SOBA cancelled its Auckland City of Ales festival yesterday afternoon.
The festival has been held each winter for the past four years, but this year clashed with GABS. The popular Australian beer festival was held in New Zealand for the first time in June. “It would have been pointless trying to compete against something on that scale,” City of Ales organiser Martin Bridges says.
The organising group rescheduled to Sunday November 13, but this week decided not to go ahead.
Martin says the tough decision was made to ensure the event’s quality reputation was maintained.
“We’ve had four years when it’s been a really good event and people have given us really great feedback. So I didn’t want to let it be a damp squib. I was worried we wouldn’t deliver something people would enjoy. We decided it was best to regroup early next year and find a slot that works and really get behind it and get it sorted.”
City of Ales relies on SOBA volunteers for both its organisation and operations. The same Auckland volunteers are also working on the SOBA National Homebrew Competition, to be held in Auckland on 5 November, just a week before City of Ales was scheduled.
Auckland SOBA members quickly organised Auckland Beer Week, held in the days before GABS Auckland event. Martin points out the small organising committee has to juggle its beer events with other responsibilities, things like family and jobs and life and stuff.
Martin says volunteer events are coming under double pressure from punter expectations and increasing regulation. “The general level of professionalism in events is definitely going up, and that raises the bar for volunteer events. And the compliance is getting harder too. The licencing application is getting more expensive, and this year we had to deal with the new Health & Safety legislation, even though we’re using somebody else’s venue. These things do make it harder for volunteer-based organisations I think.
“Another concern was that we had a Sunday, which was the only day that we could get the venue. Obviously it’s not a big booze-up, it’s a restrained kind of festival, but I think people would think twice about going to a beer festival on a Sunday. Some people told me they thought the date was a typo, so that was a concern.”
And to put a couple of rumours to bed – City of Ales was not stopped by police/licencing rules, and there was no problem securing a venue. “I hadn’t submitted the licence application and I didn’t foresee any issues with it – we haven’t had any problems with the licence in the past four years. We’d paid the deposit for the venue and everything was all go with them.”
The organisers will now look for a suitable time and place for City of Ales 2017.
“We’re looking at the first half of the year. Obviously we have to look at the other things that are going on. GABS already has its date locked in for mid-June, and there is Great Kiwi Beer Festival, Marchfest and so on. So we have to have a look at the calendar and find a slot that works, then find a venue. It’s too soon to speculate on the date just yet.”