I’d been worried about the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival (SBWF) for about six months. It seemed to me to be under threat from two Scandinavian competitors: the Copenhagen Beer Festival, and oddly, itself. SBWF has such a special place in my affections, it feels like my own pet festival. It turned me on to American craft beer, ignited my passion for whisky, and convinced me that beer festivals can be so much more than the Oktoberfest model. I think it has done the same for 10s of thousands of visitors.
The Taste Experience was nothing to be afraid of either. It was very tastefully done and, as witnessed in the Swedish beer section, it far from diluted the beer and whisky event. A very neat piece of marketing to a sophisticated market.Where once it had seemed daring to order a Kilkenny instead of a Falcon or a Guinness, Sweden is now a dream country for craft beer and whisky lovers, and a very important market. The Bishops Arms pub chain, had their own stand with a range of Fullers on draught and even a specially-brewed Mikkeller. Oliver Twist had its usual exhaustive range of stellar American beers: boasting Rogue and Stone on draught, and far too many bottles to mention. Wicked Wine were showcasing Sierra Nevada and Flying Dog Ales. No wonder the BrewDog’s James Watt attends the event personally. He knows his market here is very knowledgeable, and equally, if not more important than back home. As well as BrewDog, we in the UK have our own inspiring new breweries like Thornbridge, Marble, Saltaire, Hardknott, and Meantime, to name a few. We have a buoyant craft beer scene based on real ales, but there is so much more to the beer world. I really hope we can learn from the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival – and Copenhagen, who are helping to put forward the image of beer as a sophisticated beverage. Marianne Wallberg, the organiser of the festival has, for the 19th year in a row, got her finger on the pulse, and it is very strong. The sophisticated Swedes are showing that knowledge about beer and a thirst for diversity are a sound base for a thriving scene. Threatened? Oh me of little faith.
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival site. This should be the English version, but if it frames you out, there is a flag to click on.