I love beer festivals. They’re the best way to try lots of different beer while hanging out with your friends, consuming some great food from food trucks and chilling out to a band. These days, however, I pick and choose my festivals very carefully. I have a few issues with beer festivals, which were brought to the fore when I read this article (for the record, the ones I most agree with are lack of drinking water as well as only having beers you can get at any old store). The other thing that kicked it off (and my biggest issue at festivals) was this status that I put on Facebook that opened quite the can of worms.
So Lucy Corne, Ivor Swartz and I decided to do a collaborative blog each offering our take on beer festivals. I’ll be focusing on tasters and stand costs.
First, I’ll take care of tasters. I’ve been to quite a few festivals where tasters weren’t openly offered. The official stance was “pints only.” As a paying guest of the festival, I don’t want to have to go to each stand and ask the brewers if they offer tasters. I did this anyway, and had a 20% success rate. I can’t drink 35 to 40 pints of beers and besides, I go to festivals to try lots of different beers. The unintended consequence of this is that I stick to beers I know, and that hurts the guys whose beer I really wanted to taste (but I’m not willing to risk R30 on a possibly average beer).
I’m also not advocating brewers just give free beer away. They’re running a business and I don’t expect stuff for free (and neither should you). So my wish for tasters is not a wish for free stuff, so I have two suggestions to festivals:
a) Give each attendee at the festival a taster glass instead of a pint glass. They can then go around tasting and buy a pint at the stand if they wish. Each brewery can charge a standard price to fill the glass (R5 for example) and you can buy a pint glass if you wish.
b) Have a separate ticket for tastings and one for normal entry. For example, entry is R80. You pay an extra R100 for 20 tasters. This way those that want to taste can taste and those that just want to drink pints aren’t forced to cover the costs for those that want to taste.
Either one would make tastings official, and would simplify my life at festivals. I understand different people go to festivals for different reasons, but this accounts for each of them.
And then a few words on the cost of having stands at festivals. I understand logistics and running costs, but when you’re charging a small, local brewery a few thousand rand to compete with 20 to 25 other breweries for people’s attention (and there is no taster policy in place, see above), it makes it very difficult for them to justify appearing at the festival. Then it’s time to find a new venue or a way to cut costs somehow because when you only have the big breweries that can afford your festival fee, then you’re going to start only having the beer that people can get at supermarkets (see the Thrillist article linked above).
The bottom line is we need a more creative approach to festivals where more people in the supply chain benefit.