By Robert Mukondiwa:
While Zimbabwe has had organisers riding on the German idea of October being beer festival month, it seems there is still a critical lack of appreciation of what beerfests serve.
The most prolific beer festival was probably the Lion Lager Summer Beer Festival, which as always attracted bumper crowds and had people sipping endless amounts of alcohol; nay, drowning themselves in it even.
And yet probably more significant was the Sobfest, held towards the end of the beer festival month by Biggie Chinoperekwei of Devine Assignments promotions, most importantly since it was an event promoted by an individual as opposed to Delta Beverages which has promoted its event as a transnational corporation.
More importantly, the Sobfest (Summer October Beer Festival) also introduced attendees to traditional African brews, with the notorious and much loved ‘7 days opaque brew’ being part of the drinks menu. But a serious problem presented itself.
“People would see the posters and ask ‘who is playing at the beers festival’ and we knew we had a crisis,” confessed Chinoperekwei.
Apparently, the whole idea of beer festivals being get-togethers where people get first hand intimate details of how their beers are crafted and various beer facts being passed around as the fraternise is lost on the Zimbabwean beerfest attendee. In the end they all just crash and burn and degenerate into music concerts where beer is consumed.
The culture of beer festivals is primarily in understanding beer and taking time out to let sweet informed intercourse take place between the taste buds and one’s beer of choice as the brain explodes in the excitement. The culture in Zimbabwe is not of appreciation of alcohol but sadly alcoholism.
“We had not planned to have any musicians. We wanted to focus on the beer and have exhibitors talking to attendees as they drank beer and soaked in information on them. The entertainment was supposed to be a side event pale in the horizon but we had to change our strategy,” says Chinoperekwei.
In the end he had to redesign the posters, hire Zimdancehall artistes to perform alongside urban grooves artistes. All this in a jiffy. Suddenly interest mounted, the thunder was stolen from the core beerfest theme and the crowds came in their thousands!
“It is a culture that we will have to change and it shall take time for people to appreciate the difference between and concert and a beerfest. Hopefully we will get there one day,” says Chinoperekwei.
But he is not the only one to face the same problem. Delta Beverages had proposed to make a big announcement of the artistes playing at their event towards the end of the week heading into the show. In the end they had to make the announcement much earlier to whet people’s appetite and announce the performance by South African group Uhuru.
The gates opened at 12 noon and beer experts were on hand to take people through the beer making process, types of beers, the best glasses to enjoy the best tastes and aromas, the works…but alas no one came. They came for the show, bought beer from the counters, didn’t give a cow’s behind how that beer was made and gulped it down like they had done a million times before. Then they went home!
“Soon. Soon they will understand the concept and will get curious and excited about how beer is made and the varying differences,” said a hopeful Biggie Chinoperekwei. After all, all he can do is hope.