Have Beer, Need Food
In the position I’m currently in, I get to attend a fair share of beer events. Some are big, some are small, some are indoors and some are out. I’ve been to all kinds in the Philadelphia area and I’ve stretched out past that boundary. And while the beer fests are almost always a great time, I have one common complaint that always pops up about halfway through: where’s the food?
This is not only because I love to eat—whenever I can and in great quantities—but for a more practical reason. Chances are, with a four-hour beer festival, you’re infringing on one of the three meal times. Hopefully it’s not breakfast, but that’s beside the point—someone is missing out on food, and someone has an empty stomach. And an empty stomach plus four hours of drinking does not equal a great time.
Of course, people should prepare for attending a beer festival, but people don’t always do the rational thing, so why not try to mitigate the damage as much as possible? If attendees can eat at the beginning, halfway through, or nearing the end, it alleviates a lot of problems. Event-goers don’t get as drunk, they aren’t as annoyed, and everything runs a little more smoothly.
I’m not saying to give food away for free, but when it comes to having a pay-as-you-go setup where event goers are likely to be overcharged or just not feel like spending the money, throwing a few extra dollars onto the ticket price isn’t going to turn many people away. If an event normally charges $40 for a ticket, but next year they charge $50 and have a spread of food, most people won’t complain—hell, most people won’t even notice the price hike. But they will notice that there is food this time around. And if you can substitute a meal with said food, the extra ticket money evens out.
All of the best beer events I’ve been to have provided food. Now, some aren’t strictly beer events but showcases of both beer and food, but the two still go hand-in-hand. SAVOR, the craft beer and food event in DC, had everything down to a science when I went in 2010: beer and food at every table, so you never ran out. The same with Philly’s Brewer’s Plate—food and beer are represented equally, and neither is hard to obtain. Even straight beer events like Nodding Head’s annual Royal Stumble and Yards’ Real Ale Invitational are made better by the food they provide. It’s nothing more than bar food, but it still helps to dull the pain of four hours of drinking.
So, beer event planners: plan on having food. Raise ticket prices if you have to, but make sure it’s there. It will keep your event-goers happier (and more sober), which will be remembered when it’s time to have the event next year. Whether it’s a haute cuisine beer and food pairing or a table full of chicken fingers and French fries, be sure to keep your guests’ stomachs full, and they will in turn keep your events packed.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford.