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    Tuesday, 18 March 2008

    When's The Best Time To Go To A Beer Festival?

    I was inspired to write this post by a comment left on my article about Leicester BF by the young CAMRA collectiv. It appears from their comments that the festival was very, very busy on Friday night and that entry to the venue was on a one out, one in basis. I cannot imagine how unbearable this is for the queuing punters, the seemingly crushed drinkers already inside, or the volunteer staff who must be run off their feet.

    Now I know not everybody is as dedicated as me and books time off work to visit beer festivals during the quieter times, but I really cannot see the enjoyment in drinking in these conditions. Beer festivals rarely have an excess of staff on, which is of course due to the fact that everybody is a volunteer, and people getting off their backsides and helping are few and far between, so obviously the wait for beer is going to be pretty long.

    I think an overly crowded festival must present a negative image to the customer who cannot enjoy the long wait for his beer. Will they come back next year for more queuing, or will they be turned off festivals forever? Alternatively of course maybe they will actually book a day off work next time and go in the quieter lunch or afternoon sessions.

    I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do wonder whether festivals are becoming a victim of their own success. Many festivals actually run out of beer before the advertized closing time. So I ask amidst all this waffling drivel I'm typing: Do you enjoy the busy evening sessions or are they a real turn off? Do you flatly refuse to go in the evenings? Are you like me a lunchtime customer? Or am I missing out on a better atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the more hip evening crowd?

    8 comments:

    Mr Johnson said...

    I went to the Leicester festival on Friday night, and it was very busy, although we got there around 6:30 and there was no queue. But it is annoying when it gets very busy just because it takes ages to get from one end of the room to the other. We ended up finding a couple of chairs in a corner and monopolising them for ages. (Sorry!) I'd have preferred to go on Wednesday or Thursday night, but with my job, that's impossible. I definitely prefer it less busy.

    young camra collectiv said...

    There has to be a balance. Obviously you wouldn't want to turn up to a festival that looked like the interior of a Wetherspoon on a Tuesday afternoon with a handful of old farts drinking Courage. Similarly overcrowded festivals are a huge turn-off for me.

    We went to the GBBF at Earl's Court in 2006 - did it properly, including the magnificent trade session on the Tuesday through to the Thursday evening. By 7pm Thursday the place was heaving, you couldn't get from one end of the room to the other and there were 20 min queues for both the bars and toilets. We left with this uncomfortable impression of the festival and didn't return the next year and probably won't this year either. The weight of bodies is not our only reason for avoiding GBBF, being beery twats we also found it to be a bit 'commercial' compared to the smaller peripheral festivals.

    We always try to get to a festival for the opening session. There's nothing worse than seeing some corkers on a provisional list only to find that they've already sold out before you've arrived, so a decent proportion of our annual leave is used up on midweek festivals.

    That said, I'm sure the local camra branches would be far happier to have the place teeming with bodies as they can stress the overwhelming success of the event and ensure maximum turnover and no leftovers.

    Personal preference - less busy but not deserted

    Paul said...

    It's that old 'supply and demand' chestnut. I hate the crowds so tend to visit where possible on Saturday lunchtimes or for local festivals early in the week. I have occasionally taken holiday to attend festivals. This works well if you can afford to do this. Basically beer festivals are forms of entertainment and are no different to going to the pictures, concerts etc. with peaks and troughs in audience figures.

    bluebirder said...

    It's afternoons/teatimes for me definately, though I find these big fests a real turn off anyway. Pub festivals offering 15 to 70 ales are the future - believe me I've seen it!

    Boak said...

    (please delete if this appears twice!)

    I agree that smaller dos in pubs are the way forward - you tend to get a more mixed crowd.

    Work generally means I can't get to beer festivals before the evening, but I can't say I've ever noticed them being particularly crowded. Must be getting on the Tube every day distorting my perspective!

    haddonsman said...

    I tend to visit fests like I visit pubs; early doors midweek and Saturday lunchtimes.

    Leicester on Wednesday night was good - exceptionally so, as I can't think of too many fests where I've sat completing my crossword at 2030 with no raging din from music or general hubbub.

    Depends on what you go to fests for; I like a chat and no crush at the bar so am happy with early sessions. If you're a vertical drinker, later is better.

    Tomorrow I'm off to a small pub fest (The Victoria as Beeston). Whilst me and my mates can sit round and chat, we'll be happy. When the braying hordes descend, wanting "whatever's the strongest" or "anything that tastes like Pedigree", then it's time to go home :-)

    Ron Pattinson said...

    I've avoided weekend evening sessions at beer festivals since working at Ally Pally in the 1980's. I hate waiting for my beer and I hate people. I'd be perfectly happy to be the only customer.

    maeib said...

    Cheer up, Ron! Although if you were the only customer, you could give the staff a breather and serve yourself. Even more fun!!