Travelling to Clarens
This weekend gone by, in spite of a broken radiator in a 25 year old car, we managed to make it to the tenth Clarens Craft Beer Festival. And I could not be happier that we persisted! What an event. I think most beer lovers will regard this as THE beer festival. It was amazing how skilfully Gavin Kearns and Natalie Meyer ran this 2 day event. They gently guided 8000 odd revelers around the central town square where the festivities were held. On the Friday morning whilst helping the Cape Town brewers unload, Gavin had a beer keg fall on his arm, fracturing his left wrist. Natalie had fallen whilst mountain biking a few days prior to the festival, fracturing her right clavicle. Between the two of them, they at least had a functioning left and right arm! Undeterred, they made sure that the show went on. A true demonstration of the grit and determination needed for eventing on such a large scale. It really was my favorite of the three I have attended.
Not even the traditional Clarens downpour could dampen the good natured crowd’s spirits. In fact, it almost seemed, during the rain, that the crowd drew in their collective breath before bouncing back and hitting the beer stalls with more enthusiasm. As usual, it was wonderful to catch up with fellow brewers and sample some of the great brews on display. It is really amazing to reflect on how this has grown over the past decade. From a small homebrew festival into the much loved showcase it has become. What also struck me was how far people from Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Durban were willing to travel for this their annual pilgrimage. Huge kudos to the Meyers and Gavin. A special mention to Brendan Watcham from Copperlake, who is the only other brewer to have attended all ten events, besides Clarens Brewery of course.
Whilst I was there, I also bumped into the main organizer of the Capital Craft Beer Festival that takes place in Pretoria every year, Johan Auriacombe. This event handles over 8000 thirsty Pretorians in just one day and is another magnificent event. Johan’s infectious energy comes gushing out of him in a stream of consciousness. You cannot help but be enthralled by his enthusiasm and love of music and beer and all that the two bring to each other. He told me that the secret to a good festival is keeping the three main components (the breweries, the festival goers and the organisers) happy and in sync. This seems so simplistic, but he is 100% right. The other secret ingredient is the special evanescent moment that characterizes a good beer festival. Be it a band that sweeps up the crowd or a brew that gets everyone talking. I think I know what he means. I asked him what was the worst thing that ever happened at his event; apparently it was an amputated toe! Not too bad after 8 years.
Are Beer Festivals Still Relevant?
I have been wondering of late if there is still a place for beer festivals these days. There seem to be so many on the calendar and many of them seem to be so banal and formulaic. But this weekend, spending time with the organisers of my favourite festivals made me feel like there is still space for those quirky, unique events that draw people together and make our beer community stronger. “Fools” strives to be different and out of the ordinary too, in an effort to advance beer culture. Going into our fourth year, we draw inspiration from the greats!