Are you thinking of showcasing your craft beverage at a beer festival? Whether your an old pro or new at the game, these five tips will help ensure your time and money are well spent.
Surprise your guests with a comfortable space to taste your craft beverage.
As a beer writer that has attended seemingly hundreds of beer festivals from San Diego to Boston and the producer of Firkfest Cask Beer Festival in Anaheim, CA, I have hundreds of ideas floating around my head to always make things better. One of those, incidentally, is “how to make breweries love my festival.” Do all festivals have this in mind? Probably not, which is why with 52 beer festivals a year in a metro-regional area, it can seem like a grind to load up some kegs, a jockey box, the EZ-Up and swag. Here’s how to get the best out of the fest.
1. Don’t try to attend them all. Here’s some questions to ask before saying “yes.”
Lets face it, not every festival is geared as a classy tasting event. Some are unique venues with special entertainment, or perhaps a competition. Some are standard 30 breweries, five food trucks in a parking lot. Some things to look at:
- Social media snoop: Check Facebook, Instagram and blogs to see what the event is all about. Does it look undersold? Oversold? Are brewery names misspelled? Use this to gauge potential interest in supporting an event.
- How many breweries? Will you stand out if there’s over 50? 100? Most cases, guests drink 10-15 samples over a 3-4 hour festival. More breweries equals less chance of connecting with new customers. 25-50 is a sweet spot.
- How many sessions? Will you have to be there for 8-10 hours with load in, set up and break down? With multiple sessions you may have work extra and pay event staff extra. Single sessions are ideal.
- Is the festival run by a traveling event promoter or by a local-nonprofit that is community driven? Often times, event promoters don’t have the spirit of craft beer in mind, perpetrating a “drunk fest” vibe, and the selection of beer choices may be somewhat repetitive as they often purchase the lowest cost kegs. Local festivals supporting a non-profit may cultivate a better tasting atmosphere, have a great niche, and also more unique beer options.
- Is the event for profit or charity? If donating beer, check what percentage the event has given to charity in years past. Some festivals give the bare minimum, whereas my festival, Firkfest, gives above 75%.
- Is the festival listed on Groupon or Living Social at extreme discount? Often value sites bring in the “drunk fest” atmosphere, where ABV is more of a concern than discovering something new.
2. Use the opportunity to network with other breweries.
Craft beer is community, and a beer festival is an industry event. Bring business cards, trade phone numbers, talk shop, give and receive feedback. Advocate other local quality breweries to your customers. Book a collaboration!
3. Get to know bloggers, media, and influencers.
If there’s a press badge and a camera dangling from a fest-goers neck, invite them behind the table for a personal tasting.
- Have a small pocket fact sheet about your brewery: who are you, what you make, how to find your beer, current beer list, and a cell phone number to a brewer that can answer questions.
- Depending on your area, you may be able to send samples of beer home.
- Get contact information, follow up with an email after the fest, asking how the experience was and if they have any more questions about your beer.
- Extend a personal invite to your brewery for interview, photos and beer tasting.
- Share media via your social channels.
- Personal touch is everything, build a relationship!
4. Bring SWAG that matters.
While doing laundry, I love finding stickers, key chains and chochkies from a brewery when I’m emptying my festival-drenched pockets. It’s a reminder of a fun time, and a beer I liked. Chances are I will try that beer again. Bring some shirts to sell, don’t forget the ladies!
5. Create a portable tasting-room environment at your booth.
Don’t be afraid to go over the top with a decorative trade-show vibe.
- Decorate your table, offer cold-kegged water, snacks, and a tidy dump bucket.
- Instead of bringing a Barrel Aged Barleywine to a 95 degree festival in June, bring an extra shade tent with a misting system.
- Timed releases of rare beer are a great way to bring people back.
- Bar-style glass rinser at a festival? I’ve seen it done. Bring it to your festival set up!
Bring your glass rinser to the festival!
A beer festival is a unique marketing environment that can also be a lot of fun. By picking the best fests to support, you’re not only helping your bottom line, you’re also keeping craft beer classy. Don’t be afraid to say no, befriend the media and look good while doing it. Got a favorite festival? Let us know in the comments.
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