Every month it seems there is a new artisinal festival popping up around South Africa featuring some locally produced craft goods or beverages. Any way you skin it, the artisan bubble is growing. And it’s exciting to see folks showcasing their new brands and concepts, but these festivals can be a lot of effort on both the organisers and the vendors. In order to make it worth the while for both parties, there are a few key points that an organiser can do to minimise stress and maximise the number of attendees (more attendees = more sales! and we know you do love sales :))
We spoke to the team at Drifter Brewing Co. - a local leader in the craft beer space in South Africa focusing on adventure, creativity and craftsmanship in everything they do.
To start with...
- Start the liquor license application early. This is often the most daunting and frustrating part of running a beer festival. You need to apply for an “event liquor license” at the Western Cape Liquor Board (or the Liquor Board most applicable to your event) - this is a complicated procedure and we’d suggest getting a liquor license lawyer to help you through this process, or check out our guide here. As we always say, “you don’t want to be up craft beer event river without a liquor license paddle”.
- Limit the number of vendors. It may seem like a great idea to have loads of different stalls so that people don’t have to wait in a line too long and that they have a variety of options, but for a vendor it also means that their sales will be lower and not worth their while (and remember sales are good). This number obviously fluctuates based on the number of people you expect to attend as there does need to be enough food and beer etc, to go around throughout the day. Mmmmm, food and beer.
- Try to get all of your vendors to either use an ice chiller (for the brewers) or gas (for the food stalls) to save on power costs and a potential surge and outage. You want to keep the event going come rain or shine. For the brewers, it’s a nice add-on to have a general ice fee included in their vendor fee rather than have them pay each time they need a bag.
- If you’re in a bigger space, put up maps of where things are located (toilets, emergency exits, food trucks, stage). Make things easy for folks! People love it when life is easy.
- Think of other fun activities to include during the day or weekend. During the Woodstock Winter Beer Festival, we set up a games room with beer pong, giant jenga and a photo booth station. There were also ‘drink and draw’ stations throughout the venue at tables. If you’re expecting a lot of kids, include something for them to do (parents will thank you! and come to think of it, the kids will probably thank you too).
Comms & marketing
- Communicate with your vendors throughout the lead up time. This will help ensure that they pay the stall fee on time, that they know what is going on (like setup on the day or which bands are playing) and so they remember to market the event on their social media channels.
- Have each brewery create a unique small-batch festival beer. With more and more people drinking craft beer, they are getting used to the core ranges that each brewery produces. Shake it up by having the brewers create a once-off brew that will be sold exclusively at the festival. This will create more hype for attendees and the brewers themselves. Limited releases are great for generating buzz.
- Market the event through different channels. Just because your event is on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ll get the word out there. Get it featured on website events listings, blogs and newsletters. A good start is the Brewmistress - who lists all craft beer events happening in South Africa. Call up your nearby radio stations and ask to do a quick interview with them, especially close to the day. Read our Quicket articles on the websites you want on your side and how to approach advertising on radio to help with this.
You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel when trying to run a successful craft beer festival. When we started the Woodstock Winter Beer Festival, we first thought about ‘what would I want to do at a fest?’ And ‘how could we create some unique add-ons to this festival only?’ The best first step is to attend lots of craft beer festivals and see what you think works well or what you would change/add to your own one that you run! In that case, even if you don’t throw your own event, at least you got to get out there and enjoy some food and beer. Mmmmmm, food and beer.
Anna Anderson hails from Portland, Oregon – the craft beer mecca of America. Her love for craft beer led her to Cape Town, South Africa where she has been on and off for six years. She’s currently the Events and Media Manager for Drifter Brewing Company in Woodstock.