Running Beer Festivals

Beer festivals are a great way of offering your customers a chance to taste a variety of different beers. For many people, the first time they try cask ale is at a Beer Festival. Once they’ve tried cask ale, and realise they like it, they come back for more. So they are a great opportunity for you to increase sales of the cask ales stocked year round in your outlet and build your reputation as a good cask ale stockist.

Beer Festivals also give you the opportunity to find out which beers your customers like most, which helps in planning the future range of beers you stock.

On top of all that, it’s good PR for you to hold a Beer Festival – they are a great talking point in the local community, and a chance to showcase your outlet.

Follow our guide to planning and delivering a successful Beer Festival

Preparation

Preparation is key to the success of your event. Start planning at least 8 weeks before the Festival which will give you time to get your equipment ordered and promote the event. Ensure you consider the following points when planning your Beer Festival:

  • Dates: ensure your Beer Festival is combined with a ‘calendarised’ date – such as a national event like a Bank Holiday, a local event like a carnival or fete, or a milestone date for your outlet. Check there are no other festivals planned in your area on these dates
  • Duration: most Festivals last over three days, ideally a long weekend
  • Location: if you hold the Festival inside your outlet will it impact negatively on your usual trade? Could you utilise an outside area or function room? 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

What / How Many Cask 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.
  • Consider seasons – Festivals held around Easter are a great way of showcasing blonde and summer ales, ideal for the long summer days ahead. Autumn Festivals can be used to promote darker, stronger ales, ideal to drink in front of a roaring fire in winter
  • Speak to Carlsberg UK to discuss their range of permanent and seasonal Cask Ales
  • Remember your festival does not have to be limited to handpull beers only. Cider is an increasingly popular category at Beer Festivals, and why not include bottled beers of the world?  
  • Have a ‘beer request book’ on the bar 4 weeks prior to the festival showing all the beers that are available to you and let customers decide what beers they would like to see at the festival. Alternatively, utilise your Facebook page and set up a voting system for your customers
  • Your festival could have a theme, for example, ‘Scottish Beers Festival’ or ‘Blonde Beers Festival’.  Be creative with this – it creates more interest!

Equipment

  • You can purchase or hire equipment from a number of firms. Contact A-Cask on 01308 426986 or www.acask.com  for more information
  • 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
  • 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 the suppliers above

Pricing

  • 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
  • A better system is to set your prices in bands based on ABV, it will make it easier for you to sell and your customers purchase. Bands suggested are:
    Band 1:below 4%
    Band 2:between 4.1% and 4.9%
    Band 3:anything above 5%

Food Offering

  • Offering food can encourage customers to enjoy beer with food and also enhance your profit margins on the day 
  • Keep your offering simple, for example, BBQ, finger foods, Hog Roasts etc. If this is a limited offering compared to your usual menu, give it a quirky title such as “Beer Blotters”
  • ‘Bundle deal offers’: a pie and a pint or a burger and a pint can be popular choices and simple to serve

Add on’s

Add-on’s are items associated with Beer Festivals which you can sell to your customers to generate further profit. 

  • Think about getting T-Shirts or glassware printed up with your outlet name, and the date of the Festival. Contact Pub Clothing Co on 01283 548234 for T-Shirts and Festival Glassware for glasses on 01422 382696.
  • Take out containers for customers who want to enjoy your beer at home. 2 pint cartons can be ordered from Bar Activity www.baractivity.com

Entertainment

Entertainment can be a great way to encourage customers to attend your event, stay for longer and spend 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. 
  • If appropriate, hold quizzes and competitions throughout the day to engage your customers with giveaways such as a voucher for a meal in your outlet 
  • Music – booking a band or an act can attract a wider audience to your Festival. Alternatively arrange a disco in the evening

Staff

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. Run a tasting session prior to the Festival to enable them to give informed advice to customers
  • Encourage staff to offer Try Before You Buy samples
  • Great tasting notes can be found on over 1900 beers at www.cyclops-beer.co.uk. These can be printed off and used on cask ends


Promoting your Event

You can never promote or advertise too much. Don’t just rely on one form of advertising such as a newspaper advert, use multiple ways of promoting your Festival

  • 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
  • Let Cask Marque know when your event is being held. If you are Cask Marque accredited we will upload details onto the CaskFinder app which reaches 60,000 consumers
  • Update your website, Facebook and Twitter account with the event details
  • Promote externally to help attract new customers. As well as local press, 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

Evaluation 

  • 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.
     
Running Beer Festivals

Annabel Smith drinking beer​​​​​​​

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