I never used to go to beer festivals, even when I was a student. Didn’t see the point. I mean, why go to a place with a huge variety of beers only to drink pints of the same old stuff you can get at your local? Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all. Never fancied Munich either; Oktoberfest and drinking out of buckets? My idea of nothing to do. And then came Stockholm, and I got a kick out of you.
It was at the Stockholm Beer Festival in about 1995 that the penny finally dropped. And at this year’s festival, at the end of September, I resolved to have a year of beer a variety of beer festivals and see if I can get a bit of local flavour posted to The Nightjar blog.
So what happened in Stockholm that turned me on to the beer festival? The first revelation was the glassware itself. Instead of the standard straight pint glass, the beer was served in an elegant glass designed for tasting, with a line at 15 cl for samples. No big deal to throw away 10cl if you discover a particular choice is not what quite you wanted. The second a-ha moment was when I realised a beer festival, instead of being a fast track to debilitation and hangover, could be a celebration of beer’s diversity.
The following summer, I went to my first beer festival in the UK: the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), applied the Stockholm principle, it worked, and I’ve been using it ever since. Mostly, it’s been CAMRA local festivals: Woking, Bletchley, Farnham, North London, but always interspersed with Stockholm every September (nowadays, the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival).
The itinerary is as yet undecided, although I would like to include Copenhagen, in May, especially as I missed this year’s. Copenhagen is a showcase for craft beers of Northern Europe. There will be GBBF in August, and perhaps I’ll even venture to somewhere new: Belgium, or somewhere exotic like Manchester for the Winter Ales festival. What I really want to do though, is go to the Great American Beer Festival. That would be the perfect culmination. I’ll keep you posted.
Stockholm started me on my festival career, let’s start this journey of Around the Year in Beer Festivals with Stockholm earlier this month.
Next up in the Around the year…. calendar: No. 2: Woking.
Gallery: Stockholm 2010, Copenhagen sample glass, CPH 2009, GBBF 2010, Stockholm 2009