The Woman Behind Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival        

Meet Marianne Wallberg, the woman behind this wonderful festival
29 sept - 1 okt & 6 - 8 okt 2011. Located at Nackastrandsmässan, Stockholm
Remarkable and charming are the two words which best sum up this woman!
She lives by the mantra “If I can’t find the way I’ll make one!”

Tell us about your Beer & Whisky background?
Originally I worked as a consultant in Berns and these kind of places. Well I applied for a job here at Nackastrandsmässan and I didn’t get it, but then one day I called the guy who got the job before me and he hired me as a consultant. Later on I replaced him.

Where did you get the idea and inspiration for this event?
Basically I was out with my friends and saw a complete lack of knowledge about Beer. People were accepting ordering a “Stor Stark” beer (Big strong ) without know anything about it or how it tastes. A friend of mine gave me a Finnish beer poster of Belgian beers, this really got me thinking.

Is it international as it reads “Beer” as apposed to “öl”?
Absolutely I wanted an international festival, and everyone said you will fail, this is Sweden and Alcohol is so tied down by the law. Yes and before having it, I asked my friends would they like to go to such a festival and they said absolutely. Then I asked myself what kind of festival would I go to? It is possible because the exhibitors have their own “pub stands” here where they can sell alcohol.

How many years have you been doing this event and how many other are involved in organising such an event?
Our first festival was in 1992, we had 143 different beers and had the longest bar in the world which got into Guinness Book of Records. In 1993 I took in whisky and there were few club and very little of a whisky culture.

How much has it grown over the years? Any current numbers?
Today we got 2,000 different beers,1200 competing in the competition. There are
1500 whiskies and 400 of them in the competition. We’ve also had this in Gothenburg and Malmo and Sundsvall.20,000 plus visitors annually.

What do you know about the visitors, is it the same people coming back or are there many new people coming?
Well see for your self(pointing down the stairs at mixed crowds) People of various ages, men and women are here and they are learning. People are getting knowledge. Over 700,000 people have come to this event since it started over 20 years ago!

Any goals for the event?
Our goal remains the same. EDUCATION is the key message we’re shouting at this festival. We began focusing on educating our exhibitors during 1992-1995. We work together and follow the rules such as no underage serving, no serving to people who have over consumed. Exhibitors have to do a test. 

Any exciting plans? Have you ever thought of having it outdoors?
Yes lots on the way, we’re setting up the and taking it all over
Sweden and Education is the key idea.  We want people to learn about alcohol. Learning how to avoid the dangers of alcoholism etc.

We are thinking about an outdoor event, I used to rent this hall but later I bought it instead.  We don’t want to make the festival bigger but we can always improve.
We’re looking into extending it to Sundays!

Any funny stories from over the years?
Too many to tell but here is one. I spoke to one Swedish drink company who said “Why should I come here and exhibit next to an importer?” So I said “You should be asking why am I not importing?” Today they are huge importers as they already had the logistics for distributing their own beer!

Any famous people attended? Whisky or beer buffs?
Well beer legend Michael Jackson was a great help to me and this was his favourite Beer event in the world!  He was a fantastic man and so humble famed for his line, “My two favourite brands are beer and whisky!”. Whiskyman Jim Murray is here next week so that’s something we’re all looking forward to!

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