I’ve been a card-carrying CAMRA member for around a decade and used to frequent their festivals on at least a monthly basis but as new breweries emerged producing exciting, flavoursome beers, beer festivals dedicated to serving these beers launched and I found myself spending my beer tokens at those.
Craft Beer Rising, IndyManBeerCon, Birmingham Beer Bash, et al., quickly became sell out events with national and international breweries offering amazing beers, often served by either staff from each brewery or the brewers themselves. Not only could you enjoy amazing beers but you could learn more about them from the very people that made them.
After a break from the GWBCF for three years, I decided to revisit to see what had changed.
Over the years the festival has been held in a variety of venues around the city and this is the second time that it has been held at The Depot on Dumballs Road. I’ve attended the Cardiff Brewfest at the same venue and it’s an ideal venue. It’s spacious with plenty of room for seating (inside and outside), food stalls and most importantly plenty of beer.
Split into two areas inside along with an outside seating area to the rear, there are plenty of places to seat and the bars are spread out enough that it’s easy to get served. I recall visiting the the festival when it was held in a room in the City Hall and the single long bar would quickly be swamped two or three people deep with thirsty drinkers.
All CAMRA beer festivals are run by volunteers so you shouldn’t really criticise them but compared to other beer festivals that I’ve been to, in particular the likes of Craft Beer Rising and IndyManBeerCon, I did think some were there merely to pour the beer rather than offer any advice on what they were serving.
In one particular instance I asked about three beers from a brewery on the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales and what styles they were and without a word I was thrusted a list of beers so that I could work out for myself.
My palate has changed since I first started attending GWBCF. Some say it has become more sophisticated but I’m inclined to say that I’ve become more of a beer snob! I do find myself seeking out hoppier and hoppier beers and ones made with some weird ingredients. That said I do appreciate a well-made beer even if that beer is a standard bitter.
However, I do find that it can be difficult seeking out the good beers when the tasting notes are hardly ever honest so offer no advice on how well-made a beer may be or how well it compares to other, similar style beers. My visit to the festival was only brief so tried around 6 or 7 half pints and nearly all of them tasted no more than average. It was only when I switched to a brewery such as Cardiff’s Crafty Devil that I got a beer that excited my palate.
I wouldn’t want to be overly critical of the festival because it’s very well organised and serves a lot of beer but I think my tastes have changed over the years. I’ve been spoilt by attending festivals where so many beers offer amazing tastes, push boundaries and and staff are passionate about what they are serving.
I guess I’m just a beer snob! (and proud!)