It's time to sell GBBF to the wider world

By Tony Jennings

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Great british beer, British beer festival, Great british beer festival

Jennings: GBBF could be moved around the country
Jennings: GBBF could be moved around the country
The Great British Beer Festival is becoming a venerable British institution but could benefit from a bit of a rethink, says Tony Jennings.

I have always been a fan of the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF).

This quirky behemoth, in every sense of the word the Campaign for Real Ale's (CAMRA's) greatest creation, has become the high point of the British beer year, the summer solstice of the cask-ale drinker.

It also shows signs of becoming a venerable British institution. Because of this, I feel it could benefit from a bit of a rethink.

We all know brewing in Britain is undergoing a renaissance, in no small part thanks to CAMRA, so why doesn't the event take on the role of shop window for the export of British beer as well as for the domestic market?

Such a move may also attract Government support and it would fit in with the slowly dawning official realisation of the role that the British pub, and the beer it serves plays in adding value to the nation's tourist trade.

This would mean the GBBF sharpening up its act to attract the business visitor — but that has to be to the advantage of everybody. How about a greater emphasis on the possibilities of beer with food, and the wealth of exciting possibilities offered by the growing number of gastropubs?

World beers

Also, why not encourage more world beers to exhibit? It wouldn't in any way damage the traditional focus of the festival.

Budvar, for instance, has had a GBBF presence for ever and I don't think our presence has diluted the cask-ale message for a minute, but rather helped to raise awareness of other beer styles.

In its first years the festival used to be held in different cities. Why not consider moving away from London again? Not all CAMRA members live in the south-east and holding it in another city could be a positive move. If the BBC can up sticks and move to Salford why can't the GBBF go to the NEC at Birmingham, for instance? As one of the sponsors, we would certainly welcome that.

One thing I wouldn't change, however, is the volunteer dads' army of CAMRA members that mans the GBBF every year. It does everything from erecting scaffolding to pouring — and all the bits in between — with great professionalism. It proves that, while the PM talks of the 'Big Society', the GBBF not only invented it but makes it work. That's another reason for building on this British winner and selling it to a wider audience.

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