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Berlin bar show breaks records ahead of NYC launch

Published:  13 October, 2017

As a barometer of the spirits and cocktail world, this week’s edition of Bar Convent Berlin revealed a sector in rude health, with record numbers of visitor and exhibitors attending a heavily over-subscribed event.

Around a half of the 12,000 visitors, drawn primarily from the bar community, came from overseas, with delegates from over 70 countries descending upon the two day show where 370 exhibitors from 28 nations represented a 17% increase on the past year’s event.

Speaking to Harpers at the show, co-founder and ex-bartender Helmut Adam said: “I’ve never seen this in my business life and never seen it at BCB, we are sold out.”

“We started as three bartenders with a pop up event over a decade ago, with three months preparation, mainly for the bartending community in Berlin, but now it has grown and we have people coming from Siberia, China, everywhere.”

In response to the popularity of the 2017 event, Bar Convent Berlin will open for three days in 2018, targeting 15,000 visitors, while the owner of two year’s, Reed Exhibitions, is also launching Bar Convent Brooklyn in the hipster heartland of Williamsburg, New York, in June 2018.

Adam insisted that the success of the event comes down to “still being about community”, with a majority of attendees split fairly evenly between bar tenders, bar managers and bar owners, but with growth in interest from the broader hospitality trade.

This in turn, said Adam, is a reflection of the global growth of cocktails and premium spirits and the blurring of boundaries between drinks categories and drinking occasions.

“I know all the bartenders, and they are still at the heart of Bar Convent, but it’s a natural development that we have restaurants, F&B managers coming here, looking for spirits, looking at cocktails,” he added.

“It’s a sign that things have moved on beyond the bar, and there is also a lot of innovation here. The restaurant industry has discovered Bar.”

The show also clearly tracked today’s drinking trends, with the soaring popularity of gin, rum, vermouth, and original and esoteric liquors clearly apparent in the mix of exhibitors straddling the seven halls of the show.

This year’s Bar Convent also featured Brew Convent, a section dedicated to craft beers, and Coffee Convent, similarly focused on the caffeine-fuelled growth of that category, again reflecting the still surging popularity of these two categories.

Asked what it is that continues to drive the still booming bar and cocktail sector, Adam suggested that as an industry it has finally come of age, gaining the recognition that it deserves.

“Passion drives it forward, a shared passion that we have, and now we are a real industry,” said Adams.

“In the past we were a segment of the hospitality industry that was sort of looked down upon, but now we are recognised, there are features in the big papers, the New York Times, all the time, we are there.

“So this is informing smart people, and many people have left university, with a masters [degree], and are thinking ‘I don’t want to sit in an office, I can have a great career in a really interesting industry, in the bar world.”

Bar Convent Berlin was preceded by a one day Global Bar Forum, from which many of the insights, trends and future forecasting will be featured both on these pages and in the upcoming November issue of Harpers.