It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of Brewbeat Leicester tonight. I am SO EXCITE for Leicester to have a beer festival. The death of the Haymarket Theatre has also spelled the death of the CAMRA festival for now, and so it is excellent to see a number of businesses step up to take its place. Of course, this is a different beast, but beer is beer is beer – right?
And there is a lot to love about it. I will freely admit, I entered with reservations. But it is superbly handled. The layout is simple, the idea is not hard to grasp and good times are within easy reach. There is a bar. Oh look – a stage. And here be tables. And seats! Perfection.
There are a lot of things that I would have done differently with the beer list (but you knew that was coming, right?) but I think getting 5HQ on board to curate a lineup of solid local musicians and DJs is wonderful. Tonight, at the press launch, we were treated to a DJ who played just enough dubstep to keep Bam Bam happy. And the music is booming – I think it will be fantastic when live bands get their turn over the weekend. It really gave a party atmosphere and I applaud it massively.
Beer Bores at Brewbeat Leicester (Yes, I mean me)
There are a lot of interesting beers in there, and a lot of, well, not. But that would be pretty hard to avoid. It is a ‘craft beer’ festival and we all know that that doesn’t actually mean anything. Except in this case, it means the beer is all in kegs so no one has to worry about how it came in and how it’s served. Well… you would hope. But tonight pretty much every keg was still super lively, so expect a more than generous head.
There is also a range of beer from breweries that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole and given the backlash against harassment, sexism and racism in the brewing industry over recent months I would have been pleased to see a beer list that was more reflective of breweries that are more ethically and sustainably minded. But you can make sure you know who they are by checking my directory. Speaking of sustainability, they are incomprehensibly giving out two cups with every drink so that is going to generate a lot of single use waste. I guess they aren’t keen to use branded glass at an outdoor event but that much plastic is really an issue.
And my real criticism was the presentation of the beer list. I have been tracking the festival website and social media for some time and they only released the beer list yesterday. It is riddled with spelling mistakes and bizarre beer descriptions. What does “pale lager” mean, when there aren’t any black lagers on the list that I spotted? Why do they talk about beers “as smoky as a hippies jacket” when there isn’t a single smoked beer on the list? What does ‘India’ taste like? I do not have answers to these questions.
Also I’d be interested to understand what constitutes ‘local’ on the beer list. Some Nottingham breweries made it into the 20 or so strong line-up of locals, others are on the regular list. We’ve got beer sourced from Ashby on the local list, but nothing from the likes of West End or Braybrooke that I was able to see.
All I know is that I am proud to be very well acquainted with pretty much all of the breweries on the list, but it is in such an incomprehensible order that even I found it extremely tricky to decide what to order. The list is not ordered by brewery, by beer style. Hell, it’s not even in alphabetical order by name of beer (which wouldn’t help anyone, but at least it would make sense). That and the fact that the 100+ beers advertised are actually being served in rotation, so there are actually likely to be around 40 on at any given time.
So even people who are part of Beer Twitter™ will probably find it as impenetrable as I did. But never mind the people who actually know their beer and breweries. There are a lot of groups of people who feel excluded from beer generally, and they are not going to come along to this event either. And it’s a real shame, because it’s genuinely a lovely event. For people who are just coming along to find a tasty beverage then I don’t even know where to start. I spoke to at least 5 people tonight who said “I just ordered beer number X and hoped for the best”. Which is fine, and you are unlikely to get a bad pint, but it could be so much more! I worry that “craft beer” is already quite exclusionary and having a completely haphazard beer list is not going to help.
I could say a lot more, but I’m not going to. Because everyone who organizes events in the city knows that there are loads of people who know a lot about beer in Leicester and if they want to do better they just need to ask for support. Or just get their list proofread – I spotted “goosebury” and The Boy ordered a Round Corner Brewing “West Coat IPA”. Oh, how we laughed. Funny for us, but what if you don’t know it’s a typo? What does it mean???
But that doesn’t and shouldn’t take away from the fact that BrewBeat Leicester is a lot of fun. You can see my good friends Harri Georgio and the Well Behaved Young Men perform on Saturday at 7pm – for free – with a tasty beer in hand. There is a fringe event running at the Knight and Garter, just next to Green Dragon Square, where Everards are showcasing their Imperial Stout and I have that on my list of things to do for tomorrow.
Should we go?
Go! Enjoy! Take some friends, soak up the vibes. I love a beer festival with good tunes and this is great. Pick ethical breweries and ignore the rest. In fact maybe just pick a beer at random because otherwise, you will waste a lot of your life on the beer list. But it is well laid out and great and I hope that our city can keep feeling as vibrant and relaxed and fun as it did tonight.
Thanks to BrewBeat for the invitation to the press launch. Clearly, my opinions are my own and are never swayed by free beer. But that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy free beer.