This post is a direct response to a comment made a couple of days ago by 'Jibber' and one I feel worthy of a bit more exploration.
He rightly says that nowadays there are beer festivals virtually every weekend, some are accessible, some less so; some large events, some are smaller club or pub type festivals; some are good, some less so. But have they outgrown their usefulness ?
On a personal note, with some of the larger Camra festivals I tend to agree with him. Even though I am selective in the ones that I attend, I often see the programmes for others and it is not unusual to see the same beers appearing time after time. Is that what the drinkers really want ? I suppose it depends on your reasons for going. If you are happy to drink whatever beer is provided, then this not a problem, but if, like me, you want to sample new breweries or new beers, it can be disappointing. They are a still a way of catching up with like minded people and old friends, so, irrespective of the beer on offer, they can be classed as a 'social event'.
Some of the smaller festivals are possibly a better bet, particularly those pub based ones that strive to source the more unusual beers, but even then you cannot be sure things will not be duplicated. It seems unlikely that a pub festival in Liverpool,will have the same contacts as one in Newcastle, and therefore, there is more of a chance to find something different, whereas, the larger festivals may be using the same agencies to supply their needs, and hence the same beers may appear at more than one. I do know many publicans, and organisers of festivals who constantly strive to be different and long may this continue. I, for one, appreciate the effort and will try to support them.
Alongside this is the comment he makes, that by a little forward planning, it is not difficult to plan yourself your own festival by visiting several pubs in an area on a certain day. I am a firm believer in this, as are may other enthusiasts, and that is why places like Manchester, Sheffield and Derby, as well as Huddersfield, figure so highly for beer 'tickers'. Provided the research is good enough, then you can find enough new beer in a day, and in vastly different environments, to negate the reasons for visiting a festival anyway. Lets face it, the human body can only drink so much after all, so whether the choice of beers is 40 or 400 it is impossible to drink them all at one go.
May be some of the larger festivals have outlived their usefulness, some of the smaller ones are still vital, both for the drinker, but also as a way for the publican to bring in some extra revenue, albeit with a lot of extra work. There is a place for them I am sure. But I will still enjoy my days out somewhere new, sampling what is on offer that I rarely see at home. Its just a way to get the best of both worlds.