Is IndyMan elitist?

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Beer Festivals | 23 Comments

Forgive me, as I’m about to go a little overboard with regard to the Independent Manchester Beer Convention. The last two posts I’ve published here on the BeerCast have been about it, and this is the set to be the third. That’s not my usual beer festival M.O. – once I’ve unfolded the crumpled bits of paper and tried to stash the latest tasting glass, I’ll usually cobble together a single post about wherever it is I’ve been. The next step is to then check the internet for posts from others who were also there. This gives me a chance to desperately scour them for my name get an idea of the general mood, from fellow beer-fans who attended the same festival as I did; completing the picture (particularly with something like IndyMan, which is more a nested series of festivals, buttressed against each other).

After chatting to a few other beer writers and bloggers, and spying a few more from elevated vantage points, I figured there’d be plenty of lunchtime reading material – and so it has proved. The one with the most interesting paragraph however, is this post from Peter ‘Tandleman’ Alexander, who I managed to speak to briefly during the trade day on Friday afternoon. The part of Peter’s post that stood out was this, following a discussion of the £13 ticket price…

You see, for many, IMBC has become a place to be seen at. That’s worth a lot to them as social cachet apparently, but then again, in the non beer world, there are plenty such events and while we may shake our heads about Glyndebourne, Henley Regatta and Last Night of the Proms, if it gives pleasure to attendees and a good time is had, I for one say “Good Luck to Them”.

Like much of Peter’s work, it’s (presumably) written slightly tongue in cheek, but with a serious point underneath. The popular weekend sessions at IndyMan sell out months in advance, and in the run-up to the festival my Twitter feed was fairly spinning with references from people who were going and looking forward to it, or who weren’t going and felt they were missing out. It’s now undoubtedly a hugely popular beer festival. But is it also an elitist beer festival? That’s the spectre that arises by Peter relating IMBC to a list of what many of us would consider to be snootily expensive events attended by largely upper middle class aficionados. At the very least, the implication is that some IndyMan goers might make the trip simply for the sake of being there, rather than for what is on offer when they arrive.

There’s no denying IndyMan has an atmosphere. This, as noted by every writer who attends, is in a large part down to the venue itself. But, I suppose the same could be said about the Albert Hall on the Last Night of the Proms, or the banks of the Thames at regatta time. In this respect, it really is possible to turn up to IMBC and have an interesting time, even if you’re not particularly into beer – or as I sometimes think of it, the ‘would my Mum like this’ paradox. She’s singularly failed to embrace barrel-aged imperial stouts as yet, but I’m fairly sure she’d enjoy exploring the baths, and the associated history of the place. But would she feel out of place? That’s a key point, I think; I’ve no love for classical music, but would I feel uncomfortable if I unfurled a rug at Glyndebourne? *

* Having packed craft cans aplenty, of course.

You could say if people go to IndyMan to be seen, it’s because they value the opinions of their peers, and their ‘social status’ therein. So is there networking and wheeler dealing at IndyMan? I would think so, at the trade session. Are people ostracised for not attending? No, of course not. But one of the three main reasons IMBC has become a highlight of the beery calendar for many – alongside the venue and the beer – is the sheer number of attendees from the ‘craft community’, ‘bloggerati’, or however you care to bundle them. It becomes the perfect time to catch up. Not a place to be seen at, exactly, more a place to reconnect. Is this elitism, then, or simple enthusiasm? The latter, I would say – but then, maybe I’m already part of that ‘elite’, a card-holding ‘craft beer’ cliquer.

Widening the question; is ‘craft beer’ elitist, then? This is different – and much more important – than whether a specific beer festival is. As a movement, the modern British beer scene is fast-multiplying, has an impassioned core audience, plenty of in-jokes and barriers of terminology. But elitism is a charge levied by those on the outside. “It’s elitist! It’s not for us! It’s not inclusive!” If we want this scene to become more mainstream, it cannot be – or be seen to be – this way; you have to make it all-encompassing. Yet one of the key mechanisms of its current success could also be part of the problem; the prevalence within the beer community of social media. All major festivals are now shouted about, a lot (GBBF is no different). Each time one rolls around, it fills the timeline.

Does this constant chatter serve to attract new people to events like IndyMan, or does it serve to keep them away? As those of us inside the beer bubble take festivals like it so much to heart, so quickly, does that simply serve as a cliquish barrier to potential new attendees? Maybe, rather than something like elitism, what Peter was implying with the comparison to Glyndebourne and the like was something more like pretension (I should probably ask him, really – but as you can see it would have been a long email). This is more along the lines of the oft-seen ‘it’s only for hipsters’ jibe, with all the inherent connotations of faddishness and impermanence.

So, no – I don’t think festivals like IndyMan are ‘elitist’, but I can see how their new-found popularity might serve to keep some people from attending. Of course, I could simply be reading entirely too much into a single paragraph in a single blog post. But it certainly made me think, and that’s what the best beer writing should give you.


  1. Graham
    October 15, 2014

    I don’t think beer festivals such as this are elitist as such but what they do suggest is “Scene” i.e. the ‘craft’-beer scene, than say, the beer scene. I went to the first one in 2012, the Saturday pm session. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the venue. The tickets for that session were not £13.00. My wife and I went to it because it sounded incredibly interesting; lots of breweries whose beers I’d not had the chance to try & some pretty good food.

    Does having been to the first one have some capital? Of course it does.

    Peter is correct in asserting that having a ticket brings a certain social cachet. The question though is to whom that social cachet actually means something? That in itself could open a whole can of dirty worms though.

  2. GroveHali
    October 15, 2014

    In any area of life where you get people with specialised knowledge, elitism and accusations of elitism are always sure to follow.

    The UK beer scene is without a doubt fairly analogous with the infamous ‘scene that celebrates itself’ – a music scene in early 90s Reading/Oxford/London where gigs were almost exclusively attended by the other bands in the scene. In the same way, big festivals like IMBC are chock a block with the same brewers, writers, bar managers, popular tweeters & general elite of the beer world. The same people that run these things or equivalent things up and down the country are mostly the same people that are the audience. On the one hand it makes it a nice place for us (and by us I mean people who know at least a chunk of this beer elite or are perhaps part of it) but on the other it creates an insular seemingly (or actually) impenetrable scene where everyone knows each other. For people getting into beer or who like beer but not as a full time hobby/job/problem seeing this social group could probably seem intimidating, unwelcoming and self involved. I have certainly had that experience at gigs in Leeds where the music scene is similar. Walk into a gig and a significant proportion of the people there know each other. This often means they won’t talk to new people and that creates an exclusive atmosphere. I imagine this is how many drinkers see our little cabal of bloggers/bar staff/brewers.

    But the problem I think runs deeper than just a social elite. Everyone who knows me will do a big sigh at this point because they know what’s coming. I think there is also a financial elite. I do not mean this in a ‘1%’, stinking rich kind of way, I mean more in a willingness/ability to spend the money on beer kind of way. For us this means we are far happier to spend a significant portion of our income on beer in a way that many people aren’t. ‘Craft’ beer is already a very expensive commodity (£2.50 for a half outside of London 4 or 5 years ago would have made us cry, in the great Yorkshire tradition “‘OW MUCH?” and I think the reasons for that are varied, complex and definitely a topic for another day. But I think in the case of festivals like IMBC the price becomes a barrier to people with an interest in beer as opposed to an obsession. For example the cost for me before beer, factoring in travel from Huddersfield (only 30 minutes on the train), entry and a fiver for food is already £30. Most people don’t have a railcard or live as close as I do to Manchester so this is probably lower than what most in Huddersfield would pay let alone people further afield. I am sure there are good reasons for the cost of entry to the festival but you can see how this would be a barrier and reinforce any notions of elitism ‘outsiders’ may have, particularly when added to the already high cost of ‘craft’ beer.

    I think, reaching out beyond the social and financial aspect of festivals/the wider beer scene there is also in built cultural baggage around ‘craft’ things. Beer traditionally is seen as a working class drink but being a so-called connoisseur of food & drink is definitely perceived as something for the middle and upper classes. Not without reason too, after all at its root food and drink is sustenance and whilst there is fun to be had in chasing the next exciting flavour, it is a kind of fun reserved for those who have the luxury of seeing sustenance as recreational rather than as survival. I know many people who whilst they really enjoy their beer, the perception of geekery around beer is that it is by its very nature a pretentious, elitist thing to do. I am sure we have all been berated by non beery friends before for being ‘into’ beer. I’m sure I’m not the only one semi-regularly called a ‘hipster’ because of it.

    I could carry on like this all day (particularly as i’m supposed to be putting thought and effort into my PhD not long comments on beer blogs – such is the nature of procrastination) but it is such a complex issue that without doing a massive research project, we can only scratch the surface.

    So in answer to your question ‘Is Indyman elitist?’, from my point of view I would say yes without a doubt. But I also don’t think that it’s necessarily a problem with IMBC but a much wider and deeply rooted cultural problem. How could we solve it? Short of cultural/political revolution I don’t know. However I think a good start would be to be as welcoming as possible to those we don’t know (which I think most people I know at least already are!) and maybe a concerted effort to not make those who don’t/can’t attend big beery calendar events feel like they should be there to be a part of the scene. Quieten down on social media during these events, don’t be surprised when people don’t or can’t go etc.

    Apologies for the megacomment, I might even alter it at some point and put it on my own blog. Because we are the scene that celebrates itself after all, and we do like to write about things, regardless of whether anyone outside of our elite wants to read them (


  3. Ben
    October 15, 2014

    I love beer. I drink beer almost every day. I always try to find a beer I haven’t tried, although often take the chance to retry a beer I’ve had before and loved. I’m happy to spend a little more for a nice beer. I love beer festivals, especially if I manage to try lots of beers that are tastier than I’d find at my local. I’d say I’m willing to travel and pay entry to a beer festival, just as somebody might do to experience live music or theatre. I didn’t go to IMBC because I had other plans.

    I’m reading lots here about how people feel about their love of beer, how this is seen from the outside world, and whether or not they appreciate drinking with non-beer-loving people, what I’d like to know though is whether anyone went to this beer festival and had any beer they enjoyed? Or did everyone just go to IMBC so they could write about it? I’d really like to go next year, but I’m only going if somebody can tell me whether there is beer involved…

  4. Richard
    October 15, 2014

    Fantastic comments – thanks guys.

    Ben – that question came up during our trip to IndyMan (or rather, on the long trip home). Between the three of us who came down from Edinburgh, we totalled around 30 different beers; only one of which was deemed not to be good – i.e. it was taken back and exchanged for something else. Of the nine I had, one was average, but the other eight I enjoyed very much. An 89% ‘success rate’ is worth a punt, I think you’d agree.

    Hali – Wow, where do I start with this? The financial point, I suppose, as it pertains to Peter’s original point. The irony here is that the last beer festival I went to prior to IMBC (Craft Beer Rising in Glasgow) had a net entrance fee of £15, which I considered to be too expensive. Full disclosure – I was sent trade tickets for both, so didn’t pay to get into IndyMan either – but I would personally see £13 as fair, even if that had increased from the 2012 festival as Graham says. Yet, crucially, I believe that’s the case because I’ve been to each IndyMan, and know what to expect.

    The other thing to mention is although I didn’t pay to get in, with the train and hotel I’d already forked out the best part of a hundred pounds to attend – a decision I don’t take lightly, I should say.

    Graham/Hali – Maybe instead of ‘elite’, what we’re getting at is something more like ‘early adopters’? People who uncover a scene and keep it amongst themselves to begin with. This could be because few others are aware it exists, or can’t afford to become included, but it could also be like the craft festival example in that there’s too much noise for newcomers to penetrate?

  5. Matt Curtis
    October 15, 2014

    Great post Rich. Just a thought; is it possible that those on the outside, looking in, making calls of elitism simply do not want to see their existing beer scene change and almost certainly don’t want it to go mainstream?

  6. tandleman
    October 15, 2014

    OK. Second go. Thought I’d lost this too, but remembered I had copied a bit of it. This is therefore the untidied up and not complete version, but it’ll have to do. I had written several good paras on this originally and when I hovered over a link it went to the linked page and all was lost. Damn. I know this isn’t as coherent.

    Was my piece tongue in cheek? Well maybe a bit. I do write pieces that are, mainly as a way of getting subtle and sometimes not so subtle points across. In this case I hinted at an event that is all ticket, expensive, has social attractiveness beyond the beer, then perhaps that’s inevitable. as having meaning beyond the beer itself. For some at least. I also said that’s fine by me.

    Rich has taken it a bit further and wonders (I suspect he worries that he already knows the answer) that the craft beer movement is becoming a young, middle class elite. I’d guess that title fits quite a few of the attendees and the habitués of many craft beer bars too. (No point in attracting the working class lad or lass. They aren’t going to pay the equivalent of £12 a pint as some beers at IMBC were.) Craft keg is what it is. Expensive for whatever reason and therefore prohibits and inhibits many potential followers.

    Nor are there that many of what I’d call beer drinkers involved. There are beer sippers, beer tasters, the modern tickers if you like. They don’t tend to write them down in a list – they blog and tweet about them instead – but eulogise instead about quads, sours, double imperial saisons and the like. Again nothing wrong with that if it floats their boat, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see how elitism could be ascribed to it all.

    As for Matt’s comment “those on the outside, looking in, making calls of elitism simply do not want to see their existing beer scene change and almost certainly don’t want it to go mainstream?” I’d ask who is on the outside? Non beer drinkers,? Cask drinkers? Pint drinkers? Poor drinkers? What is the outside? Matt may be answering your question Rich. People who haven’t seen the light? Not one of us?

    I’m not sure who said it to me at the end of the session I attended “Where are you off to now?” I responded by saying “I’m off for a proper pint”.

    Guess I’m on the outside.

  7. Kirsty Walker
    October 15, 2014

    The suggestion of a beer ‘scene’ makes me crease up to be honest – nice new euphemism for being a raging alcoholic and I hope it makes its way into my eulogy one day. “Walker was an enthusiastic member of the local beer scene.”

    Saturday night was my second IMBC and I’m surprised to find that anyone would consider it to bring a social cachet. Having said that I do believe that it’s elitist if only because it costs so much. Yes the ticket price is £13, but that is useless if you don’t buy beer tokens, which I spent another £15 on. There were no free tokens this year I noticed, so it cost me £28 in total. That cost will be prohibitive to some people, there’s no doubt about it. The food inside was tremendously overpriced – £6 for a pie and gravy would give my Grandad a coronary.

    The phrases ‘craft beer’ and ‘independent breweries’ now fit nice and snugly alongside ‘gourmet burger’, ‘pop-up’ and ‘moustache enthusiast’ in being the kind of thing that Nathan Barley might spout. My dad used to brew real ale in his bath but he would have felt completely out of place at IMBC, and he’d be worried to death about all those young people who had to wear their Grandad’s hand-me-downs and couldn’t afford to have a shave.

    If we as the ‘beer scene’ (Jesus Christ….) don’t want beer festivals to be elitist we have to drop the ticket prices, tell some of the breweries to have a word with themselves about whether a 1/3 actually should cost a fiver, kick out Almost Famous and their ilk from the food hall and serve up some butties and pies instead, preferably ones that don’t cost six quid and where you can’t trace back the ancestry of the pig you’re eating to seven generations.

    If we don’t want to do that then we have to accept we’re taking part in an elitist activity and own up to it.

  8. Cameron Steward
    October 15, 2014

    Interesting read. I’d never considered that people would go to IMBC to put another notch in their “craft social” bedpost. But then I’ve attended all three years now and go simply for the fact that it’s the festival most in line with my tastes with regards to atmosphere and beer. Plus I live in Manchester so can walk there and back!

    My brother ventures 80-miles every year from Nottingham by train and it’s a great event where we catch up and enjoy nerding out over craft beers and amazing street food.

    Now, I’m not lucky enough to get free tickets but £13 is spot on. As outlined, the venue is stellar, the beers are exclusive and generally all delicious and the atmosphere is always electric. I don’t consider myself an elitist; I go to IMBC because I enjoy it and so do my friends. I don’t attend to get another stamp for my social cachet, I go because I like to socialise and IMBC is the perfect social gathering for those who enjoy beer and good times!

  9. Cookie
    October 15, 2014

    Wiki is not perfect but there is a serviceable article on elitism here

    Much of this seems to apply to craft beer enthusiasts. They are a group of largely middle class folk, all very knowledgeable and engaged in an enthusiasm a wider set of society do not share.

    Why is elitism seen as an insult?

    It seems everyone is enjoying it, able to afford it, willing to afford it. It’s a pricey hobby but no one is being forced into it out of fear of social stigma. People don’t point at laugh at you if you drink a Carlsberg.

    In terms of knowledge it is a meritocracy. Those with the knowledge chose to read the book, those without didn’t but that’s because they are not interested.

    Lots of things are elitist. Sport is. Some sport is meritocratic (football), some is aristocratic (dressage). My Mum cheers at every gold medal or cup GB wins regardless. It is all elitist. Only the elite are selected.

    Some elitist things may be considered “bad”. Few like privilege but is there any here? Is anyone born into beer geekery? Are we anointing the children of Roger Protz or something?

    You meet maybe one or two snobs in beer geekery but most people are not snobs. Snobbery if expressed is individual to some members of an elite, not a defining feature of the whole elite. At least the beery elite.

    Why not be an elite, accept that, but make it one of them nice elites that people like?

  10. Richard
    October 15, 2014

    So many comments coming through at once – Cookie to answer yours quickly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being part of an elite. I think it’s seen as an insult because of the implication that those who consider themselves to be so, also see themselves as superior to those not in their group, those who do not have the same status. The idea of superiors and inferiors is what attracts some people to these groups, of course, but equally is also what rankles others if the same tag is applied to their group.

    I’m not sure the feeling of superiority applies to the beer scene we’re all discussing, aside from maybe a few snobs, as you say. I guess that’s the overall reason why I don’t consider IndyMan and the like to be elitist, although I do take your point. Oh, and I am very definitely not a beer geek 😉

  11. Bailey
    October 15, 2014

    This is an interesting question. First thoughts:

    It feels like there are several types of ‘exclusion’ under discussion: first, there’s the prosaic question of time/money/distance. For Jess and me, IndyMan is as remote and expensive as GBBF, when train tickets and time off work and hotels are taken into account. Unless anyone can be bothered to run a means-tested bursary scheme, I can’t see any way round this — ticketed events (gigs, festivals, etc.) are expensive, and that’s that. (Were there concessions for young people, pensioners, &c?)

    As for social/cultural exclusion… well, it’s not the Athenaeum, is it? Anyone can get in and there’s no requirement to buy a special tie from Savile Row. Anyone *can* go, and I can’t imagine anyone being made to feel unwelcome because of their accent/clothing/table manners. Being loud, vomity-drunk and or lecherous would be frowned upon, I guess, but those are classless behaviours in Britain.

    So, the one that really matters is… ‘coolness’? If you don’t feel cool enough to be there, then that’s partly your own problem. It’s not something I worry much about now I’m a reasonably confident, functional grown-up, though it would certainly have put me off in my self-conscious self-loathing period between the ages of 18-28. (Too much information…)

    Like I say, first thoughts, more-or-less unedited. Hope nothing there causes anyone to blow a gasket.

  12. Simon
    October 15, 2014

    I find it fascinating to read the comments here. Unanimously “no it’s not elitist”, but without exception posted by individuals that many of us would consider to be very much the insiders.

  13. DaveS
    October 15, 2014

    It’s worth pointing out that £13 to get into IndyMan is a fiver less than a match day ticket to see the paragons of elitism that are Alfreton Town. Similarly, a night getting hammered on Carlsberg is pretty comparable in price to drinking a slightly smaller quantity of pretentious grapefruit-flavoured beer, provided you stay away from the silly and/or imported stuff. It’s more expensive but it’s not like vintage Bordeaux or anything.

    In other words, it’s a matter of being sensitive to a subjective idea of expense (ie “that’s really expensive for beer”) rather than actually being completely priced out of the scene. It’s similar to the street food thing – people see eight quid for a burger and chips as being strictly for people with more money than sense because it’s a burger and chips and burgers and chips “shouldn’t” cost that much, whereas paying ten quid for a decent pizza seems like a reasonable value dinner.

    Also, factoring in travel and accommodation seems a bit daft. It’d probably cost me a couple of hundred quid to have a bag of chips in Aberdeen once you take account of the train fare and somewhere to stay, but I wouldn’t accuse Aberdeen’s chip shops of elitism as a result!

  14. Graeme Hirstwood
    October 15, 2014

    There is elitism in most things in life.

    In beer, I’ve found elitism since I first got into it (20 years ago now). Then it was the CAMRA mafia now it is the hipster mob.

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  16. Phil
    October 15, 2014

    I do think IMBC is an exclusive event; I felt excluded myself (to the point where I decided not to go, despite having the opportunity), and not out of any feelings of inferiority to the people I thought would be there. On that subject, I think ‘elitist’ is a bit of a misleading word, as it implies that the people who aren’t excluded are actually an elite – it’s not as if you have to pass a sommelier’s exam to get into IMBC. There’s nothing clever about having money to spend.

    I wrote a post mulling over why I didn’t go, and a lot of it came down to price – and thanks, Kirsty, for confirming my suspicions on that front! It’s not that I couldn’t pay £13 to get in, £6 for a pie(!) or £2+ for a third; I could. It’s partly that I don’t feel I should have to fork out to that extent, & wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so. But it’s mainly that I thought that, if I had gone, I would have been surrounded by people who were comfortable paying those sorts of prices, and them’s not my people.

    I think that ‘third’ glass is a bit of a marker, as well. I love barleywines and Abbey beers, but most of the beers I love – most of the huge, endless variety of beers I love – come in at under 6% abv and work best on the scale of a pint. I don’t drink pints at festivals, admittedly, but even in that setting I like to be able to buy a half. The third glass says to me that we’re probably going to be talking high strengths and extreme flavours all the way. Fair enough if so, but that’s really only one small corner of the world of beer (even if it’s currently a very active corner).

  17. tandleman
    October 16, 2014

    Great and funny post from Kirsty. Some very good points.

  18. Bailey
    October 16, 2014

    Second thoughts:

    I suspect there’s a bit ‘see how you like it’ in the criticism of IndyMan by CAMRA loyalists who have had to put up with complaints (some fair, some not) about their festivals. That’s understandable, and the comments have mostly been pretty measured.

    And, funnily enough, the defensive responses from some IndyManners (here, elsewhere, and on Twitter) reminds me of comments we’ve had from CAMRA loyalists on blog posts we’ve written about GBBF.

    Just another front in the ongoing old-skool vs. new-skool tensions, I guess.


    Also, thinking about it a bit more, I think it was unfair of me to say that it’s your problem if you don’t feel cool enough to go to a festival like this, given the conversation that’s been going on elsewhere about making women feel welcome in CAMRA. Festival organisers might, I suppose, give a bit of thought to how to send signals that everyone is welcome…. assuming, of course, that that is really how they feel in their heart of hearts.

  19. Phil
    October 17, 2014

    I’ve been reading fairly selectively, but I’ve hardly seen any comments on either side of the debate which you could call intemperate. Here’s tae us!

    Interesting point about defensive comments, too. Somebody posted on Twitter the other day to the effect of “the organisers are good people and they put a lot of work in”. On the one hand, that doesn’t respond to any of the arguments about IMBC, let alone the vague feelings of discomfort being expressed; all it says is “stop being nasty about my friends”. On the other hand, if we are being nasty about good people, that is something we need to think about.

    Festival organisers might, I suppose, give a bit of thought to how to send signals that everyone is welcome

    …or they might do the maths and work out that venue hire divided by maximum possible capacity would still make the ticket price a bit ouchy, then scale down expected numbers, scale up the ticket price and market it accordingly. (I’m making the assumption here that Victoria Baths is a bit on the small side, as beer festival venues go.)

    I wonder how many people would rather go to IMBC if it was happening at a large (but relatively soulless) venue and it was a fiver to get in. (I certainly would – in fact I’d book now.)

    The point about high ticket prices – and weird & wonderful venues – isn’t that they actually, physically exclude anyone. Look at Almost Famous. On one level, queuing for an hour to pay £10 for a burger in a restaurant behind an unmarked door in a disused office block isn’t exclusive in the slightest – most people can find £10 for a meal, and everyone knows how to queue. On another level, obviously it’s exclusive – it sends out the message that it’s the kind of thing that’s for the kind of people who like this kind of thing, and if you’re not one of those people you probably won’t feel very comfortable. At the other end of the scale is Wetherspoon’s – they’re not actually welcoming to anyone, but by the same token they’re not unwelcoming to anyone: you know the moment you walk in the door that your money is as good as anyone else’s, even if you’ve only got the price of a cup of tea.

    Bland, soulless venues and low ticket prices send the same kind of neutral not-unwelcoming non-message. Which may not be the IMBC vibe, and that’s fair enough. But you can’t set out to welcome everyone while sending out messages which actually only welcome a small minority of people. (By my maths, there are 50 million people of drinking age in the UK; about one in seven of them are earning £35K or more, and less than half of those will be under 40.)

  20. Richard
    October 17, 2014

    You’re dead right Phil – this all really boils down to a) how much people are prepared to pay, and b) whether they consider a high price to be an elitist one. I know Tandy and yourself drink and blog in Manchester – I’m from Preston, but am now in Edinburgh; the price difference between the north-west and this particular city is extremely noticeable. I’m not in the wage bracket you mention, but I didn’t bat an eyelid at £13 admission and £6 for a pie. Maybe I’ve become conditioned to it; or maybe I’m just a mug…!

    As to the ‘would you go to IMBC if it were somewhere else’ – we actually had that very discussion at the event, and came to a consensus that if it was in a ‘standard church hall’ we would, but not if it meant a 3.5hr train journey and overnight stay. I guess that reflects how important, to us, the venue really is. It certainly made us think, that’s for sure (until the Bearded Lady removed our remaining capacity for thought).

  21. Chris
    October 18, 2014

    Craft beer is becoming for the young social elite or whatever the actual sentence was. One word answer to that, Wetherspoons.

    Craft beer is becoming part of the mainstream norm. Slowly, but it is. BrewDog, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada and yesterday also at Gatwick airport, Meantime, Windsor and Eton and some other stuff. I’ve just spent 3 days in London where the only place that didn’t have a great beer list was a Mark Hix restaurant. Our wholesale company has quadrupled in size in 12mths with many non elitist, non ‘craft’ bars buying great beer. To generalise and say that great beer is becoming young and elitist is absolutely wrong.

    I wasn’t at IndyMan but let’s say it is elitist, who cares? May be something’s aren’t supposed to be for everyone. Beer is a drink for the people, a working mans drink… Right? Well may be not all beer is. Like Famous Grouse is whisky, but not in the same way as a 45yr old Highland Park. Copenhagen Beer Celebration for example, absolutely elitist, and absolutely aspirational. Tickets are limited, the beers produced in small quantities and therefore limited. Supply and demand as ever plays a dictatorial role. IndyMan charge £13 because of the limited supply and high demand, and as with all things there are people willing to pay that. Personally I think £13 is a bargain but I also don’t cry like a baby when I see a pint of beer over £2.50. I’m not swimming in money by any means but I do at least understand about cost v’s value and that ‘value’ is subjective. There are plenty of things I’d like but I can’t really afford them. Those things aren’t elitist, I just don’t see enough value in the product to stretch myself too far to buying it.

    What I have read though is a bunch of Middle aged disenfranchised beer fans complaining that beer festivals are now full of young well dressed intelligent drinkers having fun which is making them feel old, look old and feel out of place. That’s not the fault of ‘hipsters’ (a seemingly generic insult for anyone who cares what they look like when they leave the house, or anyone with a beard or a tattoo) it’s because good beer, new and exciting beer is becoming more mainstream. Beer is transcending it’s humble upbringing, and a certain section don’t like it. The beer industry is moving very fast, seemingly a little too fast for some people who whilst claiming to champion it actually just want it the way they like it.

    The uncomfortable truth might be that may be that IndyMan (and other) beer festivals aren’t aimed at everyone, may be they aren’t for everyone and may be that’s actually OK.

    We complained for years that the UK beer scene was sick, we even got a self proclaimed fucking doctor for a while, but it isn’t sick now. It’s amazing, it’s world class for fucks sake, but it’s also embryonic and needs a little bit of patience. Go back 5 yrs, ‘craft beer’ was FAR more elite than it is now. Limited to a few high end bars, the only MTB’s were James Watt in ticket only venues like The White Horse (back when events like that were a rarity) and now? Give it another 5 years and we’ll have great beer everywhere. This is a LM industry in mass transition, but transition for the better and whilst these beers might be a bit priceier now give it time for economies of scale to kick in. Small breweries with support become bigger breweries.

    Don’t start telling people great beer is elitist when what you actually mean is ‘I don’t understand what’s happening anymore and all these young people are a bit too attractive, dressed well and earning too much money’ because that’s how it reads. It smacks of bitterness at a section of an industry that in the face of constant adversity, is thriving.

  22. Rob
    October 20, 2014

    I haven’t really seen much criticism of IMBC, only really Phil’s blog (and comments here) about why it wasn’t for him, which to me anyway doesn’t seem critical as such. And it ties in with what Chris has said – it doesn’t have to be for everyone.

    I didn’t go. But that’s mainly because I’m in Leeds, and I wouldn’t know anyone there (other than following people on blogs/twitter, but it would be a little bit weird to start lingering around tandy or matt curtis: “You don’t know me but sometimes I make comments on your blog”; hmm). It sounds great if you were going with mates. (Though I am put off a little bit when people start going on and on about how amazing something is going to be, whether that be beer festivals, music, food, which is what seemed to happen on twitter for the week before IMBC). I think there is a little bit of social elitism in these sort of events. I didn’t go to the Leeds International Beer Festival because my mates weren’t around, even though it looked great. Whereas I was happy to go to a rugby club beer festival on my own. Which ties in a bit with what Phil is saying about the “neutral not-unwelcoming non-message”.

  23. Matthew Curtis (@totalcurtis)
    October 20, 2014

    You could’ve hung out with me Rob, I’m not *that* much of an elitist! 😉

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