Ok, so let's be clear from the outset. I'm tiny in the grand scheme of brewing - so I completely accept that my thoughts really don't have any much weight in the following. But maybe someone agrees?
I attended the GBBF, this time as a brewery (last year as someone working in the trade). As a trade day goes, there wasn't really much that was 'tradey' about it - except we all get to go in first.
Now I've done trade days in former lives - cooperate events where everyone's trying to sell you stuff, whisky trade days where everyone's trying to sell you their products but you don't pay for them. The GBBF trade day doesn't really seem to be anything of either. Yeah, you get in for free, but you're still paying for all the beers. There was only one company of trade that I ended up speaking to. So why was it worth me going?
TBH, I don't really know! I was hoping for a bit of inspiration from other breweries - try some new hops, see overall branding; see what everyone else is doing, that sort of thing. Even in that I was generally disappointed. My beers are a bit 'out-there' but traditional in many senses - everything I do is bottle conditioned and cask. But there were so many IPAs that weren't even pale, nor hoppy. So many flavoured stouts which were nice stouts, but hardly diverse. It all felt very very 'safe'.
Now, as a day out the GBBF was great. I returned (from Cardiff) with a group of people on the Saturday and had a fantastic time. There were only 20% of the beers available by the end of the day than Tuesday, but the selection was still great. It was just the trade day that was fairly fruitless.
Anyway, if anyone cares, here's how I'd improve it!
It'd be great if there were areas where us small brewers can meet up. Hell, why not every area of the trade have a meetup area - landlords, brewery owners etc?
Why not actually have the odd talk or two about where real ale 'is' from CAMRA? Doesn't have to be much but would be interesting to get an idea of what CAMRA does apart from give Wetherspoons a lot of advertising.
I know it goes against the volunteering nature of the festival, but I wouldn't mind actually meeting the guys who make some of the beers. Why not get some brewers behind the stalls for a bit and chat about their product?