So You Wanna Throw a Beer Festival?
Things don’t always go right when you plan a Big Event – especially in Washington, D.C..
So I had an “interesting” conversation with the organizer of the inaugural DC Beer Festival a few months before the event. The Organizer was frankly quite cocky about his ability to fill up the event (which he did – pretty unbelievable for a first year event without using Groupon/LivingSocial!) and when I mentioned that he “might not be the first and only beer festival ever”
here in our fair city, he didn’t seem to hear my words..but what caught my attention more than anything was the date and the fact that this was pretty much an outdoor event at Nat’s Stadium..he said “and end of March is a good time, we can expect better weather..” – HA – he doesn’t know DC!! Originally meant to be a one day event on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013, the Organizer added Sunday because sales were so strong – One Problem – the weather – snow was predicted for Sunday evening and that meant cancellation of that evening’s session, the one I had planned on going to..Thus, photos of the Saturday evening event..
Doing Events in DC is Difficult – I spent 14 years organizing events here and I can tell you that it’s very tricky, especially pertaining to weather: rain, snow, hurricanes, you name it..oh, and let’s not forget post 9-11 Security..tough! I’ve been snowed out of a few events – the Israeli Embassy wine tasting comes to mind – and how do you cover your catering costs? I mean, I ordered $3,500 in food from a kosher caterer, do I expect them to keep the food? At the last second we both compromised and I paid them 50% – which probably covered their food costs and gave them a little extra. How about cancellation and refunds? Oh, and forgot to mention, that the freak snow storm that cancelled the Israeli Embassy event made it very difficult to confirm all the refunds..some people literally came to the event even though we tried every way to tell them it was cancelled..they ignored the blizzard, howling winds and impossible conditions!
Deciding when to limit ticket sales is the balance between profit and insanely crowded..As a promoter, I know how it is – you need to maximize profitability, but you need to consider the attendees experience. Overall, crowding is less desirable to attendees as they get older – they don’t want to be hassled, pushed, shoved or wait in line. The younger crowd actually desires “some” lines – just as in clubs/lounges, this suggests its the place to be!
Choosing the Right Beers Can Make a Statement-Everyone’s into local – Locavore, local beers, local chickens, on and on! DC Beer Festival had a very good mix of beers – Beer List DC Beer Festival. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Beer List, but there was a good selection of many craft beers – even Burley Oak, a relatively new craft beer from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The trick with Beer Festivals is to promote the local craft beers like DC Brau, Chocolate City and 3 Stars with some of the nationals like Sam Adams and Harpoon..the trick is to include the bigger names without making the event seem like a pure marketing play for Big Beer – it’s really a “craft” beer festival an organizer should go for..
Make sure there is sufficient food Not a problem for this event – many of the Concessions like Ben’s Chili Bowl were open and serving the perfect food for the conditions – chili cheese fries and dogs! Food Costs usually aren’t an issue for Beer Festivals – they simply don’t include them in the price – but normally beer is unlimited or significant amount of tastings. Each jurisdiction has different laws (for example, Virginia does NOT allow unlimited beer tastings at festivals for a fixed price, so people are normally purchasing sampling tickets). Of course, unlimited beer samplings can create drunkenness issues – especially with today’s high alcohol craft beers – so having a small sample glass, and actually some wait for each beer is a good thing. I will say this – drinking beer in excess is somewhat easier to control than spirits – whiskey festivals can tricky to manage crowd control!
Hope this gives an overview of “some” of the issues pertaining to organizing beer festivals and events in general in the DC Area – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
– Taste of Japan, Thursday April 4th, 801 K Street, NW , Washington DC
– Washington City Paper’s Best Of 2013 Fete Presented by Verizon Wireless, Wednesday April 10th, 801 K Street, NW, Washington DC
– Decanter: A Celebration of Maryland Wine and Racing, Saturday April 20th, Pimlico Race Course 5201 Park Heights Avenue , Baltimore MD