Once beer festivals were the almost exclusive domain of CAMRA and perhaps a few specialist pubs. Increasingly however, with some notable exceptions, we are seeing the decline of the traditional CAMRA festival. More and more pubs and non traditional venues are holding them. The current Wetherspoons promotion is a good case in point. Organised on a national scale, it’s hard to beat for choice and price.
There’s no doubt this increase of choice is a good thing. But there’s a danger sometimes that this leads to more enthusiasm than quality. After all, beer festivals can be tricky beasts at the best of times, and organising the first one brings problem of its own. I was interested, therefore, to learn that the Soup Kitchen in Manchester was holding its inaugural festival.
The Soup Kitchen is on Spear St. Not far from the Port St Beer House, it’s now established itself on the extended Manchester N/4 beer crawl. It offers a limited, but often unusual, beer selection in a relaxed, mock canteen environment. They’ve recently opened up the downstairs area complete with two handpumps for weekend use.
It was downstairs that the festival was held. Originally there was going to be an admission charge, but they managed to arrange it so that there was no charge. This was welcome news as pubs/bars charging for entry for what will be a not-so-large range of beers is a no-no in my book.
There were about thirteen beers offered on gravity-sadly no handpumps-and three ciders. The free glasses were of the hard plastic variety and the beer choice was definitely on the ticking side. Indeed, two scoopers were the only other customers at the time. However, the beer quality was generally (one duff half) fine and you could imagine a good ambience in here come late on.
So, a welcome start, but a few points I’d like to see addressed. Firstly, you really should be using handpulls in this type of environment. Secondly, think about the beer range. If it’s a ticking fest, it needs to be advertised along those lines. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it does usually mean a lack of tasting notes which a lot of people find useful.
And finally: temperature. There were several fans blowing, but this is a warm environment, even before it gets busy, and plastic glasses don’t help. So, a more proactive approach to this next time, please. Even if it's just the old water and cloth trick. Sort that and I think the next one will be spot on.