In it's attempt to make the world of real ale sexy, SIBA pulled out most of the stops in Sheffield this week with it's big venued, laser-guided, plasma-screened extravaganza on ice. Well not actually on ice, they'd laid a carpet over the ice, but you get the picture.
Turning the arena into a massive warehouse style nightclub complete with booming sound-system (to keep that yeast agitating I imagine), multi-coloured strobe-effect lighting (am I drinking mild or pale?) and loosh furnishings (in case you wanted to make out with your pint) might at a glance look impressive - to a teenager making their club debut perhaps.
But of course the only youngsters in sight were those stood reluctantly manning the pumps (SIBA haven't figured out how to make those look sexy yet btw!), and once your eyes had grown accustomed to the dark - well you guessed it - just the same crowd of scruffy old buggers in dirty macs and holdalls you get at every beer fest. Incongruous isn't the word.
Don't get me wrong, SIBA do a great job, teens are the future (eventually) and beer tickers, the ones I know anyway, are lovely people - but let's not get carried away. Putting on some glitzy show isn't going to make the product more appealing to youngsters (if that is indeed the intention) and the people involved in production and those who enjoy serious consumption aren't going to feel comfortable with this, they just aren't.
I said SIBA pulled out most of the stops - well if I was them and was thinking about how to improve next years event, bearing in mind the 95% male turnout, I would certainly be considering naked dancing girls in cages suspended from the roof - that is surely the future of real ale festivals. In fact if they'd done that last night, I might have stopped for a second pint.