Saturday, 7 November 2009

Beer fest vs geek fest

It's probably just me feeling pissed off about having to miss the De Molen Festival. But a trend is starting to worry me: the geek festival.

One of the things I like about festivals such as the GBBF and ZBF is their inclusivity. They don't just try to appeal to the beer nut (or even The Beer Nut). Their aim is to pull in normal punters, too, and expose them to a wider range of beer than they might come across in their dull, meaningless existence. Which means they don't just concentrate on the loony juice end of the beer spectrum, but have plenty of fairly mainstream choices as well.

Those who will never knowingly drink the same beer twice are dismissive of this type of festival. Nott enough new, weird or plain ludicrous beers for them to tick. Which is why a new breed of festival has appeared. I call them geek fests. They offer nothing but the rare and unusual, preferably exclusive, beers. Should any member of the public accidentally be lured in by the bright lights, they aren't likely to feel very included, nor find anything they could drink more than a mouthful of.

What I love about beer is that it's democratic and inclusive. Unlike wine or whisky, which have their heads firmly stuck up their own arses. Let's not throw this away, eh? I don't want to do my drinking in a geek bubble. I want to share my love of beer with everyone, not just a few similarly-minded obsessives. Beer should stay mainstream.

I don't want to see good beer be an exclusive club, only open to those willing to fork out most of their cash and time in its pursuit. Let's keep it for everyone.


Pivní Filosof said...

I've come to the conclusion that those that almost only drink those "Imperial barrel tooth-dissolver this. Grand Reserva infected that ("It's supposed to be sour, sir."). Tastebud-scourer the other. Sextuple Bock, Belgian Dodecahedron, Infinity IPA, Tharg Grand Master of the Universe (and any of other Universes not yet discovered or theoretically possible) Stout, Alcoholic's Breakfast Brown ("We throw the Bourbon in for you!")." don't understand beer at all. They just want to feel special because they like stuff that few others can stomach. Worse is that when some of that stuff becomes accepted by the mainstream they dismiss it, claiming that the brewery has "sold out".

I like beers that push the envelope, but only sometimes. I will always prefer those that I can drink on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

I had a laugh at "loony juice." I have never been to this kind of exclusive festival. I kind of want to now. Does that make me a ticker?!?

The best beer fest I ever went to I happened upon by mistake in a little village. Everyone sat around on hay bales drinking all kinds of beer, laughing and enjoying themselves. I was the only one (surreptitiously) taking notes.

rod said...

100% mate - absolutely right.
If it's any consolation, Pieter Paul, the guy who runs the pub at De Molen, invited me to the Bokfest when I was at De Molen in August, and I couldn't make it either.
(I am, however, going to the Brugs Bier Festival next weekend, and thoroughly looking forward to it :-})

Velky Al said...

Amen to that!

Mike said...

The de Molen fest is part of a triumvirate consisting of two breweries and a marketing company, namely, de Molen and Alvinne (breweries) and de Struise (marketing company). Likely their inspiration came from the "Extreme Beer" festival sponsored by Beer Advocate (

These festivals aren't really about beer. It is more about attracting hard-core "geeks" who seem willing to spend ridiculous sums on beverages that give beer a bad name.

Matt said...

As you say Ron, the great thing about beer is that - unlike wine or whisky - the world's classic styles - English bitter, Dusseldorf Alt, Belgian tripel - are not only widely available in the areas where they are brewed but at a price that means that they are available to all.

ennislaw said...

Ron, well said!!

Tim said...

Harpoon Brewery, the big regional here in Boston, puts on a few beer fests per year. The beer is just their normal range plus a seasonal, sold by the pint. Far more popular and fun than any geek festival I've been too. I don't know if there are other festivals like it around the country, but I hope so.

John Clarke said...


Having been guilty of attending the De Molen thrash (as you know) I have to say I could not agree more. The beers at De Molen were very interesting but almost nothing was below 9%. There are too many people out there wetting their pants over Imperial this and oak aged that, and sadly, a new breed of brewers pandering to them (I refer to these products as "trinket beers").

Having said that I am also a hypocrite because I really enjoyed the De Molen event. Itwas however good to return to the real world afterwards and drink something that didn't hanner your tastebuds into submission.

Barry M said...

Amen, brother.

Although I get to so few festivals I probably wouldn't care which flavour ones I ended up at!

Lew Bryson said...

Ron...whisky, our heads up our arses? I like whisky, and while there are whisky snobs out there, it's nowhere near as bad as wine. And there's not enough whiskies for there to be serious tickers (and the cost keeps the real whackos out of it, which is not all bad). There are anoraks in whisky, to be sure, but there's a lot of sharing takes place. Whisky brings more people together than forces them apart.

That said...right with you on the whole beer fest v. geek fest thing.

The Beer Nut said...

I'm struggling to think of a European looney-juice festival. Is it just the De Molen one you mean here?

While Copenhagen last year had vast amounts of Barrel-Aged Quadruple Imperial Electric Chilli Soup, there was tonnes of more sedate beer for the casual observer. Hell, you could have a Heineken if you wanted. In a 10cl glass.

I don't see what's to be gained by setting a limit on the types of beer that can be exhibited at a festival -- the extreme diversity of beer is what's so great about it.

If it's simply that we need more beer festivals with fewer beers rather than a small number of big festivals, then no disagreement here.

Gary Gillman said...

I wonder if whisky has a different image in America and Canada than Britain and Europe. It is not expensive here. Despite the efforts of bourbon fans to make it a premium drink it still has a downscale image I'd say. Wine too is inexpensive now or at least much of it of excellent quality is.

It is good that beer retain its popular roots, I agree with that. But from my standpoint, I have studied all these drinks now to the point where I can't look at them except in a "geek" way. They are dissociated now from any (non-specialist) social context for me. The last time that was not the case was, essentially, my student years.

As for extreme beers, their value is often not so much what is in the bottle but the interest and elan they create for brewing as a whole. They tend I think to raise the image of brewing in general, keep it in the public eye, make it more likely that standard international beers will not be further cheapened.

As an example, I believe the serious interest in good beer which started in the 1970's probably had an influence in making Heineken return to all-malt brewing some 20 years ago. And I just had a Heineken in Toronto, and it was an excellent lager beer, much better in my view than the 30 years ago.



Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Here here Ron! You're growing up!
Cheers mate,

dec23 said...

There's nothing wrong with "Geek Festivals".
The sharing of beer knowledge works on different levels.
Maybe, your "normal punter" would feel intimidated at such events, but the considerate beer geek will go there, remember what s/he had, and pass this knowledge on to less discriminating friends, to open up new opportunities for them. I know I do that, and I know my friends do.
I was at the Borefts Beer festival, and indeed, there was stuff there which was way over the top. But there was also stuff there where I know I can recommend it to people and it will open a whole new world of beer experiences for them.
They themselves would not have known, that's why festivals like these have a reason to exist in the "grander scheme", don't they?