How to run a Beer Festival
Beer festivals offer customers a great opportunity to taste a variety of different beers. Cask Ale Week is a great opportunity to run a Beer Festival and allows you to
raise awareness of your pub in your local area and attract new customers and maximise sales opportunities.
Preparation is key to the success of your event. Ensure you consider the following points when planning your Beer Festival:
- If possible try and run the Beer Festival during Cask Ale Week timeframe
- It is normally held over two Bank Holidays so you can hold a four day festival to maximise footfall
What / How Many Ales to stock
- The number of ales that you decide to stock will be dependent upon the length of your festival, the size of your outlet and the expected number of customers that you expect to attend.
- As a guide, approximately 20 ales should be stocked, based on a festival of between 2 and 5 days.
- Try to order a varied range of ABVs, colours and different styles of ale (eg, milds, porters, blonde ales, strong ales) to suit every palate
- Speak to your suppliers to discuss their range of Cask Ales. Alternatively, if you are able, order directly from local breweries.
- Get hold of a copy of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide to help you select the most suitable range for your festival
- Remember your festival does not have to be limited to handpull beers only. Why not include bottled beers of the world? Speak to your supplier to discuss real ciders or their range of bottled beers.
- Decide whether your festival should have a theme, eg, 'Yorkshire Beers Festival' or 'Flavoured Beers Festival'
- Why not have a beer request book on the bar 4 weeks prior to the festival and let customers write in it what beers they would like to see at the festival.
Location (indoors / outdoors)
- The weather is often unpredictable so deciding whether to hold your event indoors or outdoors can be tricky.
- If you do decide to hold your event outdoors make sure you have a marquee or sheltered area to ensure your event can still go ahead if the weather is bad.
- Stillaging can be constructed from scaffolding. However there are specialist companies that hire out complete cooling and dispense kits for festivals
- Hand pulls are the best way to dispense cask ale, but if you do not have any spare, cask can be served 'gravity fed' through a tap
- Alternatively, invest in some 'Cask Widge' kits. These enable the beer to be dispensed upright. Details can be found at www.caskwidge.com
- Cooling: consider the fact that if the cask ales are being kept outside, or in the bar area itself, the containers will need to be insulated to maintain the temperature. Cooling jackets can be obtained from a variety of suppliers
- Offering food can encourage customers to enjoy beer with food and also enhance your profit margins on the day. For more tips and hints on matching food with beer check out the Beautiful Beer Website www.beautifulbeer.com.
- Keep your offering simple, i.e. BBQ, finger foods etc.
- Entertainment can be a great way to encourage customers to attend your event; staying for longer and spending more money in your outlet.
- Make sure you cater for your audience. If you want the festival to be a family event you could hire a bouncy castle and face painters to keep the children entertained. You could also hold quizzes and competitions throughout the day to engage your customers with giveaways, i.e. a free meal for the winner in your outlet, to be redeemed within the next month.
- Ensure you have an adequate number of staff on the day. How many customers do you expect to attend? Staff accordingly to ensure excellent service throughout your event.
- Ensure your staff are fully trained and confident speaking about and selling each of the beers available. Why not book a cask ale training course in your outlet to make sure everyone is up to speed. View our training courses for details of cask ale training in your area
- Great tasting notes can be found on over 1000 beers at www.cyclopsbeer.co.uk/
Promoting your Event
- Promote internally through the use of posters, chalkboards and banners. Make sure you let your customers know the date and time of your event and what products, foods and entertainment will be available on the day.
- Register for Cask Ale Week by logging on to www.caskaleweek.co.uk if appropriate. This will enable you to list details of your festival on a national website
- Update your website, Myspace and Facebook pages with the event details. Why not give customers the opportunity to nominate ales to be included in the beer festival? Ask customers to include their email addresses / mobile numbers when making their nominations to help you build a database of consumer information.
- Promote externally to help attract new customers. Why not consider advertising in your local press or creating your own direct mail campaign to target surrounding areas and keep them updated with your quarterly calendar of events. Think about other services your customers may use and target these businesses directly, eg, taxi firms, sports clubs, local societies, takeaway food outlets, bus services.
- Media Relations – create a press release about your beer festival and contact your local paper and radio station. They are always looking for good stories so if you can put a unique angle on your story it is more likely to get printed, eg, one ale named after your pub, 20 ales from within a 10 mile radius, Vote for Your Favourite Festival Beer competition etc
- It is always important to evaluate the success of any event you hold. This can be done through staff and customer feedback. Ensure you have some customer comment cards printed, and always capture telephone number and email address of the customer. You can offer an incentive, eg, prize draw, for customers who take the time to fill the cards in
- You will also need to compare costs against revenues generated. This will allow you to gauge whether the event was a success and whether you want to hold a similar event again in the future / on an annual basis.