Rant: £4.50 for a festival beer?!

Rant: £4.50 for a festival beer?!

Picture the scene: it is one we have all endured, gleefully bounding through the festival gates, fresh from a sleepless and uncomfortable stay in a suspicious-smelling tent. Your sneaky and ingenious methods of smuggling a litre of Stella in a water bottle have failed you but “No matter,” you think to yourself, “there is beer inside!” Yes, there is beer inside, but rather than the cheap and cheerful fare of a semi-chilled can for a reasonable price befitting of such an event you stare in abject horror at what you see before you. Yes, my friend. The large signs that proclaim: CARLING £4.50.

A chill goes through you (which has nothing to do with the presence of the beer, lukewarm and sticky as it is) as you gaze up at this ominous legend. There are two things very, very wrong with this. Firstly, £4.50 for a beer? Why, that’s more than you pay in the heaving pubs of Central London! Secondly, Carling!? Or if fate deals a further blow, Tuborg!? Possibly the worst lagers in the world and the festival organisers have the audacity to ask you to pay through the nose for it! What do you do? Go through an (unthinkable) beer-less day while your more foolhardy friends get fuzzily drunk on these warm monstrosities? Or do you suck it up and gloomily fork over your hard earned cash for a drinking experience that would usually be deemed less than adequate? A conundrum indeed.

Why do festivals feel the need to charge such ludicrous amounts for a beer? (And food – if you can call it that as well, for that matter?) After asking for an arbitrarily high wad of cash for the honour of camping in an uneven field the organisers refuse your attempts at supplying your own food and drink in the arena then whack up the price. Sure, you may say it is good business sense to fleece your customers, and again, sure, it’s slightly more difficult to supply these things in a field but not that difficult. And what about festivals on the continent?

The Groezrock festival, held in late April is a smallish punk and hardcore venture just outside of Antwerp, Belgium. In a relatively remote area the organisers manage to set up a pretty civilized environment which makes Reading and Leeds resemble a medieval battleground, complete with associated diseases. There were a variety of beers on offer, including some for those of adventurous tastes, and of course the obligatory Jager / energy drink combo. Every possible combination of food is available from the stalls that line the main festival area, from stir-fry to paninis and spaghetti. Vegetarian options were fantastic and most importantly, everything was satisfyingly low priced, with queues reduced massively through the use of food and drink tokens. These tokens could be bought in groups of five or ten for a meagre amount of Euros, then used each day. Additionally, picking up thirty used cups from the floor earned punters a free Jupiler beer, encouraging a more environmentally friendly attitude to things.

The thought put in to this festival made for an incredibly friendly atmosphere; no fights breaking out over a spilled pint or a dropped burger. Just a field full of satisfied customers feeling that rather than the aim of the festival being to suck their finances dry, perhaps the organisers’ aim was towards everyone having a good time?

We’re starting to see the use of drinks tokens and cup returns in some of the UK’s major festivals, but here’s hoping they soon follow suit in lowering their extortionate beer prices!