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A party for 18,000 craft beer aficionados

Imagine you’re planning a party, and all of a sudden thousands of guests announce they’re coming. Then there’s one thing above all that cannot be allowed to run out: the food and drink. But the guests at the 2nd Regensburg Craft Beer Festival, at least, need have no fears on that score. 34 craft breweries from all over Europe and beyond made sure that no visitor’s thirst remained unquenched.

Glorious sunshine, craft beer, music – and all this in the middle of Regensburg’s inner city: last week, Neupfarrplatz Square was transformed for three days into an Eldorado for beer fans, and for those who simply wanted to get to start exploring the world of craft beer. After the festival got off to a scintillating start at its premiere last year (17 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors over three days), everyone concurred: there has to be a second Regensburg Craft Beer Festival in 2016.

About Christmas-time, this was happily confirmed: on Facebook, the organisers announced a festival for 2016. When I saw that, I immediately signed up. Because since I joined Krones, I’ve become more and more of a beer-lover. And manifestly I was not the only one seized by joyful anticipation – the event went viral on the social media: shortly before the festival started, there were no fewer than 2,100 acceptances on Facebook, and another 5,200 users were interested. Incredible figures, but dwarfed by what then actually happened at the event: on the very first day, around 5,500 devoted craft beer fans turned up at the Festival, and a total of around 18,000 guests enjoyed a glass or three of cool craft beer in the golden early-summer sunshine.

 

“Craft beer is for connoisseurs”

I met up with the three gentlemen to whom we owe the pleasure of this event in Regensburg: Martin Schwenke and Thomas Raab (lautlicht and Craft Beer Store Birretta) plus Pit Krause (honorary partner at slowdrink) have for a year now been planning and organising the second round of the Regensburg Craft Beer Festival.

Thomas, Pit and Martin, the organisers of the Craft Beer Festival

 

Although this year is only the 2nd time the festival’s been held, you’ve already built up an enviable reputation – among exhibitors and visitors. How do you explain your success?

Thomas: I believe our concept has resonated with the public: we don’t want to be big, we want to be good. This is why the visitors – compared with the mass of craft breweries – found in Regensburg only a small field of exhibitors, but a very strong one. This is indubitably the right approach, as evidenced by the approving feedback from the brewers. The number of craft brewers at the festival has doubled in 2016, thanks to word-of-mouth publicity – and it could have been even more.

Pit: But that’s precisely what we’re not aiming for. We want to offer quality, not quantity. We believe it’s important that the guests can if at all possible pay a visit to each and every brewery’s stand, so they can form an impression of the different beers and beer styles involved. What we most definitely don’t want is to encourage our guests to “binge-drink”. Our focus is on aware enjoyment. Which is why we want to raise awareness levels quite generally for beer as a product: at the slowdrink stand, the guests were introduced to the brewing process as such. The exhibitors also included an expert on hops, and (of course) the brewers themselves were happy to answer all the visitors’ questions.

Lager, pale ale, IPA, wheat beer, stout, … – it’s a long list. How many different types could the visitors sample?

Thomas: At the Craft Beer Festival, there were 50 different beer styles in all, from all over the world. The exhibitors themselves came to Regensburg from as far away Scotland and the USA, though the majority of them were German craft brewers.

The craft beer movement has meanwhile reached Germany as well. Craft beer has been brewed here for quite a long time, of course. Would you say that it’s now finally reached the societal mainstream?

Pit: Most definitely: craft beer has indeed arrived in German society. Brewers can do more than just make pale ale, pilsner, and wheat beer – no doubt about it. But now we’re seeing broad consumer acceptance for craft beer. People’s awareness has altered; now they think about the product proactively. This opens up opportunities for the smaller breweries to offer their beers to wide sections of the populace.

How would you describe the classical craft beer drinker?

Martin: There’s only one word that fits: a connoisseur. Seeing, smelling, tasting – all this shows that the craft beer fans are hedonistically aware drinkers and epicures. The Germans are currently undergoing a paradigm shift towards a healthier, savvier way of life – and craft beer fits in perfectly with this trend.

 

And if you hadn’t had an opportunity last week to explore the wonderful world of craft beer, you can now embark on your own voyage of discovery or wait in patience for a year until (hopefully) the Regensburg Craft Beer Festival comes around for the third time.

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