The pandemic has affected the economy of many sectors, but it seems to have hit large scale event planning the most. Many beer festivals have also been hit hard. Three major events have been canceled by The Brewers Association. It includes the famous Craft Brewers Conference, the Washington D.C. SAVOR beer and food pairing event, and the HomebrewCon held in Nashville, Tennessee. It has faced a major toll on its revenue and has reportedly cut down 23% of its employees.
One of the largest beer festivals in America, The Great American Beer Festival, is still scheduled for 24-27 September. As per the senior Vice President, Paul Gatza, the company believes that after the initial survey, the competition will surely be held. However, they still plan on holding on to some contingency plans.
Many regional beer festivals have been canceled this year: Portland’s Oregon Brewers Festival, Bend Brewfest, and Madison’s Great Taste of the Midwest. Even the famous Oktoberfest in Germany is not going to take place.
Beer festivals are riskier than other festivals as attendees will take the cup in their hands, and go through multiple samples. The samples are usually shared among participants, making it riskier.
Reliable fundraisers like the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma may face huge losses due to the cancelation of the Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit, which used to be held in the middle of May. Many events have moved online. Unfortunately, as per Sean Mossman, the marketing and sales director of CBOA treasurer, it was impossible for beer events to go virtual.
Fortunately, the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement (ABLE) Commission raked their brain, and the Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit ’20 Quarantine Edition came to life. The virtual beer festival sold out all their tickets. Many beers were sampled by a panel, and their expert opinions were broadcasted on Instagram and Facebook later on.
Due to low overhead costs, the virtual event was able to gain multiple times the money that traditional events usually earn. Mossman mentioned that they were able to earn $50,000 by spending just $3,000. It’s a total they would have acquired over 3 festivals.
Fortune has surely turned in favor of beer lovers. The company is looking forward to the new world of Zoom calls and online education. Online education for beer is on the rise as it makes knowledge more accessible. Virtual tastings are becoming more common as a substitute for beer festivals. The California Alcoholic Beverage Commission has even provided regulatory relief for associations engaging in this practice.
Untappd is also going to hold such an event on 13th-14th June. They are planning to bring in the audience by giving them the option of two kinds of experiences- one where beer is shipped to them or the other where they purchase it on their own. Local laws will be applicable during the shipping process.
Nonetheless, it is safe to say that beer festivals have not completely stopped. They have just become new and virtual.