I have just spent three days manning the CAMRA stand at the Beer Exposed exhibition. Many CAMRA members that I spoke to in recent weeks were sceptical about this event, about the price (up to £20 or so), the tiny tasters and the abundance of non real ale and as a result there were very few of the same old faces present.
Well, those sceptics missed a cracking event. Beer talks by enthusiastic speakers such as Garrett Oliver and walks around the event hosted by leading beer writers were accompanied by about 50 exhibitors showcasing their best beers from around the world.
Everybody I spoke to said what a good event it had turned out to be and it is certain that the organisers will put on the same again next year.
The companies such as Fullers, Jaipur, Otley, Brew Dog and Shepherd Neame had knowledgeable representatives from their respective companies presenting their beers. Those who relied on agency staff such as Tsingtao also had to rely on gimmicks such as half dressed girls to get people to try their beer. Horses for courses, I suppose.
This was an ideal chance for even the most hardened CAMRA activist to break free of the real ale shackles and try other beers. Admittedly the best ones (IMHO) were real ale or bottle conditioned but there were also great "aggressive" beers from Scotland, extreme beers from American micros, a very rare Polish porter and even beer from Ethiopia (where it is sold for about 15p a bottle).
All in all a great week. CAMRA got to spread the gospel to an audience that we don't engage very often and we managed to sign-up well over 30 new members to the cause and sold a few books too.