Pubpaper 828 – The “Non Pissup” in a Brewery

Posted: 10th October 2015 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Every year Munich runs Oktoberfest, a 16 to 18 day beer festival which hosts 5.9 million visitors, drinking 7.7 millon litres of beers collectively in 2015.   The public festival has been in existence for just over 200 years.  Over these two centuries it has transformed from an event to promote local Bavarian Agriculture into a celebration of Bavarian food and beer.  The beer halls were introduced in the late 19th century taking over from the 400 booths which used to serve food, beer and entertain the crowds.  In that same period it has only missed 24 years, mainly due to war and outbreak of disease.  The german name for the festival is Volksfest, translated as Beer Festival and Travelling Funfair, and today both elements are integral parts of the annual celebration.

The event is full of tradition from the 12 gun salute and tapping of the first keg by the Mayor of Munich, the parades which precede the opening of the beer halls as well as the traditional male and female costumes donned by both those working and visiting at the beer halls.  But the modern festival is a very modern affairs logistics wise.  18 purpose run electric transformer stations and 43km of cabling power the event, 4km of gas lines are laid to heat the beer halls and cook the food.  The Munich tube system scales up services to ensure people can get to the event easily.  The size of the tents is amazing with the biggest tent hosted by Paulander holding 11,000 people, all being served at the table by the famous waitresses with over 30 tents hosting approximately 100,000 drinkers at any time.  The expert beer pourers take only 1.5 seconds to pour a litre of beer and security in 2015 stopped 110,000 people from taking their beer glasses out of the halls.

So running a similar event in London for 4000 people a night should be easy shouldn’t it?  Hosted at Tobacco Dock to the east of central London and featuring Paulander and Hacker-Pschorr beers, it is the biggest of a number of event in the capital.  The session tickets cost £10 for general admission, £60 to guarantee a seat and £1000 for a VIP table of 10 people.  The beer wasn’t even reasonable by London standards, with a litre of beer costing £15.  So they have got all the plans in place to cope with the crowds with all that income.  As you guessed, the organisers couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.   The majority of the weekend from Friday to Sunday was cancelled 30 minutes before the first session of the second day was to open.  

On the opening session on Thursday, two security staff were employed to allow 4000 people into the hall, leading to massive queues and delays of up to 1.5 hours to get in.  Barmaids were scared to return to the hall because of frustrated drinkers or were that busy you couldn’t get their attention to get served.  The venue was that crowded security could not access many areas of the room and empty glasses were not collected leading to breakages and areas of floor covered in glass.   The food and drink that people has pre-paid for never arrived and for those that did get food it was poor quality.  The promised range of beers was reduced to a single choice at times.   As many people pointed out for the money you’d have spend on tickets, beer, travel and accommodation you could have flown to Munich for the real thing.

How can Britain get a beer festival so wrong, thousands of pubs and dozens of CAMRA branches operate these every events every year without major problems.  Not to mention the independent beer festivals which are increasing in number each year such as Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) which was running this weekend.   The biggest beer festival of the year, the Great British Beer Festival generally operates with relatively few issues and gets good feedback from its visitors.  The issue with this event was greed.   From understaffing of bartenders, cooks, security, stewards and waitresses to contracting out this work to agencies on minimum to living wage rates, ensuring those working there really have no stake to care about in the event.  The whole thing was done on lowest cost possible basis to ensure maximum profits.   A separate second event in Millwall, London was going ahead as planned presumably with organisers not packing the venue to the rafters to maximise profits and employing a suitable number of staff for those attending.

Sometimes people forget that when you put the word “festival” after a word, you really should deliver on that word, if you can’t get beer at a beer festival then you call that an epic fail and such greed as above deserves to fail on a massive scale.    

  1. Jolly Jock says:

    Well, it looks like the venue stepped in to protect their reputation, as well as the safety and well-being of folks: http://tobaccodocklondon.com/upcoming-events/oktoberfest-cancelled

    • santobugtio says:

      Agreed. The organisers are at fault at end of day. The venue is a 10000 person capacity so could cope with numbers if staffing and logistics were in place.