When the sun is shining and your bar team are working flat out, it can be a great time to put on a beer festival and use your outside space to extend your bar capacity too.
Cask Marque offers this advice on putting on a festival your customers will love…
- Pick a ‘calenderised’ date, such as a Bank Holiday, a local event like a carnival or fete, or a milestone date for your outlet. Check there are no other festivals planned in your area on these dates.
- If you do decide to hold your event outdoors make sure you have a marquee or sheltered area to ensure your event can still go ahead if the weather is bad.
- The number of ales that you decide to stock will be dependent upon the length of your festival, the size of your outlet and the expected number of customers. As a guide, approximately 20 ales should be stocked, based on a festival of between 2 and 5 days.
- Order a variety of ABVs, colours and different styles of ale (eg, milds, porters, amber and blonde ales, strong ales) to suit every palate.
- A Beer Festival does not have to be limited to cask beers only. Cider is an increasingly popular category at Beer Festivals. Consider also including bottled ‘beers of the world’ or a Prosecco bar.
- Have a ‘beer request book’ on the bar for the weeks prior to the festival showing all the beers that are available to you and let customers decide what beers they would like to see at the festival. Alternatively, utilise your Facebook page and set up a voting system for your customers.
- Barbecued food perfectly compliments many beer styles so if you are having a barbecue don’t forget to match each menu item with beers from your festival list.
- You can purchase or hire beer festival equipment from a number of firms. If the cask ales are being kept outside, or in the bar area itself, the casks will need to be insulated with cooling equipment to maintain the temperature
- Offering food can encourage customers to enjoy beer with food and also enhance your profit margins on the day. Keep your offering simple, for example, BBQ, finger foods, Hog Roasts etc. If this is a limited offering compared to your usual menu, give it a quirky title such as “Beer Blotters”. ‘Bundle deal offers’: a pie and a pint or a burger and a pint can be popular choices and simple to serve
- Add-on’s are items associated with Beer Festivals which you can sell to your customers to generate further profit. Think about getting T-Shirts or glassware printed up with your outlet name, and the date of the Festival
- Entertainment can be a great way to encourage customers to attend your event, stay for longer and spend more money in your outlet. Make sure you cater for your audience. If you want the festival to be a family event you could hire a bouncy castle and face painters to keep the children entertained. If appropriate, hold quizzes and competitions throughout the day to engage your customers with giveaways such as a voucher for a meal in your outlet. Music – booking a band or an act can attract a wider audience to your Festival. Alternatively arrange a disco in the evening (Remember to apply for a TEN if your event is outdoors)
- Ensure you have an adequate number of staff on the day. How many customers do you expect to attend? Staff accordingly to ensure excellent service throughout your event. Ensure your staff are fully trained and confident speaking about and selling each of the beers available. Run a tasting session prior to the Festival to enable them to give informed advice to customers and encourage staff to offer Try Before You Buy samples. Great tasting notes can be found on over 1400 beers at
- You can never promote or advertise too much. Let Cask Marque know when your event is being held. If you are Cask Marque accredited they will upload details onto the CaskFinder app which reaches 120,000 consumers. Update your website, Facebook and Twitter account with the event details.
Here is some general advice on matching different beer styles:
Barbecue beer and food matching
Beer lends itself well to a variety of barbecue foods. Customers may be tempted to reach for the coldest lager on the bar, but with a bit of expert advice, you can create a fantastic ‘ale and barbecue’ menu which helps throughputs of all your beers even on the warmest day of the year.
Many blonde ales have a spritzy, zesty effervescence. Blonde ales brewed with citrusy hops pair well with seafood and shellfish. Try these with mackerel, salmon skewers, and sizzling spicy prawns. The acidity in the beer will cut through the oiliness of the fish.
Traditional pale ales, with their malty caramelised flavours love sausages, burgers and salty ham. The sweetness of the beer will contrast with the saltiness of the meat, creating a unique medley of flavours
These beers have got a nice spicy kick with an underlying sweetness. Throw some sweet and sticky spare ribs on the barbecue and this beer goes from good to great.
India Pale Ales
These beers are all about the hop bomb; mango, lychee, passionfruit and grapefruit abound, so hit the spicy food. Lamb koftas, chilli chicken kebabs and Cajun prawns will all pair well with this style of beer
Mild is an increasingly popular style due to its low strength and nutty flavours. This beer loves earthly flavours, so cater to your veggie customers and barbecue whole Portobello mushrooms filled with salty Halloumi. The roasted, toasted taste of the beer will complement the richness of the dish
Stouts and Porters
Let’s go with the heavy weights here: venison burgers, wild boar sausages, and hog roasts. Stouts and porters have the body to stand up to these meats, the chocolate notes in the beer complementing the richness of the meat. Alternatively, swerve from the mainstream, and try foil-wrapped barbecue banana with chocolate sauce!
If you’re accredited, you can tell Cask Marque and they will also promote your event on Caskfinder!