How to Brew Successful Beer Festivals
Craft beer has been around in the Northwest United States for a long time. The brewers there essentially invented the modern IPA (IPA's were actually invented by a British bloke, but we'll never tell.)
As the rest of the nation, and really the rest of the world, catch up, one of the greatest PNW traditions is the beer festival.
And if you want to bring the best in craft beers to your town, you're going to want to throw down a beer festival. Preferably somewhere near downtown if they'll let you.
And if you're looking to head to a craft beer festival, you'll also want to know what a good one looks like.
In the next few paragraphs, whether you're an industry guru or a craft beer lover, you're going to learn how successful beer festivals are made. Bottoms up!
1. Beer and Food are Best Mates
You may have heard beer described as liquid bread. And certain beers (we're looking at you, Guinness) do taste like liquid bread.
While some beers have some nutrients, most are pretty much just empty, albeit tasty, carbs. So, if you're planning on a beer festival longer than an hour, then you need to serve food or bring in some food vendors.
If you want to catch the Millennials especially, you will bring in food trucks. Food trucks aren't the greasy spoon, heart attack mobiles they once were. Gourmet chefs are getting in on the game and you can find some delicious bounty at most food truck courts these days.
A lack of food will keep people from coming back the next year. We'd bet you a growler it's true.
2. More Ice, More Beer
When beer gets warm, you end up pouring mostly foam. And if beer festivals are in the summer, no matter if you're in the Arctic Circle, it will get warm.
Contact your local ice company and let them know you're putting on a festival. They'll be able to bring in truckloads for you the day of and rent out a few coolers to boot.
3. Get the Right Gear
The mainstays of any festival are obvious: tents, porta-potties, chairs, tables, etc. But what about beer festivals?
Most vendors will bring their own gear. But you should hook up with a local vendor to get some extra beer pouring gear together. This will be a great thing to have just in case someone isn't prepared when equipment breaks down.
To keep the liquid courage flowing, have a portable CO2 keg tap or two on hand. Be sure you have a few co2 lines and tanks handy. Extra ice chests are nice to have around.
If the beer stops flowing, you can't really call it a beer festival now can you? And you won't have many people wanting to come back the next year either.
4. Location, Location, Location!
While it might be tempting to close down Main Street for your local beer festival, it might not be the best place to hold one.
Cement and asphalt aren't the best places to hold a beer festival. You are less likely to break a glass on a pad of grass than you are on cement.
You need to consider access when choosing your location. A rooftop in the middle of the city might be scenic. But without a freight elevator, you're going to have a hard time hauling all that beer, ice, and equipment up to the 13th floor.
You want a space where the big trucks can pull right up to and drop off all that delicious brew.
And if you're thinking publicity, a unique location will help you stand out from any other beer or wine related event in your city.
5. Be Irresistible
This is more about the marketing than the actual event. But specific aspects of your event will influence how irresistible it is.
Millennials are always looking for someone to blow their expectation out of the universe.
They've seen it all. If you can create buzz around the event that plugs into a millennial's fear of missing out (FOMO), then you'll be a sold out event.
And yes, Millennials are old enough to drink now. So stop mixing them up with "Gen Y."
How do you accomplish FOMO in your possible attendees? Simple: give them something niche. Don't go with the major craft beer players. Sure, you might be tempted to bring in Deschutes or Rogue. But the name-dropping might not work as well as you think.
Instead, go with the up and coming brewers. This might take a bit of research, but the effort will pay off.
And don't forget the music. Sure, you can give the local talent the stage at points during your festival. But beer festivals that pack out feature names most people who love craft beer have heard of.
Get some great talent and some up and coming brewers and blast your beer festival on every channel imaginable. You will drum up a fear of missing out in no time.
6. Don't Forget the Permits
You're never going to host a beer festival again if the city or state shuts you down mid-celebration due to a missed permit. Get all the state, local, and temporary liquor licenses you need long beforehand.
Your vendors will most likely know what permits they need. But if they are from out of state, be sure they have all the information in time to get their permits.
And remember, depending on the size of your state and how slow your local governance is, there will be hundreds of other people attempting to obtain licenses and permits.
Start the process as soon as humanly possible.
Conclusion: Do Something Different
Essentially, the best advice we could give you is stand out. Make people feel like they're missing out if they don't check out your festival.
The best beer festivals do something different. That could just mean something as simple as having a dessert beer garden.
If you want to find out about beer festivals and places to drink on the go, keep your eye on the news at all times!