Now that Sydney Craft Beer Week has wrapped up its second year, and detox recoveries well advanced, it seems an appropriate time to have a quick look back at the festivities and at how the Sydney craft beer scene has fared in its wake.
Speaking personally, it was a fantastic week with a range of craft beers unseen before in the harbour city, as well as some creative collaborations between brewers and chefs for some food and beer menus that bordered on genius. It was a celebration of quality, and the exploration of new ideas and new flavours was hugely enjoyable. The strong showing of newly-christened breweries Young Henry’s and Riverside added a fresh spark of diversity, and the one-off beers brewed for the occasion stimulated the tastebuds as well as the imagination. In short, I had a great time.
But then, I’m a beer geek. I’m more than content when there’s more than two craft beers on the menu, some decent food and decent company. Although attendance at the events was certainly healthy, and all the punters seemed to have a good time, a lot of the same faces kept popping up, and it was obvious that there was a beer geek-centric feel to the entire week.
In spite of the best intentions of the crew behind SCBW 2012, I believe they struggled in their quest to draw in members of the wider community. The ‘Beer Mimics Food’ theme was a creative idea that was embraced with gusto by all those involved, but the resultant events remained more exciting for beer lovers than food lovers, and while the beers produced would have given beer sceptics something to consider, I don’t believe that was quite enough of a carrot to entice them in, in the first place.
I certainly wouldn’t go to say that the SCBW failed in some of their objectives, merely that there is still lots of work to do.
The sheer increase in the number and variety of venues across Sydney and their enthusiasm to take part in the SCBW program was already a self-evident success when the schedule was announced. The healthy attendance and celebratory spirit at the events themselves is testament more to the growing excitement among Sydney’s already-converted craft beer community. However, there was little to no recognition of SCBW beyond the beer geek fringe, and there’s certainly a long way to go before it becomes part of the mainstream consciousness.
SCBW made an earnest attempt to branch out into the foodie community, not only through the Beer Mimics Food theme, but also through cooperation with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, of which SCBW was an important part.
That is, if you listened to the SCBW team.
A cursory glance at the Crave Festival’s website and Twitter feed doesn’t give the impression that the Crave team had any idea what SCBW was, or indeed, that craft beer even exists. The only mentions of beer on the Twitter feed refer to the Australian Hotel Beer Festival which is now in its eighth year and only happens to coincide with the end of SCBW, while a search for beer-related events on the Crave website offers an unhelpful description of Sydney Craft Beer Week happening at ‘various locations’ and at ‘various times’ during these dates. Highlighting of key events might provide some more helpful information if I were just an average punter wanting to find out more, and might yield a more hearty feeling about SCBW’s place within the food festival, but I think the ‘partnership’ was more of a sad piggybacking effort, and if there was any real cooperation from the Crave festival, it wasn’t evident during the festival and certainly isn’t now.
You can’t blame the SCBW team for trying, of course. The truth is it was the Crave Festival’s loss not to expand the perception of their festival as more than just the night-time noodle markets in Hyde Park.
Furthermore, the insistence from the SCBW team that they are already planning for the 2013 festival deserves a lot of kudos. This is not just because it reaffirms their commitment, but because making festivals such as this popular with the wider community can’t just happen in the space of one week, but will grow organically with each new year.
Given the enthusiasm of the people behind this year’s event as well as those attending, Sydney’s craft beer love can only continue to expand and deepen. I’ll be excited to see what they do next year, and as I did last week I’ll be embracing the festival schedule with both arms.