Our host for the 96th session is Joan Villar-i-Martí at the Catalonian beer blog Birraire who asks, quite simple, ‘Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?‘
Beer festivals, as we know them today, were pretty much invented by the Campaign for Real Ale in the 1970s, when they were a brilliant hybrid of political protest and beer geek fan service.
When choice in pubs was even more severely limited than it is today, and beers from one region of the UK were rarely seen in the next, festivals were highly appealing, and people were willing to put up with draughty old halls and basic facilities for the chance to try something as exotic as a best bitter from two counties over, while surrounded by other members of their tribe.
So, they were about a 50/50 split, to use Sr. Villar-i-Martí’s terms, between ‘geek gathering’ and ‘beer dissemination’.
These days, however, the latter function is somewhat diminished. There is more variety on offer in pubs, bars, supermarkets and shops than even reasonably dedicated beer geeks can hope to process, so what’s on offer at festivals is generally either (a) stuff we’ve already had, probably in better condition; or (b) gimmicky one-off weirdness that we don’t have the time or energy to be bothered with.
For tickers, on their brave quest to taste every beer in existence, festivals remain obligatory — it’s the only place that five litre batch of Mango-Coconut Weizen-Stout is being served!
For others, though, their value is increasingly tipped towards the social, especially for those who belong to communities, cliques or sub-cults whose presence is otherwise entirely online.
Main image adapted from ‘Great British Beer Festival’ by Katie Hunt, from Flickr, under Creative Commons.