I’m used to going to beer festivals held in scout huts or working men’s clubs where the barrels are set up, a folding table is the bar and there’s no food or entertainment. And you know what? That’s fine. I don’t mind that at all as long as the beer and the company is good. However, when I go along to London Olympia for the Great British Beer Festival, I want something a little more impressive. The entertainment is completely hit and miss, the auction is hilarious in a bad way (“XL rugby shirt, pre-worn!”) and the pub games, while I enjoy them, are more reminiscent of a school fete than a big event. That said, I won an excellent book on the tombola and my boyfriend’s brother bought some toothpicks with Scottish inn signs on them so, er, not all bad.
Lack of diversity: beer
When I go to a CAMRA event, I understand that I am there for the real ale and that I’m not going to be drinking a bunch of super hoppy American IPAs, but this year I wandered around all the bars and didn’t find much that excited me. Don’t get me wrong, there was some great stuff there (which I’ll review in another post), but I can’t help but think CAMRA are cutting their nose off to spite their face when it comes to not including so many of the amazing British craft breweries we have.
I wandered along to the tiny American bar hidden away in the corner and, as per, by Friday afternoon they were running out of beer, something that happens every year. Surely if the demand is there they should be responding to it, not telling us what we should and shouldn’t want to drink? As if to reinforce this view a man on stage told us all he didn’t think much of American beer. Oh well.
As I pottered around Olympia it struck me that at that very moment the London Craft Beer Festival was also taking place over the other side of London and what a shame it was that we couldn’t sample both real ale and craft beer in the same location.
Lack of diversity: people
On the CAMRA website we are given images of young, racially diverse people of both genders enjoying a nice pint of beer. The reality of this is that, well…it’s not the reality at all. Attendees at GBBF are predominantly male, predominantly-let’s be tactful here-mature and every year I feel conscious of the fact that I’m a young woman (although, unlike some, I’ve never been at the receiving end of any sexist comments). If I go to other events, such as the London Craft Beer Festival, Meantime’s Brewfest or Summer Brew Fest, I don’t feel like that. Beer has had a revival in recent years and that revival has been young and exciting and genderless. Why, I wonder, has that not filtered down to CAMRA? To be honest, I don’t have any membership statistics so it’s quite possible that it has and that the publicity photos they use are very accurate! I doubt it though.
Ultimately, what I would really like is a festival that celebrates all aspects of beer; one that reflects our strong brewing tradition, but that also celebrates our newer start ups; one that is inclusive of both young and old, male and female, single hop and triple hop. Is this too much to ask?