Introduction by Luke, ramblings transcribed by Rob and Dave.
So every now and again something happens in the beer world that quite simply blows your mind. It might be an awesome collaboration between two top line breweries, a truly superb beer that knocks you off your feet or in this case, a world-changing event that exceeds all expectations. The Beavertown Extravaganza is one such event.
On the second weekend in September, Beavertown, mainstays of the British beer scene, pulled together 70 odd breweries from across the globe. From British heavy hitters, like Cloudwater and Brewdog, to much talked about gems from further afield, like Wellington, New Zealand’s Garage Project or Toronto’s Bellwoods, who rarely make appearances on our shores.
The Beavertown Extravaganza was literally that, a spectacular display of beer from around the world.
The three of us were lucky enough to be there for the Saturday session and we had a fantastic time. The Extravaganza made such an impression on us that a simple write-up just wouldn’t do it justice. Instead we got together and reminisced over a beer.
Here’s the first Wednesday Beers roundtable…
Luke: So yeah, we booked tickets for the Beavertown Extravaganza back in January.
Dave: When was it announced?
Rob: A few weeks before? Not long before that. Straight away, we were told that it was going to be 70 odd breweries from around the world and…
Dave: All you can drink.
Rob: Yeah, all you can drink. Then Beavertown start announcing the breweries a few at a time and it was like, woah, ok, these are guys that don’t distribute outside of their state or their country, so this is a big deal. Expectations were high.
Dave: Very high. Especially as we had just been to IndyMan a few months before and absolutely adored that and we got really excited about seeing all these breweries from the US and rare beers from across the world.
Luke: I’ve been to the Beavertown tap room on a Saturday afternoon and that was a pretty special experience even though you’re sitting on a pallet in a car park, drinking beer. It feels like an event.
Rob: This festival was the biggest of its kind that Britain has seen. I’m sure there’s events on that level in the states or in Europe, but for Britain it’s new. Expectations were massive…
Dave: But if we could trust anyone to do it, it was Beavertown.
Rob: Yeah. I think it was last year, they had their birthday celebrations at the brewery and it was a bit overwhelming. They invited other breweries to join in, but the turnout was huge, people were queuing up around the industrial estate and they couldn’t let them all in. I think the demand was bigger than expected, it was overwhelming and it made them realise that, ok, they needed to do something bigger…
Rob: …and they obviously put the work in. I have to say, my expectations were met, if not exceeded.
Rob: What I imagined it to be is what it turned out to be, I was just living it!
Dave: But then of course, the day before we went, there was the Friday session…
Rob: Oh man, the tweets.
Dave: …and we saw some, well, lots of angry people on Twitter.
Rob: So, the Friday session started at about 3 O’clock did it? I was at work then and I finish at 4 on a Friday, so it’s fair to say I was a bit distracted. I was scrolling through Twitter, thinking hang on?
Luke: Yeah, it started at 3 O’clock and it seemed some people were just complaining the second they walked through the door.
Rob: “Oh, the glasses are too small.” Seriously, why would people buy tickets to an event without reading up on what they’re going to?
Dave: They should have bought their own pocket pint glass.
Luke: But, they’d still only get 100ml servings.
Dave: Exactly, it was massively unreasonable what people were saying at this point.
Rob: Could you imagine if they had pint servings and people were stumbling around drinking 13% imperial stouts? People would be falling asleep and being sick on their shoes within the hour.
Luke: That was still achievable on the Saturday, wasn’t it? That one guy…
Rob: Oh yeah, in the food village. He was in a bad way.
Dave: Oh yeah, what was his name? Steven? But yeah, what else was being said. Oh yeah, queues.
Rob: Yeah, which brings us back to the point that there were breweries from around the world and we’d never normally have a chance to try their beers, but all of a sudden, Beavertown have put kegs and kegs of the stuff on planes. Stuff we hadn’t even heard of and course, beers we had heard of but hadn’t had a chance in hell of getting our hands on. But people are still acting surprised that some breweries are more hyped and there are queues?
Luke: But there are 70 or so breweries…
Rob: It’s not hard to just go and stand in the smaller que next to the Trillium or Omnipollo queue.
Dave: We only really queued for more than 5 minutes once and that was for Trillium. That was 10 minutes max and we had a beer in our hands.
Rob: There were a few of us, so you could just leave the queue, grab a beer and come back, because, who’s going to be a dick about that?
Luke: I think some people just thrive on finding the negative rather than just…
Dave: Granted, there was the whole thing about beer running out on the Friday, but we didn’t experience that on the Saturday.
Rob: Yeah, you say they sold out, but there were still about 49 bars still serving.
Luke: The more popular stuff is going to run out, it’s the laws of the world.
Dave: Supply and demand.
Rob: They learned from that for the Saturday session. There was (Beavertown) Neck Oil and Gamma Ray coming in in abundance. Anyway, that was the twitter reaction we got before we were there. On the Saturday we got there in time for the event to tart. Beavertown had suggested that people look to arrived at about 11ish, but there was really no need.
Dave: We strolled up at about quarter to 1 or whatever and we were straight through.
Rob: When we got in, there were people queueing up at certain bars, ready for them to start serving, but as we said, we’re not going to go there at the start of the day and queue up for 30 minutes, you want a beer in you, so…
Luke: My main goal was to just experience as much variety as possible.
Rob: I’d say you did that.
Luke: I definitely agree.
Rob: I’d say that we all did that pretty well.
Luke: So, I wasn’t going to worry about missing out on some of the stuff that I’d had before.
What we liked
Dave: So, what did we like about the festival?
Rob: Well, I just felt like I was in a very big, weird, mixed family of likeminded people for the most part. Surrounded by pretty much, the best beer that you can get.
Dave: Yeah, I think the sheer selection that was on offer was just crazy.
Rob: It is crazy when you queue up at the bar, get to the front and you’re being served by Kim Jordan from New Belgium. One of the people who really led the way with the rise of craft beer in America in the 90s, so that was pretty cool.
Luke: Someone’s got a crush.
Rob: Haha, yeah, well… Yes, she’s a very nice lady.
Dave: She invited you round her house, didn’t she?
Rob: She said that she’d be very happy to give me a tour round the brewery. So, I’m sure she means I can come around her house as well, any time.
Dave: Hmmm, yeah. That was really cool. We saw a load of people from different breweries, just walking around, or pouring the drinks themselves.
Rob: Or standing next to the bar, just making sure everyone was enjoying the beer.
Dave: Well we were able to talk to Steve Grossman from Sierra Nevada at the end of the day weren’t we?
Rob: Yeah, I just walked up to him. I’d had a lot to drink at that point, but I did keep it fairly cool because I have known to tell people I love them without much prompt.
Dave: Yeah, so there was the range of beers, the industry legends around…
Luke: I liked the atmosphere.
Dave: The atmosphere was great, yeah.
Rob: I spoke to a lot of people, just in queues or on the way to queues. People were generally having a great time.
Dave: Everyone I saw seemed to be there to enjoy the beer.
Luke: That was the main thing. It was all about the beer.
Dave: It didn’t seem like there were too many people there were people who were doing it just to get drunk. I didn’t spot them first hand.
Rob: Some people did accidentally.
Dave: There were people that probably didn’t pace themselves very well. Like Steven.
Rob: There were a lot of imperial stouts going around. They can be dangerous.
Luke: There was a real sense of community between the brewers. Towards the end when some of the guys ran out, they were pouring Gamma Ray or Neck Oil. Just to further the party I suppose.
Dave: The volunteers pouring the drinks all seemed very happy.
Rob: It’s pretty cool to see someone like Paul Jones from Cloudwater walking round with a massive grin on his face all day.
Dave: Although we only went to the key note speech, the Good Beer Hunting Symposium was really cool.
Rob: Yeah Steve Grossman was great.
Luke: That was really interesting. I didn’t know a lot about the history of craft brewing in America.
Rob: Steve’s brother Ken (founder of Sierra Nevada), he was one of those guys who really was there at the very start of the revolution in the 80s was it? (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was founded in 1979) Real forerunners. Steve talked about the history of brewing in the US right from prohibition time up to the present day.
Dave: I thought the range of food available was really good too. A really good selection of different food trucks.
Rob: The floor pizza was excellent.
Dave: Yep, Rob dropped a slice of pizza on the floor.
Luke: Going back to the symposium, it was a dichotomy, wasn’t it? You want to sit there all day and engage, but then, it’s about the beer.
Dave: I did feel like if there was a bar in the same room it would have been perfect.
Rob: I wish we could have come back on the Sunday just to sit there and listen to all the talks. I’m sure it will all be available to listen to at some point.
Rob: I have to say, since this was the first Beavertown Extravaganza, I can’t complain about anything. The venue; brilliant. The toilets were not bad.
Dave: Yeah, I had no problems with the toilets.
Rob: If there was one criticism, maybe there could have been a few more water swilling points. People were swilling glasses with bottles of water at the bars, but a few more rinsing points would have been good.
Dave: A couple of niggle points I had… To see what beers were on, you had to go right to the bar, so you felt like you were crowding round, which could have been annoying for the people pouring and the people at the front of the queue. It would be better if there was an easier way to communicate what beers were currently on tap.
Rob: I guess it would have been very expensive to have large screens to tell us what was on each bar. Not to mention a logistical nightmare. Maybe just a bigger whiteboard?
Dave: It would have been nice if there was some other merchandise. It was cool that there was a decent amount of Beavertown stuff on sale, but it would have been great to find some merch from some other breweries too.
Rob: Maybe there could have been a second merch stand in the first room?
Dave: I understand why they didn’t do it, but no bottle shop for take-outs? It would have been cool for some breweries to bring in some bottles and cans.
Rob: I guess that since a lot of the beer was flown over, it would’ve been difficult logistically to do more than that. Also, having it all contained inside the event made it more special in a way. I know at Hop City earlier on in the year, they had a can bar with Heady Topper or Focal Banger there and you were limited to 1 can and they had to be opened at the bar.
Dave: How about you West? Anything else?
Luke: Just trying to think.
Dave: I guess if you have to think hard enough for a negative, it shows how great it really was.
Luke: At the time, nothing really bothered me. I think that seeing which beers were on at each bar was probably my major niggle.
Rob: Right so, Wine for Wives.
Dave: Wine for Wives.
Rob: So, if you weren’t on Twitter at all that weekend, or if you weren’t at the event…
Dave: Some people aren’t on Twitter.
Rob: That’s true some people aren’t… But yeah, someone posted a tweet saying “do you have any drinks other than beer, like wine (for wives)”…which came across as a bit sexist.
Dave: Yeah like he was moaning about theRob: not being anything other than beer, at a beer festival, crazy…
Luke: There was Cider and Perry.
Rob: Going back to my point, why would people buy tickets for things without actually bothering to read into what they’re buying? £55. You don’t spend that much money and then not know what you’re doing. Don’t take your wife if she doesn’t like beer. But yeah, it came across as quite sexist, so obviously this became a bit of a recurring joke for the weekend.
Dave: Everyone jumped on it and it was very funny.
Rob: You had Good Beer Hunting taking the mick and they’ve got a worldwide reader base. It was quite hilarious.
Luke: It was two pronged, wasn’t it? First of all it was like, do you not understand how a beer festival works? And secondly, you’re coming across as a bit of a misogynist.
Dave: It was very funny, and I’m sure that guy was absolutely humiliated. But #wineforwives.
Rob: He did delete his tweet. But yeah, Wine for Wives. Matt Curtis was scream tweeting “I need wine for my wife”. The funniest thing was that Good Beer Hunting posted a picture of them with 750ml cider bottles, not unlike a wine bottle, with the caption “wine for the wives”, and then straight away there were people, who didn’t what was going on, saying “this is quite sexist, what do you mean by this?”
Luke: Linking back to our earlier thoughts, and about people complaining for the most ridiculous reasons, that’s indicative of a certain kind of person who just wants to whinge. People complaining that they weren’t allowed their umbrellas, or that their glasses were too small, it’s just like, give it a rest and enjoy yourselves.
Dave: I would have liked to have known his logic when he took to his phone and thought “Oh, I’m at a beer festival, brought to us by Beavertown, who are known for their craft beer, but where’s the wine?!”
Rob: His poor wife, it probably wasn’t an event she would’ve wanted to be at if she’d known what it was.
Dave: It sounds like he didn’t know what it was.
Luke: The point is, if he had worded his tweet just slightly better, and a bit more eloquently, it wouldn’t have been a thing.
Dave: Yeah, like “Hey Beavertown, just wondering, is there any Wine available?”
Rob: I thought Beavertown dealt with the social media criticism pretty well, and in that instance, they did point him to the soft drinks stall, which is quite funny because you did have to pay for soft drinks.
Beavertown Extravaganza 2018
Luke: Right, hopes for 2018.
Rob: First of all, more of the same, but then maybe a few more kegs for each brewery, to stop people moaning about having to have delicious Gamma Ray.
Dave: Obviously, we’ve already talked about our slight niggles from earlier, so maybe just improving on some of that stuff. Just want to see it bigger and better really. Overall, it was fantastic, so more of the same, a few more kegs…
Luke: Better signage of what beers are on.
Rob: HUGE PLASMA SCREENS EVERYWHERE!
Dave: It might be good, but I know it’s not really feasible. Printworks was a great venue; I’d like to see it there again. Maybe if they were to do another symposium, why not have some Beavertown beers on tap right there.
Rob: Just round the side yeah. I’d definitely stick around for longer if there were a couple of breweries up there. I’m guessing the venue restricted. But if they could do that – awesome.
Luke: Or maybe, even starting the symposium an hour or so before the beer so you can sit and have a listen before it all starts. Just staggering the timings a bit more may have helped. I was gutted to have missed out on some of the talks and panels, but I was there for the beer really.
Rob: For next year, I’d actually like to volunteer. It’d be a great experience to be behind the bar and then as a punter the next day, or the other way round… Well I’d definitely like to work the Friday and then do the Saturday, it could go horribly wrong the other way, couldn’t it?
Luke: So, with the criticisms on Twitter over the Friday and the Saturday, people were also complaining that there wasn’t any of the pitfalls of the Friday on the Saturday.
Dave: How dare they improve?!
Rob: They’re Beavertown. They learn from their mistakes, they’re sensible people and they know how to have a good time.
Dave: I’d quite like to see next year, an actual “Wine for Wives” stand, just to take the piss, with a massive #wineforwives sign.
Luke: A bit of merch from the other breweries as well would be nice.
Rob: If there’s one thing, they had an afterparty for all the brewers and the volunteers, and I saw a tweet afterwards of Logan Plant, crowd surfing, off his face on craft beer, to a rocked up version of Cissy Strut, and I feel a bit let down that he wasn’t doing that all day.
Dave: So, you want more Logan in 2018?
Rob: I want more Logan essentially. I only saw him in the morning when we were in the queue and then I saw him by the Beavertown bar, and then no more of his beautiful blue eyes…are they even blue? I don’t know, but they’re beautiful eyes. Just more Logan. Just big pictures of him everywhere.
Dave: Ok, I think we’re done.
It got a bit weird there didn’t it? If you’ve made it through to the end, we probably owe you a beer. We were going to talk about our favourite beers of the festival in this blog too, but on second thoughts, we thought we would save that for another post, so bear with us.