Hop to it!
With a value put at £1.7 billion last year, the cask sector has increased by 6.3% in the last five years. It’s hardly a surprise then that beer festivals are now regular fixtures in many club calendars.
Like any event, beer festivals demand careful organisation and planning is essential.
Items to be considered include:
• Date – what month? Are you prepared for all weather conditions?
• How long should the beer festival last?
• Do you need any special licence?
• How large is the event – how many beers? How many people are expected?
• Who is your target market? Are you attracting families etc?
• What equipment do you need for dispense and cooling?
• Do you need to provide any catering and entertainment?
• What are your staff requirements?
• Set up an action plan with deadlines.
• Budget for sales and costs.
How many beers are you going to put on sale?
The number of beers you plan to put on is crucial given that any unsold beers will be costly. Eight beers mean you have to sell 576 pints. At two pints per person, that means you need to cater for over 200 people over the duration of the festival. Can you accommodate them? Enlist the support of members in promoting the festival to guests. Inform your local paper and CAMRA branch of the activity. This will encourage local interest – a useful tool if you’re recruiting for new members.
Where possible, sell tickets in advance. If an entry fee isn’t appropriate (or possible, due to club rules) look at a discounted redemption price per pint. Ask members which beers they would like to be included. Your suppliers will be an important part of your success. Having your beers stillaged correctly is vital, and most importantly in the summer, serving the beers cool at between 11°C and 13°C (i.e. cellar temperature) is a must. Invite local brewers to host ‘slots’ where they can present their own beers, explain their provenance and do tutored tastings.
On the day, ensure staff are well briefed with the information on all the beers and run a beer competition to involve members. Although you are focusing on beer, ensure there’s plenty of food available; beer creates a good appetite and another opportunity to sell.
After the event, have a review meeting. Did you achieve what you set out to do? Have you made the profit you envisaged? What could you do better next time? Canvas the opinion of your members. You can bet they’ll offer their honest opinions.
1. Check legal requirements Contact the local licensing officer and arrange alternative alcohol and music licenses where applicable.
2. Decide on the date Try to tie in with other suitable dates e.g. bank holidays, sporting events, local carnivals or national holidays. If it’s inside how will this impact on your existing trade? If outside will it rain and get muddy? Think of electrical supplies, lighting, tents, noise, and security.
3. Book your equipment in plenty of time
4. Choose your beers Ask your locals for their favourites and try to get as wide a range as possible. This is your chance to educate people.
5. Offer food Keep it simple or go wild, either way this adds to profit and is an additional draw.
6. Involve everyone – not just ale fans Cater for all tastes, soft drinks and snacks for the kids, wine and lager for non-beer lovers.
7. Arrange a competition Have a vote on the beer of the festival. It’s fun and gives people a sense of ownership.
8. Offer free taster sessions This encourages sales; non-beer drinkers will try before they buy. Have some tasting notes; ask people to add their own.
9. Advertise your event Get hold of the local paper; this is a newsworthy event! Ask a taxi firm to sponsor it and offer cheap lifts home. Posters, word of mouth, web site announcements, any way you can think of – get the whole community involved and create a real buzz.
10. Enjoy the event This is a great chance to increase sales and show off to the neighbourhood. Get it right and you will be the toast of the town. Next year could be bigger and better.