My Experience at Wonka Glasgow's Interpretation of a Manchester Beer Festival

My Experience at Wonka Glasgow's Interpretation of a Manchester Beer Festival

After witnessing the buzz surrounding the International Brewing and Cider Festival at Depot Mayfield, I felt compelled to share my firsthand experience of a similar event. Drawing from my personal observations and insights gleaned from various channels, here's my take on the festival.

Introduction to the Festival

I first caught wind of this festival through their Volunteers Form, back in August 2023. Even then, amidst the plethora of beer festivals in Manchester and across the UK, this one stood out. What particularly struck me, and many others in a CAMRA group chat, was its distinctiveness on many counts. To point out one example, unlike most beer festivals where sampling is a customary part of volunteering, this one explicitly stated no sampling, deviating from the norm of "no drinking" under such circumstances.

Pre-Event Impressions

As the event drew nearer, I came across a post by Dan Wright from Hideaway Brewery, offering a few trade tickets to friends of his. As I was attending a CAMRA Trafford & Hulme Away Day event, I expressed interest in dropping by upon my return to Manchester if any tickets remained. This interaction raised my first red flag about the event. Dan's response was unexpected – he mentioned that mentioning "Manchester Bars" at the entry would exempt me from the £20 entrance fee, irrespective of whether I was a trader or not.

Event Experience

Unfortunately, upon finally entering the festival around 6:00 PM on Saturday, I found that Hideaway, Courier, and Tartarus breweries had all packed up, leaving only a handful of options at the "PAYG" bars and perhaps around 30 attendees. Given that only a fraction of the pre-purchased 1000 tickets were utilized, it's no wonder that the remaining breweries were compelled to lower their beer prices towards the end of the night, in an attempt to mitigate their losses. Hawkshead, for instance, slashed the price of their pints from £5 or £6 to £3.

Observations and Critiques

Apart from the disappointing turnout, I've also heard concerning feedback about various aspects of the event. Ironically, the busiest moment reported was during a live music performance by Steve Dunkley, who claimed to have spotted 120 attendees. Similarly, at the same time, it was noted by Steve and other breweries that the loud music made conversation nearly impossible.

In terms of attendance, my estimate of 30-40 attendees at maximum and Steve's claim of 120 fall somewhere in between the figures mentioned by Matthew Curtis, who, as cited in this BBC article, suggested that crowds never exceeded 50 to 100 individuals at any given time.

Finally, a common point of frustration expressed within my circles is the lack of comprehensive information on the event app. Beyond listing the beer names and breweries, there was a dearth of details such as prize winners, leaving attendees wanting for more.