have any foreign beer whatsoever?

The point is, there is so much great beer being made in Britain and the near constant slanging match between the stalwarts of CAMRA and the acolytes of the new breed of brewers is not doing the industry any favours. Dividing the drinking community into "staid and boring" real ale drinkers and edgy young hipsters supping on craft beer in a bright shiny "bar" just leads to people drinking what they know and not furthering their knowledge of beer in general. Perhaps we all need to wise up and see each other not as enemies, but all on the same side in wanting better beer to be made available to the public.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homecoming Lager

There are not that many beer festivals that I have plans to visit at some point during my life. I would love to get to Slunce ve Skle again sometime, being in Munich during Starkbierzeit would also be good and the Copenhagen Beer Festival would be a blast too, as well as an opportunity to catch up with some friends. The one that I would love to get to though at some point is the Great British Beer Festival, which this year runs from August 2nd to the 6th.


Beyond the generic desire to go to the GBBF one year, if finances and time would allow, I would love to be at this year's festival, for one very simple reason - a beer that I had a hand in brewing will be available in the Bières Sans Frontières area.


The beer in question is the recreation of Barclay Perkins' Dark Lager from the 1930s, which was brewed at Devils Backbone with myself and Ron Pattinson. Last week Jason from Devils Backbone told me that he has registered the beer and it will soon be on its way to the festival, hopefully surviving the journey in good condition.

The beer is called Barclays London Dark Lager, so take the opportunity to taste some history and celebrate the coming home of dark lager to London.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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