There was a lot of fuss among the geekerati about IndyManBeerCon. Most remarked how wonderful it was and indeed I wrote about it rather positively here. I was caused to think back about it, when struck by a letter in the most recent What's Brewing about how CAMRA shouldn't worry about attracting young people, something I think IndyManBeerCon actively did do, as they'll come to us in time.
Set against this background, the very recent final National Winter Ales Festival to be held in Manchester, allowed me, as Deputy Organiser, to spend rather a lot of time in our little podium in the middle (it was a bingo caller's box don't you know) examining the crowd. Not only was that part of my job, but it was instructive to see how the crowd varied and what the mix and dynamics were. I also was responsible for the door and spent every day watching the crowds as they came in. On Thursday, when it was free to CAMRA members, there were vast numbers of over fifties, presumably retired and a sprinkling of younger people. There was also a fair number of tickers in, grabbing the best position and setting out their pre-prepared lists. Later, after work, the crowd while remaining mainly older, was leavened by a healthy sprinkling of younger people.
Friday repeated the pattern, though by after work time, the balance had swung more in favour of the under thirties, but maintained a healthy mix. Saturday was more of the same, with a few families in their designated area and a solid mix of ages.
Now why am I saying all this? Going back to IndyManBeerCon, there, on the Friday at least, it was mainly and I mean almost totally, those under forty. I doubt if their targeted audience was as broadly based as ours and why should it be? Their customers were much more seriously geeky - and I don't mean that as an insult - much more socially aware and probably, far more affluent. They had a different offer which worked for them. Just as craft keg is a different offer that works for some.
Returning to that letter in What's Brewing. The young will eventually become older, the trendy will want to be warm and comfortable, they'll get married and have children. They and their beer tastes will change and develop. I'm getting increasingly relaxed about craft keg. Real Ale isn't going away - there are enough of us around determined on that point - and choice is always good.
Come when you are ready Folks.
As an aside, these old codgers don't half have a laugh. Plenty of laughter throughout was the order of the day. I don't recall so much of that at IndyManBeerCon. Geeky people don't do laughing it seems.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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