I was recently asked what makes a good beer festival. Initially, the answer would have been ‘lots of winner beers’ but then I thought some more (in no particular order)…
New beers – a good selection of new beers from new breweries and those more established. When I used to help organise a local festival, I used to find that if you catered to the person who liked new beers, those who weren’t bothered so much would be just as happy.
Beer range – dark and light, hoppy and malty, strong and weak. Often, you can order a certain beer to try and get a balance only to have a brewery deliver what they want you to have
Glasses – you need glasses – and nice ones too. Even better if you can return them as I like to drink smaller measures and will often go to the bar for 2 or 3 beers at once. Whereas I might like a souvenir glass (don’t tell the wife), I don’t want 3 or more.
Seating – quality seating, not too far away from the bar.
Flow – with some venues, you may be limited with your space, but really you need to plan your space to ensure good a good flow.
Innovation – new ideas are good – look at different ways of doing things, How about dispense methods. Keg is the latest thing, but I’m not averse to cask. How about some beers in wooden casks? What about a randal?
Customer service – decent staff. I’ve moaned enough about staff, but there’s nothing worse to entering a festival and the first people you see are those snarling and barking at you saying no. Give the customer what they want – if they ask for two half half-pints, do you say no or yes?
Food – Good food at a good price. I’m not saying cheap, but it has to be decent value for money. How about jacket potatoes with a choice of fillings? Cheap and easy to do. Why not had a line of food trucks selling the latest hipster fare?
Music – an interesting one. I don’t mind listening to the likes of Doctor Busker and a decent folk band as long as it’s in the background, but any decent music is good. A lot will depend on the venue though – a modern ‘industrial’ venue would be much better suited to a DJ playing lounge / chill out music.
Ambience – what makes a good ambience? The surroundings? Maybe, but I’ve been to festivals in venues that are little more than warehouses and the ambience has been great. All the above ingredients do combine to create the ambience.
Above all though, is to keep an open mind. Go to other festivals of all different kinds. See what works well and steal their ideas!