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Review of the Great British Beer Festival

TradeScope went up to the Great British Beer Festival on the trade day - Tuesday 9 August.

The show was in two of the London Olympia halls but probably could have squeezed into one. The show had an airy, empty feel but the empty spaces probably fill up on the later days, when the show is open to the public.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) runs the show. The organisation represents the renaissance of cask beer (with live yeast and limited shelf life) starting in the 1970s, when large mediocre breweries dominated the UK beer scene. Hence, keg beer (CO2 driven and much longer shelf-life) is rarely part of the equation.

The show is geared around 8-10 regional beer stands. Each stand has roughly 30 beers to offer from different breweries in that region (usually 4-6 British counties). The bartenders at each stand are all volunteers. The US stand had one bottled section and one cask section. On the trade day, the US stands were clearly the buzziest. US craft beer has an image of being trendier and more innovative.

There were also 8-10 large UK brewery stands, as well as 20 or so food stands.

There were also 2-3 cider stands, each with 40-50 ciders available but cider was certainly not the focus of the show.

The show lacks buzz and younger folk. From talking to people at the show, the Craft Beer Rising trade show in London in February has more buzz and young people dominate. CAMRA appeals to an older set and we understand the organisation is considering a shift in their identity to appeal more to a younger set.

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