Huge beer festival responds after attendees label it ‘Manchester Wonka experience’

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 27th March 2024

A massive beer and cider festival that took place in Manchester last weekend has addressed fall-out on social media after some attendees slammed it as the ‘weirdest most dysfunctional festival ever‘.

People have said that the International Brewing and Cider Festival had a ‘strange atmosphere’ due to there being ‘no one there’, had a limited selection of drinks, and was generally ‘a bloody awful evening’.

Some people have even gone so far as to compare it to the now-infamous Wonka Experience.

But the festival has now hit back at these harsh reviews online, saying that there were more than 400 different types of beer and cider available, with around 800 attendees over the weekend.

In a statement, they apologised for a ‘less than perfect experience’.


The International Brewing and Cider Festival – a not-for-profit trade organisation – stressed that ‘early teething troubles’ were ironed out as the event progressed through its four sessions.

As well as inviting breweries from around the world to serve up beers under one roof in one of Manchester’s coolest venues, the beer festival had 19 food and drink traders, and a programme of live music and DJs.


Despite only receiving a couple of actual complaints directly, the festival has been hit with criticism on social media.

Visitors to the beer festival at Depot Mayfield had shared photos of a mostly-empty venue at points over the weekend, with many saying it was ‘freezing’ inside.

One person wrote: “I went with a mate and we left after an hour. The venue was so freezing that the beer itself was too cold to enjoy.”


Someone else said: “This was by a country mile the worst event (not just beer event) I’ve ever attended. Truly horrific.”

The International Brewing and Cider Festival, a beer festival in Mancheser, has been hit with complaints. Credit: X, @SimonR
The International Brewing and Cider Festival, a beer festival in Mancheser, has been hit with complaints. Credit: X, @SimonR

A detailed tale of the experience on Reddit, which said the International Brewing and Cider Festival was a ‘contender for Manchester’s Wonka experience’.

They said that they were ‘greeted by an extremely rude person’ and then struggled to order a beer, with several beers on the list unavailable and ended up with ‘a plastic cup of foam’.

The person said: “It was still early at this point so I expected it to get a bit busy but it never did combined with some depressing music and freezing cold temperatures the atmosphere was strange.”

Someone else said on X: “It was a massive scam. Willy Wonka type scam. No one there. Beers not great. It absolutely was not worth £40. The keg bar was closed, the cask bar closed at 8:30, the only decent beer available was from the few independent brewers who had decided to stick around (half had left). No atmosphere as no one there. Just awful.”


Another person said: “I don’t think I’ve been to a worse organised event. The term ‘Couldn’t organise a pi55 up in a brewery’ was made for this festival.

“Mid session there were less than 100 people. The signs on the cask and keg were too small to read at any distance. People pouring on the bar had no knowledge of any of the beers & no info in the app.

“For the entry fee of £20 to drink out of plastic, beer costing ‘town prices’, & some of the brewers had packed up and left hours before the end, left me feeling like I’d been ripped off.”

A spokesperson for the International Brewing & Cider Festival said: “We are very sorry that some people had a less than perfect experience – this was our first Festival and when you start something new, there will be learnings.

“We are a not-for-profit trade organisation representing the value chain, supplying the brewing and beverage industry.


“As the organiser of the oldest international brewing and cider awards in the world, we held the Awards in Manchester this year and wanted to bring the entries from around the world to the public in the city.

“We adapted throughout the two days, ironing out some early teething troubles to deliver a better model as the event progressed.”

But now that Indy Man Beer Con has announced it won’t be returning for 2024, there’s definitely room in Manchester for a new beer festival.

Let’s it comes back to the city again and next time, is a roaring success.

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Featured image: X, @SimonR