To be considered a beer town the town needs a beer festival. Beer festivals are the ultimate celebration of beer and a peak beer moment for many beer lovers. There are some beer lovers that travel all over the world to attend a beer festival. I used to be one of those. There are others that are perfectly satisfied with going to their local beer festival. It doesn’t matter if the festival is big or small. I actually enjoy the small niche festivals far better than the large festivals. When I lived in Durham, NC Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer Magazine and producer of World Beer Festival put on a small cask ale festival that I really enjoyed. If you travel fare or just go the local festival doesn’t matter. A beer festival is where brewers and people in the beer industry meet their beer loving fans and talks and drinks beer. Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival is the largest celebration of beer in Sweden. The festival was established in 1992. I had the pleasure of volunteering at the festival 1999-2001. I was part of a team helping to prepare the beer for the judges to sample at the competition. The festival have had well know beer profiles like Garrett Oliver and Michael Jackson as judges. There were of course some left over beer that made it past our palates. It was a lot of hard work but working with other beer lovers made it a lot of fun. I had a blast!
The Stockholm Beer Festival is located in a The Factory, which is an event and conference center outside of Stockholm. During the past 19 years the festival have changed. A few years ago they moved to a new venue but returned to The Factory. The Factory is a 19th century car factory brick building and the atmosphere is perfect for a beer festival. The festival started as just a beer festival but when whiskey became popular that segment grew and was for a while larger than the beer. The festival model is a little different from many of the beer festivals in America. The speed-dating model (3-5 hour festival with a $30-45 admission fee that includes samples) is not common in Europe. I have actually never heard about a festival in Europe using that model. The festivals in Europe are usually multiple days with or without and admission fee but you pay for each sample. This is a model I prefer my self. I like to take it easy and have the time to talk to the brewers and maybe return after a while
and try something else and continue the conversation. I also like to leave the festival and enjoy the culture in the city and the beer it offers and return to the festival the same day or the day after. I like it to be a total experience including many different elements. Great British Beer Festival is one of my favorites. For some festivals the speed-dating model works well. The World Beer Festival that I was managing for a few years had the speed-dating model. The festivals mission is to “educate the public in beer appreciation and beer quality”. The speed-dating model works perfect with a mission like that. Stockholm Beer Festival uses the pay per sample model with an admission fee of about 220 Swedish Kronor (Skr) (about $30) and 20-30 Skr (about $3-4) per sample depending on what beer it is for a 5-6 oz pour.
The Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival is not just a beer festival. As the name says it’s also a whiskey festival with an outstanding selection of single malt whiskeys and bourbons. New this year was a general beverage section in a separate part of the venue with wine, champagne and spirits. This makes the beer segment not even half of the festival. The beer and whiskey are mixed in the main hall with a small separate hall with Swedish Craft Breweries. Sweden is not big country and the beer industry and beer community is not as big as in America so one small hall is enough. I didn’t have the opportunity to go during the weekdays. That is usually when it’s less crowded. Saturday right as they open is usually pretty good too so I decided to be there at noon as soon as they opened. I don’t know what has changed since I was at the festival the last time in 2002 but man it was crowded already by 1 PM. You had to wait in line a long time before being able to get a beer sample. Moving around the festival was a challenge. It could be that they added the square feet with general alcoholic beverage thus adding more people and all the extra people for the most part went to the beer and whiskey section making that almost unbearable to be at. This is what I don’t like about big beer festival. It’s often to crowd. Thos was no fun so I had a few beers from the Swedish breweries and a Fullers London Porter and left at about 3 PM. I decided to return this coming Thursday when it’s less crowded. I hope to be able to give you a good report about all the beers that I have sampled and maybe even something about the Swedish beer scene after my next visit.