Before our recent trip to Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) we asked a few previous attendees what they thought of it
The general consensus was that it is the best show in Europe. A big claim. Well is it? Here are our thoughts, and let me start this by saying that we were invited over by the organisers of the show to be their official overseas media partners, but fear not we won’t let this sway our report back to you our trusting readers.
Those of you who remember the old days of the bar. show in the UK when it was based at the Islington Design Centre would immediately see the similarities with BCB. It is housed in an old train building from 1907, which provides a fantastic backdrop to the show itself – think the Design Centre on steroids. The venue helps to add to the overall buzz of the show which hits you like a wall of boozy goodness the moment you step through the doors.
Based over two levels, the main halls are home to hundreds of brands showing their wares and happily handing out samples for visitors to taste. For people like me who are used to the strict sampling rules of UK shows, it is a welcome change to see a lot of the brands making cocktails with their products and serving them in glass glasses. Yes glass! Sure there are plastic sampling cups as well, but there is something very civilised about enjoying a drink at a show in a nice sturdy rocks or elegant cocktail glass.
New products to enjoy
For a UK visitor the amount of products that are not available on our shores is breathtaking. Rums, Tequilas, schnapps, liqueurs, soft drinks, vodkas and even gins which I have never seen before are in abundance.
I particularly enjoyed a new gin called Monkey47 which is unfiltered and partnered by a Distillers Cut, with some fantastic packaging and a really passionate team. Also standing out was a new product from Jim Beam called Devils Cut which has a fantastic back-story and was mixed into a lovely Manhattan twist by Wayne Collins using Earl Grey Tea leaves, orange bitters, peach syrup and Rosso Vermouth. Devils Cut isn’t available in the UK yet but I have it on very good authority that it will be making its way over early next year.
Also on hand was the UK’s very own Nick Wykes with a company called The Wild Geese who produce an Irish Whiskey. They were launching at the show a new rum brand which Nick himself has been responsible for putting together. It is available in the UK if you ask Nick very nicely!
The big guys were there with some excellent stands from speakeasies and educational rooms to huge brand stands and sitting alongside them are dozens of smaller boutique companies. My German is about as effective as the Scotland rugby team however this never gets in the way of finding out all about the brands on offer.
This year’s guest country, Poland, wasn’t missing out either, hosting a huge table covered with dozens of vodkas to try… a display of vodka loveliness that would give Ian Burrell nightmares but gives the rest of us a unique opportunity to not only sample vodkas we haven’t tried before. Next to this table is a ‘Poland Bar’ with some of the country’s best bartenders knocking out great drinks for those wanting to see what this often neglected country has to offer.
Talks, Tastings and Educationals
Alongside the exhibitors were 4 educational theatres dotted around the show – a main theatre, 2 demo bars and a tasting forum. The talks on offer and the level of speakers were both excellent, and in a couple of days I will give you a full breakdown of some of the best sessions I attended. Just to whet your appetite they included a The Pina Colada Paternity Test by Ian Burrell, Philip Duff on the Science of Citrus, How to Open a Tiki Bar by Angus Winchester and the Cheeky Tiki crew and Wayne Collins & Andy Gemmell on how the Brits brought the world the cocktail.
The beauty of trade shows of course is the networking side of things, catching up with old friends and making plenty of new ones is one of the reasons shows are so enjoyable. BCB are acutely aware of this and in the centre of the show is an outdoor courtyard full of chairs and benches where you can grab some food and a drink, and natter away to your heart’s content. With guests from the UK, the States and all across Europe you never walk far before bumping into someone you greet like a long lost relative.
Throughout the show there are animated conversations taking place next to full on business deals, introductions alongside deep discussions and all seemingly happening in approximately 3 languages simultaneously.
Before you leave there is also the BCB shop to visit with some of the finest bar tools from around the world available for purchase. From Shakers to Strainers, Dash Bottles to Tiki mugs and bowls the shear quality of the products on offer will ensure even the most welded shut wallet of any bartender will be opened as they pass by.
If you are thinking maybe it is something you may visit next year let me save you the worry – yes it is! Start booking your holiday, looking at flights and searching for hotels as this is a show you really need come to. As for whether it is the best show in Europe right now well I haven’t told you about the seminars yet so let’s wait a couple of days for that we report before we make that decision shall we?