Friday, 1 February 2013

Spot the Difference

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.


py0 said...

Purely out of interest, what do you think craft keg drinkers drink in pubs that don't do craft keg?

Tandleman said...

Guinnes, bottles, cask? Who knows, but I see where you are coming from?

Anonymous said...

"what do you think craft keg drinkers drink in pubs that don't do craft keg?" Simple we go to another pub that does sell craft keg.

Curmudgeon said...

Are there actually any people who exclusively drink craft keg? If so, they'll have a big problem if they ever venture outside the urban beer bubble.

An Anonynmous Boozer said...

Do CAMRA spend much time pondering on what days of the week it is best to run their beer festivals? My impression is they often run sometime midweek - Saturday, while I see Indymanbeercon this year will go Thursday - Sunday.

The main thing here being when the festival ends, as my impression is that most younger drinkers won't be able to make it until Friday/Saturday (you yourself note how Thursday was mainly the CAMRA faithful and retirees). This is compounded by the problem that beer quality, in my experience anyway, at real ale festivals takes a huge nose-dive on the last day/night before. If this is the first experience a lot of younger drinkers have with real ale, why would they bother going back?

Tandleman said...

Mudgie. No. There aren't. Or if there are they are minute in number.

Tandleman said...

Anonymous Boozer

We do of course consider this, but while we do aim to make a profit, we aren't a commercial enterprise and many of our staff are still working or value their Sundays. It would mean take down the following week and that wouldn't really work for many reasons.

In any event it would merely time shift for no real gain. Attracting people on a Sunday is problematic as I think IMBC might find. As for quality, I think you'll find that at NWAF, the beer was still pretty good when we closed. We do have proper cooling and one of the best cellar teams you'll find anywhere.

I doubt if IMBC will have any better quality for their cask offerings. In fact, I'm sure of that.

Fishter said...

In reply to An Anonynmous Boozer...

My experience is that because the festivals are run by volunteers there is a real need to avoid having to dismantle the festival on a working day (i.e. the Monday following the festival).
People may already have taken several days off work in the previous week and to request more leave the following week is sometimes more than they can afford (financially and/or matrimonially!).

py0 said...

I think unless they live in a very select area of London, most "craft beer" enthusiasts are actually more likely to get through significantly more cask craft beer in a year than kegged craft beer.

So perhaps rather than seeing them as some "other" group of people, in actual fact, we're all just one big group of beer drinkers.

Judging by the CAMRA forums a lot of craft keg enthusiasts are actually CAMRA members.

Jake Perks said...

Younger beer geeks - those guys and girls who are lapping up 'craft keg' and helping hip, new generation brewers and brewsters grow their businesses - will become older beer drinkers eventually; as they do so, the new market that they are defining right now will mature with them. That doesn't bode well for brewers who adhere staunchly to the cask-only real ale mantra and who are stubbornly resistant to try new things.

When you say "they and their beer tastes will change and develop": will they? If I was a traditional brewer I wouldn't want to take a long-term punt on that. The big brewers, who have heaps of marketing savvy, are already hijacking the craft bandwagon. Greene King now use the word 'handcrafted' on their IPA pump clips and Marstons released a series of single hop brews. I think they are already sensing where the market could be heading and they're tooling up to carry on selling to it whichever direction it goes.

Cooking Lager said...

How did you get on with those 2 lasses in the photo, fella? Did you give them a good introduction to the delights of pongy ale?

Tandleman said...

Nothing to disagree with there and nothing to make me reconsider. Have a look at my preceding post.

I agree with you basically.

Tandleman said...


I never even saw them. But they were there. The camera (CAMRA geddit) never lies.

Phil said...

Jake - if "craft" drinkers can be lured away by major cask brewers using the word "craft" and making a few tiny concessions, I don't think CAMRA has anything to fear! Most of what I had at the NWAF was far more 'out there' than those Marston's single-hop beers, let alone GK.

I like the point about laughter. When you described the IMBC atmosphere I immediately flashed back to the Hacienda in the early 80s - lots of people standing on the dance floor desperately trying to look cool, nobody talking to anyone else and absolutely nobody dancing. We old geezers are that much more relaxed and convivial at events like that, I suspect - we've got less to prove generally, and by and large we're not on the pull.

I was going to post about the NWAF myself, incidentally, but I seem to have lost my programme and my mental notes are a little unreliable. I drank a total of 3 2/3 pints by volume, although obviously most of them were on the strong side. I started on something madly hoppy by Red Willow, I remember that. The Spingo had run out, I remember that. Other than that... um. I'll get back to you.

Birkonian said...

The point about which days to hold a festival has interested me for some time. In Belgium 90% of beer festivals are held for two days at the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Opening hours are typically 2pm to midnight on Saturday and Noon to 8p.m on Sundays. This suits punters who can attend both days without taking time off work, plus the early start on Sunday means that can have decent session and still be able to get public transport home. My personal system is to book three nights in a hotel, meet friends and sample the bars of the city on Friday, do the festival on Saturday and Sunday, and back to UK on Monday after a few lunchtime beers in Brussels en route to Eurostar. Two days off work are needed.
I don't think the arguement about clearing up on a Monday holds. Surely everthing is just pushed forward a day and staff would be needed a day less at the start of the festival.

Lord Egbert Nobacon said...

Do we really need to encourage the youth of today to drink more ?

Most towns at midnight are populated by gallant young swains bottling one another, while on the ground nearby, some winsomely burly doxies, with their knickers around their ears and heels in the air, are trying to have a pee.

Raise the drinking age and bring back National Service.

I say, what ?

Will France said...

In answer to your question, I drink really good 3.8% but one that is well thought out and well made. Im not going to pander to thoughts that because I appreciate beer in all forms of dispense that I turn my nose up at a really amazing pint of something session-able.
Im not an exclusive keg beer drinker and ran PSBH to celebrate all beers in all styles. Its not IMBC's fault that people did not get behind the great beer selection because of pre formed out of date opinions that are as stereotypical as saying all camra members are over 50 and are male.

We aimed to celebrate the skill of making a great beverage with alcoholic benefits from 4 humble ingredients that is as diverse as it ever has been

Beer is all things to all men & women. Its as age old as bread and had sustained our settlements since the beginning of population.

Lets enjoy it.