No longer do beer festivals mean a CAMRA-led event that takes place once a year and includes a load of local cask beer and maybe some Belgian bottles, thanks to the new breed of events that have popped up showcasing a new range of breweries and payment tactics.
Moving on from the old fashioned sheet of beer tokens, there are now more beer festivals which are offering all-in tickets – where you pay for everything up front and on arrival, all the beer is included. No faffing about with tokens, token sheets or cash, you simply turn up and drink away.
I first encountered this type of festival when I attended Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2016 (it’s now called Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen), an event curated by Danish brewery Mikkeller and it really opened my eyes. It felt hassle free and a good way of keeping tabs on how much I was spending – as well as making sure I didn’t end up with surplus tokens at the end of the night.
We enjoyed it so much that we booked tickets for the 2017 event and then we heard that London brewery Beavertown were planning something similar so we eagerly arranged to go to this event too. The Beavertown Extravaganza appears to have taken a number of cues from MBCC – holding it in a large hall, bringing over American breweries and, most interestingly, going for the same format of payment.
In my experience, the all-in method seems to work well – if it’s the right event. If you don’t think of it as some sort of “all you can drink” student night type experience and pace yourself, it’s much easier and speeds up the inevitable queues at the most popular/hyped breweries.
I think it also encourages you to try a wider variety of beers. If I was paying for individual beers and there was one I wasn’t too sure of, I probably wouldn’t try it but at an all-in festival I’d go for it – especially as the measures are smaller than your standard beer festival so you feel less guilt about pouring it (I went for a beer at MBCC from Icelandic brewery Borg which featured malts smoked over sheep shit and detested it, but I could simply pour it and get something I preferred, which I did).
Of course, I can see why this might not appeal to everyone. The beers at both the Mikkeller and Beavertown events were very small measures – less than a third – which does mean more trips to the bar and could maybe spoil some of the social aspect as you’ll spend more time wandering around looking for beer than chatting with your mates.
All-in tickets also aren’t cheap – the Beavertown tickets were £55 and I think the Mikkeller ones were about £70 (although we did go for the Silver tickets which were slightly pricier because a goodie bag was included) – and that’s a sizeable cost to pay all at once, so I can see why there would be some who might be put off by this.
There are always a few who try and spoil the fun for others by either trying to drink as much as humanly possible as quickly as they can and ended up absolutely bladdered within 45 minutes or in other ways (for example, I saw some posts on social media during the Beavertown Extravaganza saying some people had managed to get themselves a second glass – who needs to drink two beers at once, really?) but that’s going to be the case at any event.
Personally, I’d be happy for more festivals to do this but I can see how it might put off more casual beer drinkers instead of ‘craft beer wankers’ like myself. Manchester’s flagship beer festival, the Independent Manchester Beer Convention aka Indy Man Beer Con, doesn’t offer this sort of admission and I know it attracts beer lovers from across the country as well as locals who just want to have a good time in a beautiful venue. Tickets cost between £8.50 and £13.50 which cover your admission and glass and each beer will cost you one token for a third (with tokens costing £25 for 11 or £2.50 each individually). Maybe a two-tier admission system could be looked at – you can pay for standard admission and pay for beers with tokens when you get there or a pay more to include the cost of your drinks with admission with a wristband to demonstrate this? I’d be interested to see something like this.
What are your thoughts?