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The logistics of a festival


AshleyUNOB
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Hello all,

I am hoping to get a British-style beer fest launched in the Montreal region for next summer/fall and need some advice.

Does anybody here have experience of organising a festival? What do I need to know? Where can I source beer from? I realise some of this is licensing questions, so I'll need to take this up with Quebec's authorities, but any general advice would be very much appreciated.

I'd like to feature beers from the US and Europe, if possible. The British-style fest model is a bit of a departure from most north American festivals, which typically charge high entry prices and serve only small samples.

British-style fests usually are cask and keg-only. Entry is cheap and you pay as you go for beer. I believe it will be quite an experience for people who have only tried the north American style of festival. The ambiance is very different and companies don't need to spend four- or five-figure sums setting up tents, finding accomodation etc. Usually they are held indoors, which makes them immune to the fluctuations of the weather.

Any comments or queries, please post!

Secretary-General

The United Nations of Beer

www.theUNOB.com

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I'd be very interested in seeing something like this in my area. My experience so far is just with a pay-one-entry-fee type of festival. Admittedly I like being able to sample as much as I want, but in that kind of setup the best beers invariably run out first, i wonder if the pay-as-you-go model avoids that somewhat? What sort of cost and sample size do you find in a british style fest? Would it be comparable to a bar's price for brew X?

The only thing I might offer (from working Charlotte, NC's beer fest for two years) is this (and yes, it may seem obvious, I thought so too)

Make sure you have enough room for the number of people you expect (possibly hard to gauge if this is your first year, but you could check interest levels through surveys or some such) and be very careful making such assumptions like "well if people arrive at this rate and leave at that rate..." in my (admittedly limited, but first hand) experience, a fest will fill up, and stay filled, long before people start to leave in any number, and nothing is worse than being packed into a venue and standing in stuffy lines to sample brews.

The different style of setup may avoid that sort of lingering however, so you may be in the clear :) Good luck!

Another suggestion: I have no idea how homebrewing is handled in Canada, but if there is a notable hobby base (and perhaps a brewing club or two) they may be more than happy to help work, and also provide beer if the legalities work out. Here in Charlotte the local clubs usually provide (rough estimate) 100 or so gallons (in 5 gallon portions) and have their own tent just like the breweries.

Edited by Malkavian (log)
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Thanks for the helpful comments.

Typically in British-style fests, you have a huge hall with kegs arranged around the room behind a barrier of tables, with servers 'manning' maybe 4-6 kegs each. This avoids the need for lineups (I hope!).

I think the other problem here is that beer fests tend to be once-a-year mega events that attract thousands. Perhaps with more exposure to 'mini' events, people will not flock to them in droves.

It would be a nice enough problem to have too much demand. Until people are put off by the problems you mention... All in the early planning stages. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Secretary-General

The United Nations of Beer

www.theUNOB.com

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That's a good point I hadn't thought of. The event here in Charlotte is an oktoberfest, once a year, and pulled 5 thousand or so (as I recall) in 2006. Having even twice yearly or seasonally would doubtlessly make an individual event easier to manage in terms of crowds.

Edited by Malkavian (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
That's a good point I hadn't thought of.  The event here in Charlotte is an oktoberfest, once a year, and pulled 5 thousand or so (as I recall) in 2006.  Having even twice yearly or seasonally would doubtlessly make an individual event easier to manage in terms of crowds.

Well yeah. It seems obvious to me, but the Montreal fest is once a year and that was CRAZILY overcrowded, with 1000+ lining up to join in with the 10,000 or so already inside. Lucky it was good weather or the 5,000 in the courtyard would have gone back inside the station and could have caused a dangerous situation.

On the UNOB site, I tried to make a complete festival guide, but it's hard to keep up -- in the UK alone there are dozens every month. I'm sure that the right kind of seasonal festivals over here would do well. The key is variety and keeping it simple, something lacking from most of the big fests.

Secretary-General

The United Nations of Beer

www.theUNOB.com

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  • 2 weeks later...
My fine city (Madison, Wisconsin) holds one of the largest beer festivals in the US, you may want to contact them.  See http://www.mhtg.org/gt2007.html

Thanks. Any help is appreciated. 11 months and counting! I'd better get cracking.

Secretary-General

The United Nations of Beer

www.theUNOB.com

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