beer festivals The Session

Session #16: our ideal beer festival

Session number 16 is hosted by Thomas at Geistbear Brewing Blog, and the topic is beer festivals.

We’ve posted about various festivals we’ve been to in the past, from the enormous Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) to a cosy little event in a pub round the corner. Here, in no particular order, are our thoughts on what makes our ideal beer festival;

Size of venue

Small and cosy. Aircraft hangars are great for putting in as many beers as possible, but they make it difficult to generate an atmosphere.

Mind you, large beer tents seem to work in Germany. In fact, outdoor festivals are a great idea, although not so much in Britain with the rubbish weather and the diva-like nature of cask ale.

Range of beer

The range of beer will obviously be related to the size of the venue. We’re quite content to have a smallish range – anything more than about six beers counts as a festival to us! It’s more important that it’s in good condition, so that when you give it to your non-ale-loving mates, there’s a chance they might actually like the stuff and come back for more.


Mixed. It seems to make for a better atmosphere when you have non-beer-geeks there as well. This is why we like small festivals in local pubs.

Reason for being

It should not be a cynical marketing trick, like Heineken’s Identikit Oktoberfests in Spain. Ideally, it should promote real ale to new punters, although foreign beer festivals like the recent cracker at Zeitgeist are also OK by us!


Essential for mopping up all the beer, but also quite a handy tool for drawing in non-beer geeks. I’ve had lots of great food at festivals recently, with events such as the Pig’s Ear being a showcase for local(ish) small producers.


Difficult, this one. Without wanting to descend into predictable folkie-bashing, I’ve seen some dreadful live acts at beer festivals. Live bands can work really well, as Bailey found out in deepest darkest Somerset, but when they’re bad, they’re horrid. If festival organisers are going to bother with live music, they need to make sure they book real crowd-pleasers.

I quite like oompah bands, but I think you can only get away with them in Germany, where everyone knows the words. In Muenchen steht ein hofbrauhaus, eins, zwei, g’suffa!

To summarise: we’d like beer festivals to emphasise the “festival” a bit more – it should be something that’s fun and brings people together.


beer and food marketing News

Damm launch posh new beer

The Damm brewery in Spain have just launched a posh new beer, Inèdit, which I believe means something like “new” or unknown (pardon my Catalan if not, I’m sure someone will correct!)

It is designed specifically to go with food, “to be an alternative to wine in the best restaurants”. It’s been designed with the help of Ferran Adria and sommeliers from El Bulli, which is supposed to be the best restaurant in the world.

It’s not clear from the Damm press release whether the beer will actually be served at El Bulli — it would look a bit weird on the 150 page wine list. They make a big deal about how this is supposed to be a high end product. That said, the recommended price is starts at 8 Euros for a 75cl bottle — a bargain compared to what Meantime bottles for in London restaurants! The beer itself is bottle-conditioned, containing a mixture of wheat and barley malts, with coriander, orange peel and liquorice flavours.

It certainly sounds interesting. In our humble opinion, Damm already make the best mass-produced beer in Spain, and their Voll-damm (pictured) is an excellent strong amber / maerzen by anyone’s standards. I’m looking forward to reading the first tasting notes…

Story via Culturilla Cervecera – thanks Andres!


marketing pubs

Green beer – good gimmick?

Green beer by Stringberd at FlickrNo, I’m not talking about environmental issues for once. During the recent spell of hot weather, I ended up in Dogget’s Coat and Badge, by Blackfriars bridge. With around a fifteen minute wait to get to the bar, I told my friend to get me the first ale she could see.

She came back with Sign of Spring, by Stonehenge Ales. It was very green.

I’ve had green beers before, most notably Berliner Kindl-Weiss mit schuss, and something Polish with some additive in it. I expect green beers to taste of something other than beer, so it was quite confusing to my senses to realise that this beer was just a normal, rather pleasant, ale. Trouble is, I was so focused on it not tasting green that I can’t really remember what it did taste like.

The advantage of colouring your beer green is that it attracts attention – at least two people asked me what I was drinking, and a few more were staring at it. So perhaps it’s a shrewd marketing gimmick. On the other hand, as with silly names, any kind of gimmick with beer automatically makes me think the beer itself won’t be any good. For example, Andreea reviewed a green beer on her blog recently, where the only point of interest seemed to be its colour.

So is it a good gimmick? If I’d known the beer was green, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. Then again, at least I remembered it.


Dogget’s Coat and Badge is right next to Blackfriars bridge and has fabulous river views. I’d always assumed it would be awful, for some reason, probably to do with the queues, but actually, it’s pretty decent. They had at least three real ales on (not your usual suspects either), and Fruli on tap. It’s made me decide to (re)visit all these riverside pubs that I’d written off in the past.

Stonehenge Ales seem like a very interesting lot. I’ve had their Danish Dynamite before and thought it was lovely, although I can’t remember many details about it. (Pale and hoppy?) Unfortunately, their website appears to be malfunctioning at the moment, so I haven’t included a link, but you can read Adrian Tierney-Jones on Stonehenge and other small West Country breweries here. UPDATE: they’ve fixed the site, which you can find here.

Photo courtesy of Stringberd at Flickr, under a Creative Commons license.

Blogging and writing

It's our birthday!

We began this blog a year ago today.

We were homeward bound from Bavaria, having just had a couple of weeks travelling round and pickling our livers. Bailey had the initial idea, and we spent the long train journey home thinking of ideas. We had no idea there were already so many great beer blogs out there already, and we’re dead chuffed that we’ve found our own little place in the blogosphere. I certainly wouldn’t have believed that we’d be averaging more than a hundred unique visitors a day by this point.

We had a bit of a hiatus with Google Analytics, so it’s only been working again for the last month. However, there’s enough info to reveal some bizarre searches. Some we particularly enjoyed were;

  • “boak and bailey railways” – 22 TIMES – do we look like trainspotters?
  • “buy adelscott UK” – no, don’t! It’s rank!
  • “desperados stockists”- I’m sure both of these people would have loved our less than flattering review of the stuff
  • “how much was a pint of beer in 1958” – no idea, sorry, anyone want to answer in case they come back?
  • “bailey guitar hero” – so they’ve met him…?
  • “limited edition shire horses” – one of the many exciting gifts you can buy from our forthcoming souvenir page
  • “beer modelling jobs” – Stonch — fancy helping out any beer obsessed models?
  • “funny shaped bread rolls” – these internet perverts make us sick.
  • “screaming monkey” – at last, one we can help with.
  • “counterfeit coriander seed” – shush — not in front of everyone. Meet us outside later and we’ll see if we can sort you out.

You get the picture.

bottled beer buying beer real ale

All I want for Christmas is…

pie.jpgI’ve been a good person this year. I’ve supported and promoted pubs and shops selling good beer, I’ve recommended beautiful microbrews to people who might not otherwise have drunk them, and I even got round to joining CAMRA.

I don’t really want much for Christmas, aside from the odd nice beer, and peace and goodwill to all men, but here’s my fantasy Christmas wishlist:

  1. The hop and grain harvests to be full and plentiful this year. I don’t think the smoking ban will kill pubs, but £4 a pint might.
  2. UK brewers to do more porters and stouts year round and less summer ales. Oh, and pubs to stock them. I find it strange that even in really good “real-ale” pubs you rarely find a stout that isn’t Guinness.
  3. My local supermarket to change the beer selection more than once every couple of years.
  4. Pubs that don’t want to do good cask ale to discover the wonders of bottle-conditioned beers.
  5. A home-brew shop that gets round to processing your order perhaps the day after you made it, rather than waiting three days before phoning you to say they don’t have the stuff. Thus making you miss your brewing schedule.
  6. The BBC to commission and show a beer appreciation programme. Or any channel really. Get Oz Clarke to team up with some beer writers and see what happens.
  7. CAMRA to stop wasting my subs money on the campaign for a full pint and focus more on the quality of said pint, i.e. perhaps visit a few more of these allegedly good pubs in the Good Pub Guide? See superb rant by Pete Brown on this a few months back, one of my favourite blog posts of the year.
  8. Our first-born lager to work.
  9. To discover that the wild yeasts in the Lea Valley are capable of spontaneously fermenting a tasty beer, thus starting a craze for London lambics.
  10. All the fabulous pubs, breweries and beer shops we’ve mentioned (and many more we haven’t had a chance to) to have a productive and profitable new year. Cheers!