When you do something that you are passionate about it can be something of a downer when you get criticised. When running a pub in the middle of the mountains it happens all the time. A few people can't understand the difference between a town pub and an out-in-the-sticks place.
I'm sure that people who give up their spare time to organise beer festivals must find it difficult when some smart Alec makes a glib and unfair comment about their gallant attempts to bring together a vast array of beers under one roof. In this post I mentioned, all too briefly and completely unfairly that I had reservations about the Newcastle Beer Festival. Quite rightly a volunteer commented on the post for clarification. It would be unfair for me not to give a more balanced and constructive critique of the event. After all, it wasn't as if I didn't enjoy going to this particular festival.
What I realised though was that it is not this festival in particular that I have concerns about, but more the overall ambiance of real ale festivals in general. Enjoyment of beer starts with the feel of the venue. This is true in a pub, a bar, a restaurant, sitting having a picnic with the family in beautiful scenery on a sunny summers day, a few tinnies floating in the burbling brook or in a large hall with the synergy of other beer fans.
I have followed a very successful geeky career. Beer is only my latest fad after a long line of techno fuelled pastimes. Computers, electronics and radio fares have featured large in my repertoire of days out, sad really. Stalls and stalls full of gizmos, shiny gadgetry and military cast-off rubbish used to endear my pastimes. These events usually left me exhausted, physically and mentally. A sit down in a pub with a nice pint usually the therapy needed.
I guess this is my concern about beer festivals. They are often in large unfriendly halls, the beer cannot be stillaged and cooled to optimum effect, they can get very busy and you don't even get a clean glass for each new beer. Being able to sit down is often not an option, my joints are still in reasonable order, but I stand all day in my job, getting a seat is nice. I can get a wide range of good beer and a seat in many pubs around here.
Go on reader, pick up on the important thing in the above paragraph; They are always busy. That's right; they can't be that bad otherwise people would stay away in hoards. There is a wide range of beer available that you just can't get in one venue at any other time. It's not really badly kept considering the equipment and venue that the organisers have to deal with.
The Student Union in Newcastle University might well be my least favourite beer festival venue, but I did notice a reasonable number of younger drinkers; Students perhaps? At least if it gets the interest of this cash strapped demographic then that can be no bad thing and at the younger end of the punters there was a much better gender balance of numbers.
I do enjoy beer festivals, but I also enjoy getting to sit down in a pub, with my beer in a clean glass and relaxing. Comparing the two is perhaps a little like comparing a burger from my favourite burger van with a fillet steak from a good restaurant; a futile and irrelevant comparison. Or a bit like comparing a remote country pub with a town pub, perhaps.
My pub, as forecast, has been nicely busy. This post has been stuck in the pipeline for several days. Next week is looking busy as well so normal posting might not resume for a little while.