Well, it is over now and I'm just about recovered. All the planning and hard work was worth it. We had 14,800 through the door, we sold 45,000 pints or thereabouts of real ale and all the cider, almost all of the foreign beer and most of the keykeg. In short, it went bloody well.
I spent the last hour and a half or so of the last session asking customers at random what they thought of it and most importantly if they'd come back again if we do it next year. The answer without fail was a resounding "Yes".
So what went well from my point of view and what didn't?
Venue: Was superb and easy to work. All on one level, everything dropped where we needed, all well planned and going from a vast empty hall to one filled with bars, stalls and thousands of people and then back to a vast empty hall again was oh so satisfying. And people loved it. Everyone I asked was thrilled with the room, the seating, the ease of getting there and everything about it. Even when at its busiest, it was navigable. The hall staff were ever helpful to us and they loved it and want us back.
Door Arrangements: I was in overall charge of this area and it operated pretty smoothly. We opened on time, we closed on time, we got people in quickly and queuing outside was kept to a minimum. Nobody was turned away. The staff there quickly formed a very cohesive little team and worked well together despite it being the coldest area to work in. Well done them.
The Customers: An absolute delight. From the trade people who cheerfully accepted things when we had a problem with cash (see below) to the old CAMRA codgers to the younger crowd on Friday and the cheerfully mixed one on Saturday, all were pleasant, happy and when we needed them to be, patient. We had no security incidents to record. As always it was great to talk to so many beery people (did you know you can just about say "Beer people are good people" without having to stick your fingers down your throat?) and a special mention must be given to all my fellow bloggers who were a delight and not too pissed. In fact no-one was too pissed. Nobody threw up in the toilets and there were no first aid incidents in the hall. With my H&S hat on, yippee.
Toilets: Some improvement needed, but by and large they were kept clean, waiting time was usually short and despite a touch of insurrection over toilet gender reallocation, fairly laid back about (short) waits. On my trip round asking customer views, nobody complained about them, though I personally felt we needed more.
Beer: We got so many compliments about both prices and quality. There may have been the odd duff beer but fortunately none came my way. On my rounds so many people thought it was great value for money. The KeyKeg bar with real ale (fully compliant with CAMRA's definition of real ale if you were doubting this) was well received. The roof didn't fall in and we move on. The Foreign Beer Bar had some great stuff too and I for one really enjoyed the brewery bars which seemed to be a roaring success. Brewers, assuming we do this again, my top tip is to get in early, offer your most interesting brews and don't shilly shally if you want a spot. There will be overwhelming demand next time.
Tasting Sessions and Great Manchester Beer Debate: The tasting sessions, new to us were very well received. With a top team of presenters, well chosen beers and a crowd that made them so interactive, they were a delight, though surprisingly hard to organise, but (my area again) I learned a lot.
We've learned a lot from the beer debate. I was on the panel, along with Hardknott Dave Bailey, Mark Welsby and Jeremy Stull from Beermoth. I think we should have invited questions to the panel as we drifted a little into cask v keg and audience speeches, but hey, it's the first time and we'll likely do it again. Thanks to Connor Murphy who kept it all going.
Volunteers: Fantastic. Endlessly willing and cheerful. Perhaps most impressive was that the Manchester Central Event Manager thought them as good as any professionals at setting up and taking down - and he's seen a few. They served willingly as always and it was great to see a lot of new faces and many younger ones. A special mention as always to the stewards. they don't have a drink at all during the festival open times and they are the unsung heroes of this event.
Went not so well:
Not a lot really. There was mixed reports on the food and if anyone has anything helpful to say on that, fire away. This was provided by the venue. Let me know in the comments box, what you'd actually like to see next year. We were let down too by our bank and our security company over cash and had to hurriedly construct a token system in about fifteen minutes flat. It worked and cash was a problem to us throughout, as when you start with less than you need, you are always playing catch up. My own apologies to those that got their glass refunds in twenty pence pieces! There will be a million other things too internally and we do try and improve each year. There have been helpful suggestions in other blogs and we will look at them. We aren't stuck in the mud in Manchester and we'll try and do even better next year. If there is one.
We have to go away now and ask our usual round of "How was it for you?" to all our staff and Heads of Departments. We'll have to crunch the numbers and balance the books. Most of all we'll need to see who is up for it again and get a price we can live with. Here's hoping. Photo one is me with John Keeling of Fullers. John's a Manchester lad and was at the festival with two of his pals from way back. That's classy. Photo two is my pal Erlangernick with the inimitable Roger Protz. We could have a caption competition here as to what Roger is saying. "Who the fuck's this is already taken."
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, 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, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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