Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Joy of Beer Festivals

The Mondial de la Biere festival, Strasbourg is unlike any other beer festival that I've ever been to. British beer festivals are home to some very peculiar customs and people. Gargantuan bars that home the seemingly endless racks and racks of casks to allow traditional gravity fed serving is almost always the norm. The rooms that contain these festivals often lack any central focal points and as such often generate a lot of congestions at the bar. These spaces are almost always filled with the die hard CAMRA members rubbing shoulders with the new generation of ale enthusiasts. Entertainment is often very limited with small local bands and some ropey folkey types playing to often quite deaf ears. Food options are usually diabolical, with the greasy spoon burger type vans often being the only caterers for events that are quite often incredibly well patronised. The focus of events like this is beer and nothing else really gets a look in. In many ways this allows for a great variety of products and a really quite effervescing atmosphere. But, and there is always a but, I find that with the limited variety of “real ale” available in the UK, there really needs to be more on offer to call these events a festival.

Mondial de la Biere was the polar opposite to my previous encounters of beer festivals. The variety of beer on offer was for one thing stupendously huge. Over five hundred different beers were available to sample and around twenty to thirty different styles. Already a major difference in the approach. The next major difference is that far more brewers were represented at this festival than any other that I have been to. Perhaps this is simply because there are not that many festivals in France, or that the brewers in France make a bit more of an effort to connect with their customers. But it was not just French brewers, as many of the international brewers had made the trip to the festival to show off their beer. Who knows, but it was very refreshing to chat to the likes of Justin Hawke from Moore Brewery, the guys from Dieu du Ciel, the Libieration crew, Anne and Jacques from Matten, the wonderful Jo from Belgoo, Jonathon at La Corne toname but a few. These were small breweries but they were all there to show off their products. The next big difference was in the layout, no big long bars and huge queues but dozens of small stands peddling their wares. A much more pleasant way to search out the beers and also learn a little more about the brewery and the beers on offer. The food options available were also of a much higher calibre (it was in France after all) with more than a burger and chips or pie on offer. We managed to feast on various Alsation delicacies such as Tarte Flambe along with all the other regular feast of cheese and charcuterie. A great festival all round and an joyous experience was had by all. This was far more to my liking and I will be back . Hopefully I'll manage a visit to the elder brother festival in Montreal (a bientot Serge!).

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