Festivals & Breweries – How They Interact Matters To Consumers

“Fonta Flora Brewery is proud to be part of the Western North Carolina brewing community. We try to participate in many of the local events because we love sharing our craft. However, we would like to take a moment to explain why we (and many others) have decided NOT to participate in this weekends’ Winter Warmer Craft Beer Festival, and for that matter, many of the other craft beer festivals around Western North Carolina.”

Fonta Flora's Facebook message to fans about Winter Warmer.

Fonta Flora’s Facebook message to fans about Winter Warmer.

Ears perked up when Fonta Flora Brewery out of Morganton, NC, started a long Facebook message with this paragraph in January 2015. Asheville’s Winter Warmer beer festival was coming up and Fonta Flora, alongside Asheville’s Burial Brewing, were making a statement. They continued:

“With a brand new craft beer festival popping up almost every single weekend, it is rather important for the brewer and the consumer to have a voice and a choice in which one they support. Although not something that typically crosses the consumers’ thoughts, many of these craft beer festivals do not and often times refuse to pay hard working brewers for their products.”

Now as the weather cools and festivals pop up, it’s a great time for craft beer lovers to revisit some of the points made by Fonta Flora when choosing which festivals to attend.

“It’s a lot to ask for (consumers) to look out for our interests but our interests align,” said Ryan Self, director of sales at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and co-founder of the Charlotte Brewers Alliance. “The same things that make people love craft beer – those same ideas should affect how you feel about festivals, as well.”

The way festival organizers interact with brewers isn’t something often openly discussed, but these practices do ultimately affect the experience festivals offer, especially in a market where new festivals continue to pop up.

Self suggests looking out for these three things when choosing which festival to attend:

  1. The festival bought the beer from the brewery. This assures you’ll be getting the freshest beer possible and potentially specialty or rare beers.
  2. Setups are given to the breweries and additional assistance is given to out-of-town brewers.
  3. The festival isn’t oversold. In this case beer won’t run out and attendees aren’t fighting lines for their next sample.

Some festivals also focus their proceeds on charity works. Taking charity works into consideration can be especially important if you plan to volunteer for a festival. Some focus on a particular charity, like Queen City Brewers Festival who donate proceeds each year to ACEing Autism. Charlotte Oktoberfest chooses several local charities each year who benefit from the festival’s proceeds.

“We have to-date donated over $500,000 to various local charities,” Bethany Burr, marketing director for Charlotte Oktoberfest said. “We, as the Carolina BrewMasters, are committed to supporting local causes that, most importantly, keep the monies given local.”

With all of these aspects to consider about festivals how do consumers find the information? Self says simply this: ask them.

“We’re in an era where we have more access to information than ever before,” Self said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to the festival. Festivals who are doing it well won’t be afraid to tell you.”


Header image: 2014 Charlotte Oktoberfest, Tom Henderson Photography

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