Wednesday, 22 September 2010

When is a beer festival not a beer festival?

When it's the Tynemouth Beer [sic] Festival.

My brother, some friends, and I arrived at the Tynemouth Cricket Club shortly before 8pm on Saturday evening. There was a short queue to a ticket booth where each relieved of £10 for 8 half-pint vouchers.

We sallied forth unto the marquee.  A long bar down one side carried about fifty handpumps. Strangely, there seemed to be very few pumpclips. In fact there were four pumpclips. In fact there were only four beers available – and they ran out by about 8.20pm.

A beer festival running out of beer on its final night is not unheard of. No beer festival organisers have the psychic ability to predict the exact amount of beer to stock, and having local breweries on standby to deliver some bright casks is often a sensible policy.

We could accept the lack of beer but what annoyed us was that weren't informed that supplies were drying up when parting with our cash. 

Moving out of the marquee to get away from an awful rock covers band whose drummer had a flamboyant attitude to time-keeping, we observed that people were still being sold vouchers for non-existant beer until well after 9pm. There was a growing number of obviously annoyed people milling around. Some, like us, reluctantly explored the small cider and perry bar (does perry often taste of UHU? does cider often smell of fried eggs?) Some hardy souls even used their vouchers in the pavilion for John Smith's Smoothflow and Fosters.

The Queue

Only an hour or so after the beer-zero hour did we see newcomers being informed of the crisis.

I spoke to the organiser. I was struck by his cavalier attitude to the number of unhappy people. He actually seemed overjoyed that the beer had only just lasted into the third of three sessions. No doubt his spreadsheet would indicate a roaring success. 

His last comment was "I have created a monster". You said it pal.

On a brighter note – an early departure allowed us to go to the Tynemouth Lodge Hotel where we found the Mordue IPA to be utterly tremendous.


Anonymous said...

We were lucky and received a phone call before we headed down on Saturday afternoon telling us that the beer was almost no existent. It's a shame but seems to be a regular occurrence locally and I can’t remember the last time I visited Newcastle Beer Festival on a Saturday for the same reason.

Jeff Pickthall said...

We had our doubts about going on the Saturday night.

But we shouldn't have to doubt going on one of the advertised sessions. A beer festival should have beer for all the sessions it advertises. It should over-order on sale-or-return and have some bright beer lined up for emergencies. Taking money for beer that doesn't exist is exploitative and possibly an offence.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Our local one (redcar then saltburn) ran out last year and the year before, this year they aren't doing one...some bollocks about not being able to get a venue.....

HardKnott Dave said...

I think it is tricky getting it just right. You can't return beer that has been tapped just in case it is needed, I would never accept a breached cask back for refund unless it was faulty. Bright beer is a good idea and I intend to explore providing that option for people. Bright beer is the only option for sale or return.

Either way, over-ordering can result in losses for the festival organisers. Equally, under-ordering can result in later sessions being under attended in future years - a problem that I believe has afflicted Ulverston festival in the past.

I totally agree however that failing to inform punters is completely unacceptable and very probably illegal. Did they not offer refunds for the beer vouchers?

Jeff's brother said...

It wasn't just that they ran out. It was that they ran out 24 hours early and didn't seem interested in drumming up any replacement stock during those 24 hours.

There are at least three breweries locally who they could've fostered a good relationship and called upon for just such an occurrence.

The organisers probably think it was a great success.It wasn't.

ChrisM said...

I'm not surprised. CAMRA withdrew its support of this festival a couple of years ago after the organisers insisted on serving drunk and underage people. The 'cavalier' attitude of the organisers (one of them is a policeman, believe it or not) gets right up my goat. If you decide to pursue a refund, keep us informed!

Leigh said...

What a shame - not the lack of beer, the organiser's frankly shitty attitude.