To say at the start, I did eventually enjoy my Saturday afternoon at London’s Brewing and I have definitely been to events more badly organised (Glastonbury 2007 springs immediately to mind), but to my mind some of the criticism has been a bit rabid, I’m not sure what place Trading Standards have in this discussion? I’m not sure why people were expecting to be able to swan up to the bar at a sold out event, and one that they’ve probably only paid £4 to get into (£15 ticket minus 3 pints at £3.80-£4.00) at that.
All that said, the first two hours were a shambles, here’s why:
Opening 45 mins late led to an unmanageable queue and had knock on effects all afternoon. If they’d opened on time, even with just the cask bar, the hardcore would have had a beer in their hand by quarter past. It wouldn’t have stopped a massive queue later, but would have taken the edge off.
Staff were baffled by the needlessly complicated till. I’d have gone tokens all round, rather than a mix of tokens and cash. Staff also hadn’t been briefed on what beer was what and only having the names on the barrels and taps meant the punters couldn’t help out/help themselves without referring back to the programme. It would also have helped if it had been pointed out to the staff that our commemorative glasses were two-thirds of a pint and thus when we asked for “two-thirds” we meant “fill it to the top”. I had to explain this more than once…
The event was oversold in two ways. Obviously there were too many people there, particular for the first session when there are bound to be both problems and a rabid bunch of tickers banging at the door (I include myself in this group!), I can only assume they sold to the fire limit which is always a risk. Secondly the marketing oversold the event. Being unaware of the space before I got there I was expecting a set-up like the previous LBA event at vinopolis, with each brewer being given a table to sell their beer, allowing you to chat with the brewery staff and see very easily what is available. It was somewhat underwhelming to walk in and see a standard stillage not much bigger than a decent pub beer festival.
Now, this might be a bit controversial, but the punters didn’t help themselves either. I’ve never been to a beer festival where every beer in the brochure has been on, so to repeatedly see people peering at the list and then asking for something clearly not written on any of the barrels in front of them was exasperating (I’ll let people off in the keg room where both space and light was at a premium). Also blithely queuing for ten/fifteen minutes and then saying “um, which one is a pale ale?” is not helping anyone is it?
The final nail in the coffin for a decent number of punters was the hail storm about half one which just added insult to injury. Not that LBA can be held responsible for the weather obv!
I’m sort of referring to LBA on purpose here because their name was above the door as it were, even if the event was at London Fields Brewery. I heard tell over the weekend that London Fields (or at least the people London Fields were working with to run the event) had been turning down offers of help from other brewers, but, regardless, as an organisation (however loosely defined) this reflects badly on them. I also understand there was to be a debrief the Tuesday afterwards at their regular meeting, wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall there…
I’d be somewhat trepidacious about going to another one of their events, and certainly wouldn’t go to the opening session, but it’s a shame when London is finally becoming (returning to being?) a great brewing city. Let’s be clear, most of the beers i had were cracking, the Pressure Drop Builders and the Weird Beard 5 O’clock Shadow being the two stand outs. I also had some lovely conversations with friends and strangers about beer, which is my favourite thing to do. Oh and as it was the only picture I actually took, I should mention that I also had my first Stout Float (london fields black frost with salted caramel ice cream), which was incredibly yum.
Other people had both better and worse times than me: