A couple of weeks ago I attended and volunteered at this year’s Beavertown Extravaganza festival at Printworks in South London. Most people with any level of interest in craft beer would be aware that earlier this year, Beavertown announced that they had sold a minority stake of the business to Heineken. Inevitably, this news generated very mixed opinions to say the least and some of the abuse towards members of the Beavertown team on social media was absolutely horrendous.
Following the news, I did wonder what effects the announcement would have on plans for the Beavertown Extravaganza 2018. Beavertown had written to all 90 breweries set to take part in the festival and within a short time, a number of them announced that they would be withdrawing from the event. With roughly half of the original line-up no longer involved, Beavertown decided that the show would go on and reduced the all-in ticket price to reflect the now scaled-down festival. In the end, over 60 breweries were involved, with the drop-outs opening up opportunities for many other up and coming brewing companies. Whilst some people I know decided not to attend or volunteer at the festival, after a little thought, I decided that I would keep my word and have a great time.
Nearly two weeks on, I can say that #BEAVEREX18 was one of the highlights of my year so far. Here are a few reasons why:
Being a Skullenteer
Volunteering is my new favourite way to experience a beer festival as you get to enjoy the event from both sides of the bar. I signed up to work the Friday session, leaving me free to go nuts on the Saturday session.
I’ve never worked in a bar, but pouring beer in a festival environment is an easy job. When you’re limited to a couple of beers per bar and the serving size is 100ml, you soon get a good rhythm going and the day goes quickly when you’re soaking up the festival vibes.
I think working the Friday session helped me to enjoy Saturday even more. It’s cool to feel like you’ve contributed to the overall event.
Pouring for Crooked Stave at the Friday session
Skullenteers were assigned to groups of five or six brewery bars and my group included Burning Soul, Casita Cerveceria, Cigar City Brewing, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and Birrificio Del Ducato. As a big fan of the beers I’d tried at last year’s festival, I opted to work on the Crooked Stave bar for the whole session, pouring some of the best wild and sour ales you’ll find in the USA.
I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to hang out with owner and brewmaster Chad Yakobson as he wasn’t at the festival this year, but it was an honour to pour some really great beers and talk about them with the Friday session drinkers, some of whom couldn’t quite grasp that I don’t work for the brewery and I’m not from Denver.
I’m off to Colorado next month, so I’ll be sure to stop by the Crooked Stave taproom when I’m there.
The Good Beer Hunting Symposium
After a really successful programme of symposium events last year, I was glad that Good Beer Hunting were back this year to host some more fascinating discussions about beer, beer trends and the industry in general.
As a sometime blogger with aspirations to work in the beer industry, I made sure to grab a beer and take a seat at the front for the first talk of day on Saturday afternoon, where the Good Beer Hunting Collective of Michael Kiser, Matthew Curtis, Claire Bullen and Jonny Garrett discussed ‘How to advance the narrative within beer writing’. All four of the panellists are writers that I admire a great deal, so it was so good to hear them talk about their approaches to beer writing and writing in general.
I had just enough time to dash downstairs to get another beer before the start of the next talk of the day, and ooh, it was a biggie. Following a turbulent few months in the UK brewing industry, the next discussion was titled ‘Go your own way – the value of independence vs investment’, hosted by GBH’s Michael Kiser and featuring panellists Giovanni Campari (Birrificio Del Ducato), Justin Hutton (Two Tribes) and Logan Plant (Beavertown).
It was fascinating to hear how each of the panellists viewed independence and how outside investment was contributing to their growth and development.
It was encouraging to hear that Logan remains as passionate as ever about Beavertown. He was adamant that he still views his brewery as independent, stating “it’s my baby. I’ve got a hell of a lot more to do. We’ve got a hell of a lot more to do as a team.”
When asked expansion and where he would like to push more beer to, West Midlands born and bred Logan answered without hesitation, “Birmingham!”, which got a loud cheer from a minority in the audience, including myself and the guys from Burning Soul Brewing Co. We weren’t so impressed when he went on to describe Birmingham as “a f*****g desert”. The absolute cheek.
I’m pretty sure Logan will think otherwise when he next comes up to see us. He’s alright for a Wolves fan really.
All talks will appear on the Good Beer Hunting website as podcasts in the near future.
Burning Soul representing the West Midlands
Chris and Rich from Burning Soul are making some of the best beer in the midlands and it was awesome to see them sharing the likes of their Raspberry Ripple Pale and Breakfast Stout on the big festival stage. Last years IndyManBeerCon Thirsty Games winners were one of the breweries to benefit from some of the higher profile names dropping out of the festival. It was great to see the boys from Brum with a queue at all times, winning plenty of new fans in the process. I like to think I sent a few drinkers their way during my stint at the Crooked Stave bar.
With over 60 breweries and most bringing four or five beers, there was a lot of choice over the two days. They joy of an all-in ticket is that you can try as much as you can without having to worry about money or tokens. When your appetite for beer is bigger than your wallet, all-in means you are winning. I noticed that plenty of people took trying as many beers as possible very seriously, asking for even smaller pours than the standard 100ml. Some people shared there beers out with friends, some wrote tasting notes and others scrambled to log everything on UnTapped.
Each to their own! Personally, I took a much more relaxed view and wondered around from bar to bar, avoiding the big queues and getting to have my first experience of beers from the likes of Hale Brewing Co and Vault City Brewing, alongside my first taste of New Belgium ‘La Folie’. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of that when I tour their brewery next month!
As a shy person, I think it does me a lot of good to put myself out of my comofrt zone every once in a while. I had originally signed up to volunteer with friends, but when the festival came around, I was going solo. Luckily, it’s always easier to make new friends, talk and relax when the element of beer is very much involved. A special shout out goes to Frankie, who worked on the Crooked Stave bar with me.
For the Saturday session, it was great to hang out with my friends Tuck and Helena, as well as bumping into friends from the Brum beer scene, new friends from the day before, the Burning Soul guys and everyone new face that I ended up speaking to. There was a positive vibe throughout the day and the majority of faces were smiling throughout.
It is a shame that a few bellends always feel the need to smash their glasses for their mate’s approval at the end of the day though. I don’t really understand the appeal there lads, so you didn’t get any cheers from me.
Will there be a next year?
Big things will be happening for Beavertown in the next year or so, that’s for sure. However, it’ll be interesting to see if #BEAVEREX19 is part of their plans.
Personally, I really hope that there is another Extravaganza next year. I’ve made it to a few big beer festivals over the last couple of years and last year’s and this year’s Beavertown Extravaganza comfortably make it into my top 5. If a 2019 festival goes ahead, you can bet my name will on that Skullenteers list faster than you can pour 100ml.