This year there is an amazing assortment of beer festivals available to us. It’s shaping up to be an amazing year, and, if we’re lucky, we’ll have some great experiences that won’t be marred by drunken stupidity. Unfortunately, as beer drinkers the odds of us being subject to or partaking in such behaviour are apparently higher because of our beverage of choice.
I never thought this was the case, until last December, when the Marlborough District Council’s banned of glasses at the Brews, Blues and BBQs festival. The decision was effective immediately, despite it only being a month out from the event and the organisers, the Blenheim Round Table, having already purchased 3,500 glasses. Conversely, the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival was only encouraged to adopt plastic glasses, because we all know wine drinkers are a cultured, sensible lot. Us beer drinkers though – we’re not to be trusted.
The Marlborough brewers and beer appreciators then employed what I feel to be the best counter-argument: show, don’t tell. Moa, Renaissance and 8 Wired pulled out of Brews, Blues and BBQs and an alternate event, Summerfest, was organised. Held the day after Brews, Summerfest was a massive success. A lovely family day out, there was no incidents that required police involvement and the first aid tent had nothing to do all day. More than 1,200 people attended and were able to sample products from seven brewers, in a relaxed environment and with glass vessels. So, it turns out, beer-drinkers can be well-behaved – even cultured.
The Marlborough Wine Festival provided a stark contrast. Here’s the bare facts:
– 42 people were arrested
– 9 people treated for cuts from bottles and glasses
– 5 people were taken to hospital for treatment
– 9 people were treated for over-consumption of alcohol
I have received a photo of one lady’s injuries sustained from a bottling, but, due to its graphic nature, I didn’t want to post it here.
I’ll readily admit, I’m not comparing apples with apples here; the Wine Festival attracted more than 8,000 people, Summerfest only 1,200. But then isn’t that in itself also revealing? The number of people you plan to accommodate says a lot about your event; 8,000 people means a massive party, not a gathering of like-minded people to appreciate the finer points of a beverage. Humans are not at their best in masses.
There’s many more examples of this kind; I’ve heard horror stories of the train back from Taste Martinborough and yet am always impressed with the level of behaviour at Beervana. There are, of course, many stories to the contrary – the NZ Beer Festival in Auckland last year was chockful of bogans setting out to get munted. What I’m trying to say is that the type of alcohol being consumed is not the defining factor as to whether an event will be drama-free or end up headlining the news. There are far better factors to be looking at, for example, the size and composition of the targeted audience, or the timing and length of the event or its sessions. Most of all though, what’s the main focus of the event – taste or entertainment? Because, however unfortunately, Kiwis tend to tie drinking a lot of alcohol to being entertained. How that alcohol’s delivered doesn’t seem to matter much.
So here’s a tip to all the festival organisers out there: we want taste. We want to be able to discuss this taste with our friends. We want to wonder aloud how such a taste was created. We’d like to meet some of the people who make such tastes. If this isn’t the aim of your festival, you’re probably going to have problems.