When talking about Imbibe Live 2017, it’s tempting to re-reference the famous line about the 1960s, that ‘if you can remember it you weren’t there’. But that would be an odd combination of ‘not inaccurate’ and ‘disingenuous’.
Not inaccurate because the two days seemed to rocket by so fast that it’s hard to remember a damn thing about them.
Disingenuous because it suggests that the entire event was a reality-distorting booze-fuelled lash-up.
And you know what? Much as I’d like to do the whole sardonically raised eyebrow shtick to suggest that we both know that I’m saying one thing but meaning its polar opposite, it really wasn’t.
Yes, booze was drunk, and yes I doubt that many – or indeed any – of the people staggering out into the sweltering heat at the end of the day could have got behind the wheel of a car.
But considering that we’d just essentially given thousands of attendees eight hours of access to a free bar, I’d say the behaviour was pretty good.
There was, of course, the odd incident and a couple of people might not have looked back on their behaviour with a great deal of pride the next day.
But I saw some pretty sodden wrecks staggering around the same venue six weeks earlier during London Wine Fair and that’s a supposedly far more serious (translation: boring) event than Imbibe Live.
Where we have tattoos and flip-flops, they have corduroy and brogues, but the old boys, it seems, are at least as likely to get hammered as you guys – and they don’t even look as good doing it.
What struck me most this year was that, even towards the end of the day when most of you were feeling happily fuzzy, you still all genuinely seemed to be interested in what you were trying. I really didn’t see anybody using the show as a means to get uncritically drunk.
Apologies if this sounds a bit Melvin Bragg, but to me it looked like the inebriation was not the goal, but, rather, the bye-product of a search for knowledge.
And that, I think, says a great deal about the Imbibe reader. Put my twenty-something-year-old self in that situation and I’d probably have had to be mopped up rather than escorted out. But you guys mostly got the balance between fun and education spot on. You drink because you care and you want to remember, rather than because you don’t care and you want to forget.
It all augurs well for the next generation of somms, bartenders, GMs and publicans – and it was noticed by the exhibitors who had nothing but praise for the calibre of people who they were seeing.
You guys should be proud of yourselves. We are.