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What to look for in a Beer Festival

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Great Beer Festivals – What to Look For

Beer festivals are popular around the world.  They occur in large metropolitan areas, medium-sized college towns, and small rural areas.  What makes a beer festival so attractive is that it is a way for a community to gather to relax, enjoy a beer, try something new, support a charity or a local business, or help generate new business to the area. Regardless of the goal of the beer fest, there is always something for everyone and typically, everyone leaves enjoying the experience and learning something new.  One may go to a beer fest in Germany, Japan, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Denver, New York City, St. Louis, or Madison, Wisconsin, and aside from the possibility of language barriers, all experiences have the potential of being the same.  Festival-goers can have fun, learn something new about themselves and their tastes, and learn about a beer they have never tried before.

The most commonly known beer festival is Oktoberfest, but there are many other types of festivals that focus on different styles of beer, regions of brewing, or type of brewer.  Some beer festivals last for a single day while others are spread out over an entire week known as “beer weeks,” such as the nationally celebrated American Craft Beer Week.

Great beer festivals are not always all about the beer though.  Regional cuisine, beer and food pairings, live music, arts on display, games and contests are usually integrated into the festival as well. No matter where the attendees are from or what their backgrounds are, socioeconomic lines are blurred and beer enthusiasts are able to discuss what they taste, connect and share a common bond whether they like the same styles of beer or not. Much like music, theatre, books, movies and athletics, beer transcends many societal boundaries and allows for a common ground to be held by all, and for many, it does not get much more relaxing than that.

Beer fests are unique in their form of enjoyment because there are still rules that must be followed. First and foremost, legal drinking age, responsible consumption and safe travels afterwards are the keys to getting the full enjoyment experience from the festival.  Aside from the legal aspects of enjoying a beer fest, there are some good tips to follow to make sure that you enjoy yourself to your fullest while at a beer festival.

Food – Before and during the festival, drinking on an empty stomach is a surefire way of not enjoying the event.  Many festivals have food and snacks available. If not, make sure that you eat beforehand and bring food with you. If they aren’t offering it, they won’t complain that you are bringing it with you.  This isn’t a movie theater.  A very popular way to carry food in hands free is the famous pretzel necklace, which I have seen evolve into a pretzel, beef jerky, string cheese, candy bar, whatever can have a hole punched through it and strung together – necklace. PretzelNecklaces3

Water – Hydrate! Since the majority of the beer festivals are held outside and in warmer weather, you want to mix in water with your beer consumption.  A good piece of advice is to drink one ounce of water for every ounce of beer.

No rush! – Pace yourself.  The point of the festival is to try many beers, not to get inebriated as quickly as possible.  If that is your goal, a local bar or tavern is a much cheaper and safer option.  Taste the beer, experience what the beer does for your sensory palate, take tasting notes, discuss the beer–whatever you enjoy.  There will be plenty of time for you to try everything at least once.

Bring cash – You may end up wanting to buy something.  Most festivals have beer related vendors, food trucks or food stations, snacks, and merchandise. Some brewers will even sell the signage at their booth at the end of the festival. I have even seen a shave and a haircut station at a beer festival before. Not everyone is going to be equipped to handle a credit or debit transaction, and there is no guarantee that there will be an ATM, so bringing cash is highly advised.

Plan ahead – Make sure that you know which brewers are going to be there, and if possible, what beers they will be pouring.  That way you can have an idea of what you want to try.  Also, try to start with the lightest beers in flavor first, then work your way to the heavier beers in flavor.  Your taste buds will thank you.

Try the new first!  – Try the beers that are new to you first.  These are beers that you’ve never had before, and may not be able to easily get again.  Especially if a brewer has a limited release, or a onetime brew, you want to taste that and enjoy that experience before they run out.  If you miss out on a beer that you can get at your local tap house, not all is lost, but if you miss out on a beer that appears in a 30 barrel batch once a year, you’ll be kicking yourself for getting what is readily available first.

Fashion Sense – Proper attire is key and that means check out the forecast, especially if the festival is held outdoors.  A festival in May calls for a different set of clothing and potential weather conditions than a festival in August.  A rainy day at 70 degrees might not warrant the sandals, shorts and t-shirt that you had planned for a sunny, 90-degree day, so plan accordingly.

Get home safely – Have a plan for a designated driver, shuttle, or cab.  Many festivals are held in areas that you have to drive to get to. Be smart. The whole point of celebrating the beers is the fact that they are enjoyable. Keep the entire experience enjoyable for yourself and others.

Take pictures!  – Outside of making sure that you digitize memories of your experience at the festival with your friends, you may see some unique characters at a beer fest. I have personally seen all four of the Ghostbusters, what I believed to have been a hill tribe out of Game of Thrones, Storm Troopers, people with pretzels adhered to their shirts entirely covering them, Vikings, Spongebob, Gandalf (or Dumbledore, I couldn’t tell) and I finally found him, Waldo.

Beer fest waldos GABF

Enough talking about what beer festivals are, what to expect, and how to be ready. Where are they?  Well, they are honestly everywhere.

28 of the most popular beer fests around the world are: (not ranked by popularity)

  1. Okoberfest – Munich, Germany
  2. Qingdao International Beer Festival – Qingdao, Shandong China
  3. National Winter Ales Festival – Manchester, England
  4. Pilsner Fest – Plzen, Czech Republic
  5. Mondial de la Bière – Montreal, Canada
  6. World Beer Festival – New York, New York
  7. The Belgian Beer Weekend – Brussels, Belgium
  8. Belgium Comes to Cooperstown – Cooperstown, New York
  9. The New Zealand Beer Festival – Auckland, New Zealand
  10. The Great American Beer Festival – Denver, Colorado
  11. Boulevardia – Kansas City, Missouri
  12. The Great British Beer Festival – London, England
  13. Hops in the Hills Beer Fest – Okemo, Vermont
  14. Classic City Brewfest – Athens, Georgia
  15. Brewgrass Festival – Asheville, North Carolina
  16. Savor – New York, New York
  17. Great Taste of the Midwest – Madison, Wisconsin
  18. American Craft Beer Festival – Boston, Massachusetts
  19. Firestone Walker Invitational – Paso Robles, California
  20. All-Ireland Craft Beer Festival – Dublin, Ireland
  21. Oregon Brewers Festival – Portland, Oregon
  22. Untapped Fest – Houston & Dallas, Texas
  23. Copenhagen Beer Festival – Copenhagen, Denmark
  24. Fresh Hop Ale Festival – Yakima, Washington
  25. South East Craft Beer Fest – Columbia, Missouri
  26. The Festival 2015 – St. Petersburg, Florida
  27. Groovetoberfest – Coconut Grove, Florida

A great resource for finding a beerfest near you is Beerfest.com

Beerfest Blog 2

I hope that you find a beer festival to experience. Even if beer is not your “thing,” you may surprise yourself with what you find.

Cheers!

We're Here to Help

Dear friends in the alcoholic beverage industry,

As we as an industry, nation and planet collectively try to navigate this unprecedented period the coronavirus has brought us, We’d like you to know that we at Craft Beverage Consultants (the other CBC!) are here to answer any question you may have (or not know you have) about not just surviving this time but positioning yourself to thrive as soon as social distancing measures allow your business to function at full capacity again.

If you schedule a free 60-minute phone or video conferencing consultation with me or any of my 11 highly specialized colleagues, we’ll help you figure out any of your immediate and/or longterm business needs, or “everything but the staffing,” as we like to say. We’re not high-pressure sales kind of people, especially these days, so you don’t have to worry about fending off annoying pitches. Make an appointment on our website or Facebook page, or just call us the old-fashioned way at 314-768-0220.

Our experts have a combined 150 years in the alcoholic beverage industry, with deep knowledge in everything from sales and distribution, production, and regulatory compliance to marketing, package design, event planning, IT, (social) media, hospitality, and even values-based executive coaching. 

For example, we can coach you through this season when chain accounts have canceled their spring, in some cases, fall resets and distributors have drastically cut orders. Our director of business strategy and compliance can save you money – now – on excise taxes, caution you to avoid naming your beers in ways that risk alienating your buyers (Wuhan Wheat? Coronavirus Cream Ale? Groan. No.), and secure TTB approval for the tastefully named beers you do make. Our creative director and web team can get your e-commerce site up and running and launch a social media campaign that keeps you top of mind for current and future customers. Our director of storytelling can put you in front of the press so you can tell your story to your community. 

Once you’re ready, we can look forward together. Now is the time to talk about post-virus. We all suspect the legal landscape to look different. But how? And how do you prepare yourself in a way that positions you to charge out of the gate ready to maximize the potential and profit of whatever the “new normal” turns out to be? Please get in touch so we can talk about it. 

CBC’s roster includes local and regional clients like Epic Brewing, Logboat Brewing, Piney River Brewing, SudWerk Brewing, Waves Cider and Common Cider Company, just to name a few.  The agency was founded in 2004 by Jacob and Beth Halls, formerly known as Convergence Consulting; Rick Laxague, joined as a partner in charge of sales, marketing and distribution consulting in 2019. 

Rick hase close to 20 years of experience, a bulk of which was with Crescent Crown Distributing in Arizona. His last role there was Area Sales Manager for the dedicated craft beer division, coaching and leading a sales team to be nationally recognized. In early 2014 Rick helped take a regional brewery national as their Director of National Accounts and increase that segment of their business from 30,000 cases to almost 300,000 cases in two years, an increase that equates to $4.8 million in IRI dollar sales. 

Co-founder Jacob Halls brings 17 years of experience in regulatory compliance, business strategy, marketing and craft brand management to the company. In his former position as craft brand manager for the N.H. Scheppers Distributing Company in Columbia, Missouri, Jacob helped lead his team to winning the 2016 Distributor of the Year award from New Belgium and to a nomination for the Brewers Association’s Distributor of the Year award. Jacob is also the founder and director of the South East Craft Beer Fest and several other industry specific charitable event marketing festivities. Beth Halls is Director of Business Operations and Coordinator of Charity Operations for the festivals and events run by CBC, such as the South East Craft Beer Fest, MO Bacon & Bourbon, and many more. 

Again, please reach out to us for anything.  CBC can be reached at (314) 768-0220 or at craftbeverageconsultants.com.

We look forward to meeting/talking soon.

Sincerely,

Rick Laxague, Jacob Halls, and Beth Halls