Run Your Own Beer Festival
Interest in cask ales and traditional ciders is at an all time high. So how better to put your venue on the map as a beer drinker’s haven, than to run your own beer festival? Take Stock asked beer festival veterans Nigel Pickering of Wortley Mens Club, South Yorkshire and Lynn Green of The Crown Inn at Belton for their top tips…
• Involve your regulars. Their contacts will be invaluable.
• Don’t go too big. It’s better to sell out than be left with a load of beer.
• Try and link the day to a local event and if it’s a summer festival, before the school holidays start.
• Decide upon a venue. Are there facilities such as toilets or will you need to provide these? If you’re planning a marquee, get it organised as size and position will determine how many people you can serve.
• Leave yourself at least six to eight weeks to get organised.
• Start with a one-day event. Once you’ve established yourself, word of mouth and local demand will tell you if you can go bigger.
Beer & cider selection
• Venue size will dictate how many beers you can feature.
• Get beer ideas from your regulars and your local CAMRA branch.
• Have a selection. The Crown Inn’s first festival seven years ago had just nine beers and two ciders. In 2015 this had
become nine ciders and fourteen real ales!
• When choosing the beers, try to have a nice mix of styles and strengths Nigel’s advice is to have around 50% to 60% of them Pale, Blonde, and IPA Style at 4% to 4.5% ABV. Then a couple of Stouts, Porters and ABV’s above 5%, with the rest traditional bitters. He looks for something a bit different or seasonal for the ‘Beer Tickers’.
• The same goes for cider. Have a range of styles and sweetness levels.
• Offer more than beer. Single-serve Prosecco, wine, Pimm’s etc. are easy to serve and profitable.
• Don’t forget soft drinks for the kids and non-drinkers.
• Get casks delivered at least three days before and make sure the ale within is in peak condition.
• Ask locally to borrow tables and chairs. Your regulars can be a big help here.
• Organise the bar area – which can be as simple as table-tops on old barrels.
• Borrow or hire cooling equipment, taps, jackets, drip trays etc.
• Get power and lighting arranged.
• Organise tasting notes and/or signage for each of the beers and ciders on sale.
• Set up a sales till so visitors can buy beer tickets which they can simply hand over at the bar. This speeds up service and means you can use volunteers to serve too!
• Get in sufficient half-pint plastic glasses and have plenty of bins for discarded empties. You need to keep your festival tidy.
• Decide what entertainment you’re going to offer for every age group.
• Sort out food. Doing it yourself is a massive job on top of running the festival, so talk to your locals – they’ll tell you where the best hog roast; mobile fish & chip or pizza people are.
• Do a deal with your chosen food provider(s). Rent them a pitch or agree a percentage of their takings.
• A bouncy castle for the kids is great – and cheap to hire.
• Book local groups for entertainment. Middle of the road to start, then up the tempo later on.
• Ask a local farmer or haulier to lend you a curtain-sided trailer that can act as a stage.
• Tell your neighbours and local police what’s happening. Invite them too!
• Advertise well in advance.
• Use local radio, put flyers into local shops and takeaways and get your regulars to tell the world.
• Link your festival to a local charity. They’ll spread the word and be a great source of volunteers to help on the day.
• Put up signs on routes around the festival to attract/direct visitors – but make sure you take them down
• Think about selling beer tickets ahead of the event and encourage advance sales by offering a discount.
ON THE BIG DAY…
• Be organised
• Get your beers in situ and conditioned well in advance
• Have reserve supplies
• Keep the site tidy and toilets clean
• Pray for good weather
• Have a good time!