It All Starts with a Plan
An organizer first picks a theme—say beers that start with the letter Z—then sets about securing a date and venue, which can range from the lot behind his bar, to a municipal park, to a minor-league baseball stadium, to an arena that holds KISS concerts. Rockin’.
Cascade Brewing, OR, owner Art Larrance cites The Oregon Brewers Festival, which is held in an urban park so kids can come. Bill Sysak, beverage supervisor for Stone Brewing Co., CA, says the handsome milieu at Stone’s World Bistro and Gardens in San Diego County allows his Rare Beer Breakfast to be on par with the most elegant of wine festivals. Location is emerging as a determining factor in which events potential attendees perceive to be worth spending money on.
“A nice thing about a good beer fest is great scenery,” says Erin Crockett of Amityville, NY, who, after attending about 35 fests over four years, has become more discerning. “There’s something about meeting people while you’re outside that puts everyone in a good mood.”
Getting permits is the next step in planning and is probably the most critical, yet it’s the one brewery reps complain that organizers most often get wrong. An event permit isn’t enough. Neither is a permit to serve alcohol. Event producers can only be sure they’ve obtained the correct permits once they fully grasp the labyrinth of laws that govern an event whose primary function is to serve beer.
A glimpse, if I may: Are the producers required to buy the beer or must they receive it from the brewers as a donation? If they have to purchase, does it come through the brewery or the distributor? Are tickets mandated for general entry or for individual beers? Is there a limit to the size of each pour or a limit to the number of pours served? Regulations vary monumentally between states and are usually different from those that cover wine and spirits.
“I’ve ending up explaining the legalities to organizers, and it’s especially hard when it’s their first time,” says Rebekah Mutch, sales coordinator for Stone.
After that, if an organizer still doesn’t get it, the festival isn’t getting Stone. Breweries are liable for fines and penalties when they participate in events that aren’t run properly. So some of them are ultra-cautious. Some aren’t.
“Most breweries don’t really follow the laws,” Mutch says. “So I’ll say ‘No’ to an event and I end up looking like a jerk.”