Beer Festivals Are Not Created Equal

Screenshot 2015-03-23 21.46.53Recently our good friends at Yazoo Brewing got called on the carpet for not bringing enough beer to a festival. (Names have been redacted to protect the innocent.)

The problem is, Yazoo had nothing to do with the festival. The festival organizers bought Yazoo beer from the distributor, just as any special event, bar or restaurant can do. And this isn’t the first time local brewers were slammed for a bad festival. Two months ago someone blasted both Jackalope and Yazoo for running out of beer at another event. Here’s his tweet to Jackalope…

Screenshot 2015-03-23 21.58.36




Screenshot 2015-03-23 22.22.50


Yazoo Neil hit the nail on the head for both breweries….

If you go to a bar and the Yazoo Dos Perros keg has kicked, do you blame Yazoo for the bar being out of beer? Certainly not. Why are independent festivals different? Its not uncommon for certain beers to run out at the end of a beer festival, but it shouldn’t happen in the first hour or two of a six hour event.

There are top-notch festivals where the brewers work closely with the festival promoter to ensure a great event. Expectations are now high for all beer fests and the public expects a well-run event with plenty of great beer. When they don’t get that, they get angry. You can’t blame them. Most of these festivals now cost 40-60 dollars.

There are a lot of beer fests on the calendar in Tennessee. I suspect the situation is the same all over the country. I think some promoters see a beer festival as a way of making a quick buck. Promoters need to understand the product being sold is a quality experience. The beer is secondary. It should be good, and plentiful, but there’s so much more than beer for a great beer festival.

Here are six things you should look for in a beer festival:

  1. Go to festivals that are well-attended year after year. Sellouts tell you it’s worth coming back. Watch out for deep-discounted tickets a few days before, that’s a bad omen.
  2. Attend festivals were the breweries are supporting the fest and send their own brewers and reps to work the event.
  3. Find out what kind of glass you’ll be given. If you’re paying 40-50 bucks, you should get a souvenir glass. Real glass, not plastic. One festival gave us 5 ounce Dixie cups. Lame.
  4. Know the promoter. Before you buy your tickets, find out the event promotion company. Some throw exceptional events, while others always seem to screw them up.
  5. Drink good beer. Check out the brewery list and look for red flags. We went to festival that was serving Cayman Jack Margaritas. Another was pouring Budweiser. Support craft beer festivals, not just beer festivals. There’s a big difference.
  6. Check out the little things. Are there helpful staff and volunteers? Plenty of rinse water and dump buckets? Adequate amount of porta-potties? The little things aren’t so little when you fill the venue with 1,500 people.