How to run a successful beer festival | Flying Firkin Distribution Ltd
How to run a successful beer festival
We carefully select beers each season from over 200 UK brewers, producing and maintaining a “live” catalogue of over 1,500 beers, working with a range of breweries – from long established brewers producing old favourites, to small independent start-up brewers, and everything in between.
We believe that our catalogue is the most comprehensive selection of festival beers available in the UK.
Our free comprehensive list of tasting notes gives you all the information that you need on a beer, all in one place.
Top Tips for running a successful Beer Festival
Plan for success
Give yourself plenty of time
Select the right date
Select the right beers
Consider how you will price your beers
Consider where you will cellar & serve your beers
Consider whether your require additional dispense equipment
Consider if you will be offering food
Consider if you will be supplying entertainment
Consider if you will need additional Bar staff
Consider how best to promote and advertise your event
Detail-Planning and running a beer festival
As an organiser of a beer festival remember the headline benefits:
A festival brings beer drinkers together to experience a variety of great tasting, different beers.
It allows you to raise awareness of your pub/club/group in your local area and attract new or lapsed customers.
It maximizes your sales opportunities.
Many bigger retailers and pub chains use the timing of festivals tactically at key points in the year, aiming to bring lapsed regular beer drinkers back into the pub.
The objective is to reconnect a regular pub goer with their local, and set their regular pub going behaviour e.g. ‘Let’s have a drink every Tuesday night.
There are certain times of the year when beer festivals influence consumers’ drinking patterns.
Beer drinkers will go out of their way to ensure that they plan to attend events at key times of the year. These include:-
Easter – combine darker “winter warmers” with lighter, hoppier beers for Spring, with the bonus of the double bank holiday weekend.
May – with the option of two Bank Holidays in May, take advantage of the coming of Spring with a switch from darker “winter warmers” to lighter, hoppier blonde beers.
August – this month has (usually!) better weather for outdoor events, and again sees a Bank Holiday late in the month – showcase the easy drinking, low-strength summer ales.
September/October – time to host your own Oktoberfest? Darker nights & shorter days so more free time in the evenings? Time to reunite with some friendly faces? Offer autumnal red ales and perhaps move towards darker, warming ales. Consider running your Beer Festival during Cask Ale Week in September – Cask Marque will help promote your event.
Preparation and planning well ahead is key to the success of your event. Ensure you consider the following points when planning your Beer Festival:
Make sure you select and order your beers from Flying Firkin well ahead to ensure you get your selection
Set the right date
You can hold a festival on any date but linking your event with a Bank Holiday means that your customers, and their drinking companions, have additional time to sample more of the beers than you have on offer.
Look at other events happening in your local area. Can your beer festival complement existing, upcoming activities in your area? Will your event conflict with another beer festival, diluting the potential benefits?
The fun bit is choosing your beers – set your budget and think about the event – do you want to theme it? To give it a focus that drinkers would find interesting?
The number of ales that you decide to stock will be dependent on the size of your outlet and the expected number of customers to attend.
Try to order a varied range of strengths, colours and different styles of ale (for example mild’s, porters, blonde ales, strong ales) Aim to have something to suit every palate. More comprehensive advice can be found in the ‘Select your beers’ section
Call us to discuss your selection of cask ales. Flying Firkin beers can be supplemented with directly delivered beers from local breweries.
Remember your festival does not have to be limited to hand pull beers only. Why not include bottled beers of the world, ciders or gins.Also remember to have a supply of soft drinks for designated drivers
If you decide to have one flat price across all products you should give careful consideration to the varying profit margins as each beer will undoubtedly be priced differently.
Many festivals use token systems – for example pay £10 for 10 beer tokens and then value each beer to a number of tokens – It helps with fast serving and reduces the need for small cash purchases.
Alternatively have a three tier system based on the beer strength. These can be color coded to help your customers choose on both strength and price. For example;
– Green at one price for beers below 4% abv
– Yellow at a higher price for beers between 4.1% and 4.9% abv
– Red at a higher price for beers above 5% abv
The British weather is often unpredictable so deciding whether to hold your event indoors or outdoors should take this in to account.
If you do decide to hold your event outdoors, consider providing a marquee or sheltered area to ensure your event can still go ahead if the weather is bad.
If you decide to hold you event indoors then consider what impact the location of the casks (or the serving point for the festival beers) will have. Avoid blocking thoroughfares (route to the loos, or access to your usual bar area). Consider how you will store & wash glassware, perhaps consider using plastic or polycarbonate glassware for your event
Simple stillaging can be constructed from scaffolding or even hay bales. However, there are also specialist companies that hire out complete cooling and dispense kits for festivals.
Handpull pumps are by far the best way to dispense cask ale, but if you do not have any spare then cask ale can be served ‘gravity fed’ through a tap
Cask ‘Widget’ kits are also available. These enable the beer to be dispensed from the cask whilst is in an upright position, drawing the beer from the top of the cask using a float system.
Cooling: consider the fact that if the cask ales are being kept outside, or in the bar area itself, then the containers will need to be insulated to maintain their 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.
Keep your food offering simple, i.e. BBQ, finger foods etc.
Music and beer fit well together. Consider booking musical entertainment at key points during your event– aim to provide a great experience that will be remembered and talked about by your customers who will be encouraged to come back.
Entertainment can be a great way to encourage customers to attend your event; staying for longer and spending more money in your outlet.
Consider partnering the festival to a charity, raising money for a local good cause. It is in the charity’s own interest to help promote the event and drive even more people to it.
Make sure you cater for your audience. If you want the festival to be a family event consider having face painters to keep the children entertained. You could also consider holding quizzes, games and competitions throughout the day to engage your customers, and perhaps raise money for charities at the same time?
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 to dispense the beer and are confident speaking about and selling each of the beers available. Use the tasting notes resources on this site as a sales prompt. Encourage your staff to sample the beers and make their own observations and recommendations.
Promoting your Event
Your event is easily promoted 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.
Consider using social media extensively to promote your event further. Instagram and Facebook posts can be used to promote the event and generate interest in the lead up to it. Consider asking customers to nominate ales to be included in your beer festival.
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, for example taxi firms, sports clubs, local societies, takeaway food outlets, bus services.
Create a press release about your beer festival and contact your local newspaper 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, e.g., an ale named after your pub, twenty ales from within a ten mile radius, Vote for Your Favourite Festival Beer competition etc
Consider contacting your local branch of Camra and ask them to include your event in their local news features.
It is always important to evaluate the success of any event you hold. This can be done through staff and customer feedback.
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 either an annual or more regular basis.
If you haven’t run a beer festival before then we always recommend that you start small! It is much better to sell out due to popular demand, than be left with an excess of ale. Once your event has proved to be a success then you can expand using the experience of your previous event.