Cardiff CAMRA‘s 21st annual Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival concluded last weekend and Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer were on hand for the closing day volunteering on the beer bars. 2016 was the second GWBCF to be held at Depot Cardiff, repeating the success of last year’s event, and reinforcing the wisdom of the move to this über-cool venue.
A number of things that impressed us at our first visit in 2015 were again in evidence in 2016. First the venue itself: Depot Cardiff is a 24,000 sq ft former industrial warehouse, turned event space, which got started first as an indoor street food market—a role it still fulfills year-round on weekends when not hosting other events. As for the GWBCF: the footprint of the festival scales beautifully into the Depot’s space with the food offer provided by the unique lineup of street food vendors that is quite different—and superior in our opinion—to what other CAMRA festivals have.
Second, attendance at the GWBCF is noticeably different to other CAMRA festivals in our experience, particularly into the evening: a broader age range, with a visibly larger percentage of female customers, including groups of young single women. One of the entrance staff remarked that 40% of the advance tickets sold for the Saturday session were purchased by female names. While this seems high, empirically speaking our observations gave us little cause for doubt. We asked some of the local volunteers what they made of this, their response was that they do see a higher than usual ratio of female real ale drinkers in Cardiff pubs. Cardiff’s student population from its five university campuses is a likely source; and this year’s festival scheduling was deliberately timed to coincide with the return of students to the city.
Third, is simply the vibe at GWBCF. We have to say that South Wales folk are among the most friendly we encounter at CAMRA beer festivals. Depot Cardiff has loads of beer hall style seating: long tables and bench seats arranged in parallel rows—kinda like Oktoberfest. One of Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer’s biggest complaints, however, is how at so many festivals people don’t mingle and instead engage in grabbing table space to the exclusion of others and not being willing to share. This is a particular problem on our home turf in Reading. It is not a problem in Cardiff.
As you can probably tell from reading this far, Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer love the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival and can’t wait to return in 2017. The following photos are from the camera on my phone which doesn’t do well in low light – sorry.