Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Birmingham Beer Bash (2) - The Actual Thing

OK, so my previous post tried to give a context to the event; the event being the Birmingham Beer Bash.

This bit of text [mit piccies] is an attempt, instead, to try and capture my sense of how the two days actually went.  That sounds rather vague and is, because my overriding memory of the 26th and 27th July was threefold, a) mega stress, ii) time whizzing by at a break-neck pace and 3) enormous relief.

Normally I try** to sprinkle my writing with wry, pithy prose.  This post however, verges on mawkish sentimentality and I make lots some no apologies for this.   


The set up of the Birmingham Beer Bash took place over a 3-day period leading up to the first session on Friday lunchtime and it was characterised by eerie intervals of slack and {conversely} intense periods of insane and often sustained madness.  But anyway, as the doors opened, we were prepared, we were steeled, we were eager and we were ready to seize the day.

Being as I am, a thoroughly impractical and unskilled person, my role in the execution of the event was always going to be a case of slotting in where I could cause least damage.  There was never any possibility of my understanding how cask and keg bars need to be operated and I hate getting my hands dirty, so, therefore, I gravitated to a front of house position, which was entirely appropriate, given my upfront PR efforts to promote the Bash*.  I shook hands with quite a few brewers as they are arrived and tried to ensure a warm welcome, but more (or equally importantly) I also tried to provide a professional and friendly 'bonjour' to all of our brilliant customers.  I was determined that people's first impression of our event would be a positive one - professional and enthusiastic.  It helped that I had some awesome volunteer staff alongside me and is worth noting that all of the volunteers who gave up their time to help at the Birmingham Beer Bash were sensational and crucial for us.

 So then, during that first session, as the punters cascaded through the doors, the intense dread seemed to wither slightly..... it appeared that people were enjoying themselves and that we had not really delivered any massive cock-ups.  By the inter-session break I was already tired, but the adrenaline ensured that during those few minutes between chuck-out and re-opening of the gates, I was running around like a mad thing, because the big Friday night rush was on the way, we were smelling a sell out and the place needed to be restored to it's earlier, tidier state.  By around 21.00 on the Friday, having been at the venue for some 14 hours already, I finally started to relax.  On that beautiful Summer evening, I started to get a sense of how happy our customers were.  The venue was working beautifully, with people creatively using the outdoor spaces to compliment their drinking.  The air was filled with satisfied chatter, the food smelled excellent and the bars were surrounded by excitable throngs of craft beer drinkers.  It was looking good.

The mix of people was beautiful: young, old; male, female; beer geeks, beer novices; the enthusiastic, the curious.  One of our first customers of the day was a lovely older chap who shook my hand and said "Thanks for putting this on" - I could have kissed him.     

In those last few hours of Friday, I took the time to catch up with chums who had come along to support the event.  Without exception, they told me how much they were enjoying themselves.  "You've done it" said one, "You've created something in the Birmingham beer landscape, and people have bought in to it.".  It started to get to me.

As that first evening drew to a completion, I stopped to glance at the tweetwall which we'd set up in our main bar area: positive comment followed positive comment.  Rapturous, universal acclaim; the online buzz was tangible and I finally knew that we had delivered something which people had loved.  By the end of that first day, I realised that we'd done what we set out to do, we'd provided the precise experience that I imagined/dreamt.  As I looked once more at the tweetwall, the lump in my throat hardened and a couple of tears escaped a duct and drizzelled down my cheek.  It was mainly relief.

One always wants to impress one's peers.  The desire to impress those who impress you is lifelong.  So when Beer Beauty hugged me at the end of the session and told me how much she had enjoyed herself and that she felt emotional for us organisers... that made me emotional too.   

Interestingly, during that entire Friday, I did not allow myself a single drop of beer until we closed.  I was so wired that I couldn't risk losing my focus.  That first beer of the evening was well worth waiting for - an Arbor/Moor Double Dark Alliance on keg - utterly outstanding.  This was quickly followed by small tasters of Siren Craft QIPA, Wild Beer Ninkasi, Northern Monk New World IPA, Buxton Black Rocks and Redwillow Witless III: all delicious.  It seems that we stocked a bagful of great beers - no wonder people were happy!

Saturday was equally fantastic.  An effort of will was required, as energy levels were depleted, but the satisfaction was all around me.  A succession of great Twitter friends came and went - all loving the experience.  Laughter, big smiles, delight at the beer selection, handshakes aplenty.

By Saturday evening, the rain came down in droves, but it didn't seem to hurt us - we sold out again.  In fact, on that rainy evening, people were queuing for returned tickets.  Mind boggling.  Towards the end of that last session I finally stood behind a bar for the first time (in order to show off to my sister).  Behind our International Bar, it really was lovely to talk to customers, recommending great beers and sharing my enthusiasm.  Those few scraps of conversation which I remember were special - a unique opportunity to invite strangers to your gaff and delight them with delightful beer - a captive audience to proselytize to.  Me in the pulpit at last.

During the last few minutes of the Birmingham Beer Bash, the main hall was filled with the sounds of Motown and grown men were dancing - probably due to lovely beer, but I'd like to think it was due to pure joy.  

And that was it.  It was suddenly over.  All gone too fast.  Me too wired to properly enjoy myself, but, in retrospect, the satisfaction palpable and real.  Phew.     

 *Wordsmith, rather than practical person = moi.
**I do.  I'm not saying I succeed at this, just that I try. 

All photos are taken from the Birmingham Beer Bash Flickr group, and as such all rights are reserved


  1. Danny you have undersold yourself; I know that you put at least 1 cask on the stillage and managed to remain un-flustered throughout!

  2. Oh, cool, glad the rain didn't affect things. I was home by that point and wondered if you had any problems with the torrential downpour.

  3. We were only there for the Saturday, but we all had a great time. My regret is that I didn't make any of the talks, but I was too busy having a good time elsewhere. There were some excellent beers and everything I had was to my taste due to the excellent and knowledgeable advice of those behind the various bars. It's worth saying again and again, bar staff who were enthusiastic and knew their product - wonderful.

    Thanks to all.

  4. Hi Dan, would like to invite you to a beer launch in Birmingham, last week of November. Please can you email me and I'll send you the invitation? Thanks,