What’s Brewing – Beer Festival Preview
Norway – mainly famous for sucking oil out of the ground and having utopian social welfare laws that’ll blow your socks off. And vikings, A-HA, trolls and fjords. Soon though, they might be able to add Epic Beer Festivals to that list. At least if the guys behind What’s Brewing in the western coastal town of Stavanger have it their way. It’s partly put on by the guys at Lervig Brewery, and they’ve managed to secure some pretty damned exciting breweries to take the trip up north to show off their brewing skills. These guys don’t mess about. When they start a beer festival they go large.
Norway already has Haandbryggeriet’s ever growing Haand Beer Festival that’s been successful at attracting some foreign quality beers to their windswept shores. What’s Brewing looks like they’re just about to step up the game. Two days of beer and concerts is planned at what looks like a pretty interesting venue. We wanted to find out a bit more about what this festival has to offer, so we got in touch with them with a few questions:
Hello! Who are you, and what’s your involvement with the festival?
Hi there, I’m James Goulding, I’m an Englishman working for a Norwegian Brewery (Lervig) in Stavanger. My involvement with the festival is as Project Lead.
Why a beer festival in Stavanger?
Stavanger rather unfairly gets accused of being somewhat idle. It’s more famous for its oil than anything else. We live and work here, at a brewery that has some notoriety, and we were really surprised that nothing like that happens here, so we thought “lets change that”. A few e-mails were sent, some beers were drunk, and 9 months later here we are.
What’s been the hardest aspect of starting a festival from scratch?
I would have to say the sheer size of the event – from what we originally planned to this 27 brewery, 10 band, 2-day monster of a festival. Luckily we have a fantastic group of organisers who all work in separate fields; we have brewers, designers, lawyers, furniture builders, so we are REALLY well covered…….we hope.
What do you think the festival will add to the beer scene in Norway?
Firstly without sounding like a pretentious twat, I think our main goal is to educate the masses a little bit. Norway has a craft beer enthusiasm that rivals any EU country. But where I feel it needs some work is to focus on quality over quantity, for the masses anyway.
Secondly we want to do something really different. We have built up really strong relationships with breweries and bands alike so we thought, ok, lets try something combining the two.
What other festivals have you been to that has inspired What’s Brewing?
Every festival we attend (as workers or patrons) inspire us in some way, but I know that is way too safe an answer so…. Copenhagen Beer Celebration (CBC), Leeds Beer Festival, London Beer City.
What does the ticket get you? And how will the pouring be organised? Free samples or tokens?
A ticket gets you entry, 10x sample tokens for a weekend pass or 5x sample tokens for a day pass, access to the bands, and I must say what is a very nice tasting glass. Servings will cost 25NOK per deciliter. The glass has a double gauge so if you find a beer you really like you can fill the glass! Free samples depends on how much you are able to charm the brewers.
Will there be opportunities to meet the brewers themselves at the festival?
There most certainly will! The idea is to have to brewers themselves there to talk about the beers and interact, but unlike CBC there will be designated volunteers pouring for them, so they should be a little more free to interact.
Is there anything from the tap list that you can disclose?
I don’t have the full tap list as of yet, but so far it’s looking incredible. I’ve told all of the breweries to bring their biggest hitters and one-offs, so many of these beers won’t have been served at other festival yet. If you are asking for a “who to look out for” I can only tell you from a personal standpoint I’m excited about Evil Twin, Magic Rock, Mikkeller, Loverbeer, and Lindheim’s beer selection.
You had some problems with the law. What was the issue?
It’ll sound quite strange and at first I couldn’t believe it myself, but because of Norwegian alcohol laws, anyone involved in the organising or set up of the festival isn’t allowed to “advertise” the attending breweries. Neither on social media, nor any marketing campaign, nor even word of mouth. At first this was a real hindrance but we played around with some of the promotional materials and it pretty quickly created some buzz. We have had tremendous support from bloggers, fans, and volunteers to help spread the word and get it out there whilst just about staying on the right side of the law.
What can you tell us about the venue, Tou Scene? It looks quite industrial.
Many years ago, Tou was the city’s local pilsner brewery. In the early 00’s Ringnes (Carlsberg group) bought it and shut it down. Tou Scene was saved by Stavanger City Council who turned the defunct brewery into a creative space for musicians, artists and performers.
We couldn’t be any happier with the space, it‘s the perfect venue for what we are trying to accomplish – multiple rooms with so much character and history, big enough to not feel cramped but also cosy at the same time. And the management have been SO supportive, we couldn’t have What’s Brewing without them.
What are you most excited about at the festival?
For me at least, it’s a tie between showing off Stavanger to all the out-of-towners, and showing off the amazing breweries to all the newcomers to the craft beer scene. Beer is so accessible and if the general public get a chance to interact with the brewers and ask questions and learn about why the beers taste like they do, and find new styles that they like, then we’ve achieved what we set out to do.
What’s Brewing kicks off on the 31st of October, lasts for two days, and you can get tickets here. We know it’s a long way to go, but it looks like it’ll be worth the trip and the coins. We’ll be there for sure. Watch this space.