View Full Version : Student Brewer - It's getting a bit scary now...

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21-07-2010, 17:11
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I've run beer festivals before. The first solo one was 10 ales on handpump out in the garden over Hay festival, which went reasonably well (lets just say we had a good stock of Steak and Ale pie after the festival).

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_E9ZRQEupDkI/TEcZGx5kM6I/AAAAAAAAAUE/vNKi0s0TP6g/s320/BeerFest104.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_E9ZRQEupDkI/TEcZGx5kM6I/AAAAAAAAAUE/vNKi0s0TP6g/s1600/BeerFest104.JPG)

Then last year I went for 20 ales but actually got round to advertising it a bit better. It made a small profit, and certainly made people aware that every year at the end of September we'll be having a beer festival.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_E9ZRQEupDkI/TEcZwvrJTOI/AAAAAAAAAUU/Pslf46IMAiI/s320/SNC00074.jpg (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_E9ZRQEupDkI/TEcZwvrJTOI/AAAAAAAAAUU/Pslf46IMAiI/s1600/SNC00074.jpg)

But this year, well, it's a bit bigger than I expected. And it's all the fault of the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival.

I went down as the guest of Buster from Breconshire brewery, working a couple of shifts and a chance to meet other brewers and find out more about setting the brewery up. On the Friday we went down, after hearing the results of the competition (Congratulations to Otley for their winning beer O-Garden) we had a couple of drinks.

It was some time in the evening that, completely unintentionally, about half a dozen brewers and myself were going round, looking for beers we hadn't heard of or tried before, and discussing them casually. I was surprised at how many just weren't impressive - be it under hopped or not mashed enough at the brewery, or the lack of condition and slight cloudiness at the festival.

Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of beers were lovely, but although I'd read and spoken to people who seem to find for every excellent microbrew 2 or 3 not so good ones, but I'd never come across it myself. The guest ales we sell occasionally have a duff one in their ranks but on the whole I consider myself lucky. So to have a small run of poor beer was a bit of a disappointment.

http://vinylstickersdirect.co.uk/images/welshdragon.jpg (http://vinylstickersdirect.co.uk/images/welshdragon.jpg)

The other thing was, with a name like the Great Welsh Beer and Cider festival I expected a real emphasis on Welsh beers. Again, they were there, but they weren't particularly highlighted (they may have been in the programme, I didn't get my mitts on one). To me, they were just mixed in with beers from across the country.

Now this may not be a bad thing, and there may be very good reasons for the layout of the festival, but it got me thinking could I do it? Could I really promote Welsh ale in a way that screams 'We're proud of what we brew'.

20 Welsh beers, a couple of Welsh bands and a couple of Welsh brewers to do tastings and talk about their beer. That was the initial plan. Then, after an evening of quality control at the pub (including double checking) the idea of showcasing as many Welsh breweries as possible came up, supporting the microbreweries etc etc. So I had a look at this page (http://awib.org.uk/module.php?page=members) on the AWIB website.

http://awib.org.uk/images/welcome.png (http://awib.org.uk/images/welcome.png)

The beer list currently stands at 50 beers. Over twice the number I'd originally considered. I googled each brewery, found in most cases a list of their beers, although how current these are in some cases I don't know. 50 beers is quite a sizable festival. Just getting firks is about 3500 pints of ale. So, the thinking continued, I need to draw people in. Hay on Wye has a population of 1800 people. So if every man, woman and child came to the festival and drank a pint, we'd have only sold half.

I'm a big believer in if you don't ask you don't get. The worst that'll happen is I get ignored, or turned down. I've never really worked out which is worse, but you certainly don't loose anything. So I emailed a few names I'd heard of in the beer world, most of whom have published books. I have been amazed at the generosity, friendliness and helpfulness of these people, either in agreeing to come and do an event at the festival, or in providing direction by recommending other people to ask, beers to look out for, places to go for funding.

The current line up of confirmed guests includes:

Pete Brown (http://thebeerwidow.blogspot.com/) and The Beer Widow (http://thebeerwidow.blogspot.com/)
Melissa Cole (http://girlsguidetobeer.blogspot.com/)
Zak Avery (http://www.thebeerboy.co.uk/pith.html)
Buster Grant (http://www.breconshirebrewery.com/), Chair AWIB and Head Brewer Breconshire
Peter Amor (http://www.wyevalleybrewery.co.uk/), Chair SIBA and founder Wye Valley Brewery
Nick Otley (http://www.otleybrewing.co.uk/index.php?id=1) and Co, Otley Brewery

I'm hoping to be able to add more and more Welsh brewers - all of which are welcome - to mingle and talk to the customers about their beer. But my mind didn't shut off and say 'that's enough', which I'm wishing it had as I'm currently a one man band on the organisational side, albeit with excellent and valuable support from brewers and family across the UK.

It's the Beer Widow's fault - I read here (http://thebeerwidow.blogspot.com/2010/05/booking-marvellous.html) that for the first Stoke Newington Literature festival they had managed to get 3 writers to talk about beer. So I thought about getting beer people to talk about writing. I then thought about getting Welsh people to talk about Welsh writing at a festival of Welsh beer. It made sense, so why not.

So we have a local who has just finished his novel which is as yet unpublished who will be doing a reading. We have David Lunt (http://davidlunt.wordpress.com/book/), who just happened to be walking past as I was pitching the idea to the man with the purse strings, Dad. He was staying with us in the hotel, and is now going to be doing a reading, talking about and book signing his first published work (it got published last week I think), the first in a trilogy. We've also got Welsh author and poet Mike Jenkins (http://www.mikejenkins.net/biography.html) doing a reading, and Zak Avery has agreed to do a book signing. I'm in touch with a few more authors but none that I can confirm yet.

I've sorted a provisional website out, which is still work in progress but gives a good indication of what we're all about. O, and the profits from the festival will be going to next years festival, which already has a couple of people that couldn't make it this year booked. Have a look, and as always, any and all comments and feedback welcome - it's the first time I've done something this big and help is always appreciated!



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