Tomorrow night marks the 2017 launch of the magnificent Craft Beer Calling and I cant wait to get inside.
So what’s so good about it?
Firstly, the setting. Before you even get inside you can’t help but be put at ease by the impressive Palace of Arts sat gently next to the lake with its swans and ducks in residence (Some info on the venue: Wylam Brewery: Palace of Arts). Wander through Exhibition Park, it’s a very relaxed approach which is fully carried through once you’re through the doors. The lay out is well organised, so you’ll have your tickets checked and you’ll receive your commemorative souvenir glass. Then you’re off to buy your tokens. I understand that there are two size of tokens available this year, but I’m sure it’ll all be pretty self-explanatory once you’re in there.
And then you can explore! Sneak peak of plans indicate that once again every corner of the Palace will be utilised to the fullest to house breweries from all corners of the world. There are two permanent bars in the main hall of the building which will be fully stocked, but also breweries themselves will have their own bars scattered around the building including through in the brewery itself. There’s a magical feeling to getting a beer served to you next to the shiny fermentation tank that it was once nurtured in!
And as for breweries, the mix is a good core of the breweries you’d expect/hope would be there, so think Magic Rock, Beavertown, Wild Beer and the likes, but also some more unusual/not as common breweries too. These are the gems, these are where the excitement comes in for me. My top tip, there will be many a high abv beer about but go and see Track Brewery for some of the best session beer being brewed in the UK right now, Sonoma is an absolute delight! They also have breweries from overseas, including Dry and Bitter from Denmark who are brewers of really high quality.
The biggest change in Craft Beer Calling last year was not only the move of venue, but also that the bars themselves are all staffed by people from the individual breweries. That’s massive for a geek like me, but also far better for the newby. The bar staff have a tie to the beer they’re serving. If you’re alittle timid and abit confused by the language and terminology of modern beer, the idea of a beer festival could seem really intimidating, but with this approach, firstly there are loads of bars so you can always find one without a queue and also the knowledge of the staff serving is a massive aid to your enjoyment. They can and will take all the time you need with them to find out what you like and don’t like. Don’t be afraid to ask them!
That’s where a festival works for breweries. Obviously it’s a sales point for them, but it’s also about connecting with the customer base in a more direct way than they normally would. Personally, I’ve always said that I am drawn more to breweries when I know the people behind them and not just the corporate brand. Here you can talk and pick the brains of the characters who help define the brewery and its culture. I have been to many festivals where I’ve not known a brewery beforehand but having met them I’m far more likely to try their beers afterwards. That reputation building and ongoing customer retention, even on a small scale, is very valuable for the breweries.
So get involved, get into conversations with people. The building will be full of people there to enjoy the banter and enjoy the beer. We’re a friendly bunch here on Tyneside and if you are coming from out of town you can expect a warm welcome.
I’ll be floating around too, if you see me, please do come and say hello!
Just as an interesting contrast, here’s my review of the first ever Craft Beer Calling, whilst so much has changed the core character of the event is very much the same: Craft Beer Calling review