Hitting Monday reality after a beer weekend like Birmingham Beer Bash is like driving full-speed into a brick wall of disappointment in a vehicle of shattered hopes. Beer makes the world so much of a brighter place, and massive beer nerd love-in events like Birmingham Cubed are a totally crazy trip, but with the hardest of come-downs. I’m sitting here thinking of all the beers I didn’t get to try, all the folk I didn’t get to talk to, the post-event analysis is churning away in the back of my head and I can’t even sleep.
I did Saturday. Both the arvo and evening sessions. Though stretched out across not-too-many beers thanks to a lot of food and talking. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful venue – with just enough outdoor space to allow enjoyment of the weather, but without relying on the outdoors so that when it did finally chuck it down in the evening everyone could stand under-cover in some comfort. Venue: totally repeatable. The different “rooms” of the space added character, the canal interest, and while it initially seemed a bit “out of town” on the map it really was just a stroll from New Street.
On the Saturday evening Kat and I were booked into the beer-matched dinner. That’s my kind of thing really. The “match of the dinner” was Maisels Weisse with some banana parfait thing. (Peanut Butter Parfait, Caramelised Banana, Caramel Sauce.) Seems an obvious one – but usually the obvious ones are the ones that work the best. Otherwise I wasn’t too impressed by the matches. Purity ales are great – but I just wouldn’t really bother much with pairings of golden ale and best bitter types of beers with food in general. Finishing with Sierra Nevada stout and good Cheddar: great! But why not a British beer? The same goes for the Maisels really – a good match, but while a British weizen can be difficult to find – they do exist.
The food itself was outstanding. Simpsons are now on my “gotta go there one-day” list. Interestingly the dinner didn’t seem to be populated with many from the beer-nerd crowd, all the folk at our table were more food-led than beer-bashers. This made the conversation a little difficult at times – and I also feel they might not have got the best experience of the whole food + beer thing alas. But, perhaps I’m being too critical – I’m a step removed from reality in these things. None of the pairings were actively wrong, it’s merely that the beer was entirely overshadowed by the food in most cases. That said, the dude from Purity Ales talked a good talk, and was zipping around the room chatting to people about beer and food – and, importantly, it looked like everyone in the room enjoyed the event. The meal ended with the two best pairings and thus should have left everyone with a good impression of fine dining + fine beer as a “concept”.
Beer of the festival: Shnoodlepip. Not my thing at all. Almost awful – but not so bad I couldn’t drink all of my third of a pint whilst thoughtfully dissing it. I’ve had a handful of these “sour” beers this year that seem a bit off to me. I love a good sour beer, but this wasn’t it – I don’t want a dash of malt vinegar in a beer. It’s “pongy”. Yet it was brewed by Wild Beer Co, Kelly Ryan, and Mark Tranter. Basically beer nerd fairydust. So therefore it must be good and it is a sin to think otherwise? I pick it as my beer of the fest because it is the one still in the front of my mind a day later. It is challenging, it really probably isn’t a good representation of this whole “craft” thing. You’ve got a bunch of “craft wankers” (like myself) setting expectations sky high over a specific beer (everyone wanted to try it) and the beer itself is a bit wrong and twisted. I wish I’d been able to talk to more people about this beer while I was at the Bash as now here I sit thinking “what’s wrong with me”. But oh well… otherwise I think I’ve loved every Wild Beer Co ale I’ve supped. Redwood is right up my alley, it’s got the right funk. With that in mind: others think the funk that I like is utterly disgusting in a beer.
Is it ever right to say a beer is bad? Is it analysis, or is this a thing more like art – where a sort of cult culture can transcend the reality in your mouth. Fuck, this is too complicated for 6AM on a Monday.
ANYWAY. It’s all over now, it sounds like the Birmingham beer Bash was somewhat of a success so if the suffering of running such an event again isn’t too daunting to the organisers then we can hope to see it again next year. If it does happen again: GO. For an ambitious first-time independent beer festival run mainly by enthusiasts (rather than industry folk) B3 came together amazingly well. Good beer, good food, no daft boundaries. Oh – and damn good people too. Never forget the people… because that’s what this is all about really isn’t it? Beer brings us together, inspires conversation, and breaks down barriers.
Beer can also make us feel like we’ve woken up dead after being hit by a train. A harsh mistress indeed. [Update: No, now I’m suspecting a touch of food poisoning… not at all well today.]