Beer Festivus


As soon as you start producing beer (and even before), you will get a flood of requests to provide beer for festivals.

My thinking, when I was just a festival attendee, was that it must be worthwhile to get your beer in front of a crowd of people. After all, these are beer geeks, right? Well, some of them are, but at the average event it seems many of them are just there to get hammered.

So with a dozen requests sitting on my desk I began to wonder how or if we could attend them all. Should we attend any? I guess the general idea is that festivals are “good marketing” because you get people to taste your beer, but the more I thought this through, the more I wondered if it really was a great way to present our product. I’m new to this whole selling beer thing, so I don’t know the answer, but I’ll share my thoughts anyway.

At first the idea of attending a festival seems easy and not too expensive, but there are hidden costs such as transportation, employee salaries, and booth fees. Just the beer alone adds up quickly. Most festivals want at least a barrel of beer. Giving up a dozen or more barrels of beer for festivals is costly for a start-up brewery. A very few festivals are willing to buy the beer, but most don’t. Even if they were all willing to buy the beer, there is no way we have the people to work a dozen festivals. While attending beer festivals might be fun, working a festival booth after spending long hours every day at the brewery is just more work. Some festivals offer volunteers who will pour your beer for you, but I always hate it when the folks pouring the beer can’t tell me anything about it or the brewery. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the benefits of the festival, getting to speak with someone from the brewery? If not, then a consumer might as well be trying your beer in their local bar or beer store. Might that cost of attending the festival be better utilized in beer production or lower prices on the beer?

Does that mean beer festivals are a bad idea? Of course not. There are plenty of festivals worth participating in, I just don’t think marketing should be the core reason to do so. There are a lot of events held to help fund various non-profit organizations or to support various industry groups that you might consider worthy. I’m not sure when the first craft beer festival was held, but I’d like to think it was in support of some noble cause. Hey craft brewers, lets gather together and donate beer because someone needs help. That seems very craft beer to me. That seems like a great reason to participate. Perhaps it wasn’t that way and I’m just a hopeless romantic when it comes to the craft beer industry, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be that way now.


  1. Sabine Pils says:

    Well although there are numerous expenses to be incurred, it is worth a shot! A beer festival is an actual place, where you will get exposure and know for sure if your beer measures up or not!

  2. Terence Gardner says:

    I would also consider branching out to snowboarding festivals and other non-beer events that do tasting. I’ve discovered new beers at those and I don’t think they require as much beer and people don’t go there to get hammered!

  3. James says:

    I agree with you 100%. Most beer festivals tend to be drunkathons – you got guys in line before the gates open warming up with cans of Bud, what difference is it going to make that some of your beer gets poured in their gut? “Craft” beer to them is something they check out for this special occasion and that’s it. When (and if) they care enough to be seeking out good stuff on a regular basis, they’ll find it – until then, why cast pearls before swine?

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