Thursday, January 5, 2012

Audience Participation: Create Your Own Beerfest!

I've been approached by a number of places around town (Madison) to hold a beer festival like thing at their location. I have some ideas of my own, but I'm curious about what you might think. So, let's call it a bit of an open-source beer festival. The following are the restrictions:

  • Venue is big but not huge (300-900 people) and both indoor and outdoor are options
  • Preferred timing for the event is anywhere from late-Winter to mid-Spring
  • In Madison, parking is not an issue, but public transport and alternative transportation aren't particularly good for these locations, either

My thoughts on this kind of event are: 
  1. It can't be a general beer fest because the space just isn't that big - 8 to 10 tables or so, maybe as many as 15 tables - which means at most 30 breweries, so I believe this has to be a "specialty" or "themed" festival - at least if you think about this in terms of typical beer fests - creativity here is an interesting thought; 
  2. The timing is difficult for me personally because of my involvement with Madison Craft Beer Week, so another issue that comes to mind is whether this event would be a Craft Beer Week event - there are enough holidays and things to focus on during this time that it could work as a stand-alone festival; and,
  3. Each venue has (very good) food, so catering and food, thankfully, isn't an issue and, in fact, could provide an interesting twist on the event

So, any ideas?


  1. Whatever is done, I think it would be great to make it very Wisconsin or Madison centric. Sausage Fest (seriously) Burgers and Brews? Get the Racing Sausages to come and you can try on the uniform for a sizable contribution to a charity of choice. I also think about the music scene in Madison and how under appreciated it is. Maybe a Music and Brews fest featuring Madison area artists? Or a Black & Tan fest for St. Patty's Day?

  2. If you are serious about putting on a beer fest, I would contact the organizers of Racine's great lake brew fest. They are now running a company that sets up and runs beer festivals. BTW, you might want to update their ad to make it more current. Good luck with your beer fest.

  3. Please do not do another typical beer fest. We have a number of good beer fests in the area already. I would suggest doing something a little different to stand out. I like the idea of themed fest. Do something like a barrel aged fest, sour fest, Belgian fest, English fest, or a one-off fest where breweries bring something they do not typically produce.
    I would also suggest actually paying for the beer that is served and not request breweries donate. I am not a brewer or work at a brewery, but I am sure brewers get sick of asking for handouts for the other numerous fests. Paying for the beer also helps get better beer at the fest. Paying for the beer might make tickets more expensive, but if it means better beer and limits the number of people who are looking for a cheap buzz I am all for it. Anyway, just my two cents. Good luck.

  4. What is St. Pattys Day?

  5. I like the theme idea as well. We already have cask ale night at Craft Beer Week, so how about Hop Fest (only IPA's and other highly hopped beers) or Dark Beer Fest. I don't know if there are enough local/regional breweries to do a proper sour beer fest, though that would be cool. (Jolly Pumpkin should get extra space at such a fest)

  6. Most recent Anon: do you live in my head? Did I post that anonymously and not realize it?

    As for the others: of course we would not ask the breweries to donate - it's not only illegal, it's bad form;

    I am talking with some other groups about maybe teaming up, but I'm thinking this would probably be a foray into events for Madison Beer Review (though, it is admittedly against my own advice to know what my core business is);

    I like the Hop fest and the Sausage Fest ideas (though, probably need a new name other than "Sausage Fest" - ugh).

    I like the idea of a sour fest, but I'm not sure there's enough of it to make a festival. The barrel aged and English ideas are intriguing.

  7. How about a fest to recognize the great products made in Wisconsin: Badgerfest?! It could include Wisconsin beers (perhaps encourage brewers to bring one-off or "rare" brews), sausages (grilled and/or cold)and cheeses from the great state producers of these products? There could also be a local small band or two from the state (there are several that would be interested, I'm sure). This could be a blast. Good luck getting something new with a twist going! Cheers!

  8. They have Starkbierfest in Germany some time in March. The malt house has done something similar in the past. Sounds fun to me

  9. Sausage Fest=Bangers & Mash <---get it? Mash?

  10. Midwestern copy of "Night of the Funk" in Boston.

  11. Who's your audience? Just beer nerds or average folks who just like good drink and food? Or both? I'd wager that a barrel-aged or sour festival would bring in basically just beer nerds.

    I personally have no interest in a Hop Fest because that's what store shelves are these days. But I would imagine that would pull people in since such a festival would be riding the hop wave of popularity.

    A Wisconsin-only fest could be nice but I'd like to see breweries that don't distribute here such as Lazy Monk and Valkyrie.

  12. about a "March Madness" style bracket tourney, with 64 beers being sampled in a head-to-head, bracket competition. Brackets could include Macro Lagers, e.g. (Bud, MGD, Busch, Miller High Life, Coors, etc...), Macro Lights, Wisconsin "Old School" (Pabst, Old Milwaukee, etc...), Wisconsin Ambers, Wisconsin Bocks, East Coast Beers, etc.... Eight venues could each host a bracket, with 5 panelists deciding on each pairing...with the Final 8 coinciding with the weekend of the Final Four or so.

  13. March madness: preferential ballot?


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