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All-In Beer Festivals (again) - your FAQs now answered.

The problem with an on-the-fence opinion that discusses the merits of both fields is that those situated far from the fence on either side only listen to the cons of their particular grassy plain.

It was through this that my last post, a discussion on the pros and cons of the“All-in” beer festival ticket, led to the greatest example of others looking only for negatives. If points one through to five sided with the views of one person, you can bet that they approached me over point 6, fists waving all the way.

However, as my comments came before I had ever experienced any beer festivals that provided the “all-you-can-drink” experience, it felt remiss of me not to follow up that post now that I have been through the process.

The festival was Dark City 2018; Northern Monk Brew Co’s annual dedication to all beers that are dark. Alongside the two incarnations of their lighter festival – Hop city – this was the first time there had been change to the ticket structure. A ticket for £45 provided the usual entry and free commemorative glass, but this time also all the beers that you fancied were included too, in 120ml pours.

This isn’t a review of the festival itself but more using this experience in relation to some of the discussion points regarding this festival. Now that I have experienced how this structure works I can answer some of the more Frequently Asked Questions that I have come across, including from myself, regarding this subject.

How can they justify £45 tickets?

I believe my answer to this prior to the festival was that this was about my average spend per session at token only festivals, when all items were calculated together. After attending Dark City I stand by this. Adding together the entry, the number of beers tasted, the rarity and quality of the beers and my overall enjoyment of the afternoon then somewhere around the £50 mark would have rated as perfect value.

Didn’t everybody wildly binge in an attempt to get value for money?

No. Next.

Honestly though, I don’t quite understand why people believe this will be the case. Yes, there are a lot of strong beers at these festivals, but you can only drink those type of beers at a steady rate (unless you are a monster.) See the last question – it was already good value for money whilst drinking at a regular pace.

120ml pours? Could you even taste the beer? 

From my experience at previous beer festivals I had a feeling that 120ml pours would be about right for this sort of event and this turned out to be true. At festivals such as Indy Man, it is around the 120ml mark I tend to realise my mind has wandered to what I am going to try next. This measure was perfect and certainly enough to get a measure for the beer considering 2 or 3 were discarded long before finish. 

I’m not sure I would have been happier with anything smaller though. Some have suggested that less would have worked for them but let’s not encourage that. You could always ask for less, you know. It is already paid for.

Were the queues frustratingly long?

No, this was nothing like the tales from a  more southern festival. The only queue was for Omnipollo taking their usual Bloomenthal approach to beer drinking. Everything else involved choosing and receiving; though I do wonder what the plan was had it been raining as the indoor capacity would have reached dangerous levels.

Did you actually enjoy it?

I've been asked this a few times and can see where people are coming from. For all the organisational skill, I've always stated that I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed the previous Dark City and two previous Hop City events. I had said in the build-up to Saturday that I wouldn't be in a rush to return if this one didn't do it for me.

Well it did. There were probably many mitigating factors: the company, the time, the lack of pre-loading from myself, the company... For many reasons I enjoyed this one so much more and since the greatest difference was the ticket structure then one can only assume it was an element. I said this wasn't a review, but if it were then it would have been a glowing one.

Again though, as somebody who spent nearly the entire day outside, I dread to think what would have happened if it had rained.

Wouldn't it be better if all festivals were "All-in?"

Absolutely not. But I have seen people say it.

This worked for Dark City as it was already rather niche to begin with. For so many beer festivals there would be no benefit to adopting this style. It wouldn't work due to the beers on offer or the clientele or the mass appeal.

If you believe that all festivals would work like this then your entire social network must be within the beer bubble. If a festival such as Indy Man Beer Con were to become "All-in" then it would immediately alienate around 90% of the people I've attended with in previous years.

Has it changed your opinion of "All-in" tickets?

No. All of the Pros and Cons I'd predicted either through here or Twitter turned out to be true. I've been called cynical because what is the point in reading words when you can twist them instead.

A couple of weeks prior to Dark City I attended the inaugural Smokefest; a celebration of Smoked beers. The two festivals were, by nature, very different but similar in their shared focus of specific beer types.

Halfway through Smokefest my partner and the dog arrived. There were a few sips of beer before many cups of tea. There was space and time to play with the dogs. It was relaxed, warm and welcoming, all in the presence of good people and good beer.

There is still no point to my partner joining me at Dark City, or the like. There is no point to my friends from outside the beer bubble attending. The dog would have no chance. I think Dark City may have been dog friendly, but only to those who treat their dogs like parrots. I prefer to let Marley use the four legs he was gifted for a reason.

My main criticism of this type of ticketing structure is the exclusivity it creates and that remains the case.

Would you attend a Beer Festival of this ilk again?

Of course.

It is as you were then. There are now many different types of beer festivals with various structures and differing appeal. You don’t need to like them all. You certainly don’t need to attend them all. Nothing new to write. It is interesting that I’m called cynical though when I seem to be one of the few who can find enjoyment from the majority.

Though if you are forcing me to choose, it will always be the one with Marley’s stupid face and Steak & Smoked Barleywine pie. Different strokes for…


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