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How to host your own beer festival – advice from The Bull & Sondes Arms

A beer festival is a fantastic opportunity for you to raise awareness of your pub in your local area, attract new customers, encourage current customers to visit again and drive your sales over the summer months. If you’ve never run a beer festival before here are some top tips from Charles Wells.

A well-run event can really put your pub on the map, showcase what you have to offer and pull in new customers.

The Bull at Olney has been running a beer festival over the August bank holiday for a number of years. Mark Girling, one of the pub’s licensees, said it was the highlight of the year for his pub and that they spend a long time planning it. His top tips for staging a festival for the first time were:

  • advertise and promote the event hard in the local community months beforehand
  • make sure you get your staffing levels spot on as things can get a ‘bit hairy’ at times and you are able to marshall the crowds
  • brief staff thoroughly so that they are confident in their knowledge about the beers you are selling
  • regarding the amount of beers you require, use local breweries who will probably hold stock for you, and which can be easily delivered and picked up. It’s also worth remembering that lower ABV beers are likely to sell better
  • offer a bigger snack bar menu and encourage sharing platters
  • and whatever you do, don’t run out of beer!

The Sondes Arms at Rockingham has also run a successful beer festival. Licensee John Ellis said his best advice was

  • talk to your RDM as they can help with advice, range and equipment hire to ensure it looks professional
  • use a planning sheet: “I did mine in Microsoft Excel. You can have your to do list – apply for a TEN license, do your risk assessment, buy glasses etc as well as your products with costs and sales prices mapped out – so you can predict your profits” said John
  • organise music or entertainment and advertise. Signs, flyers, hand outs, facebook, twitter, banners, spot prize competitions with local radio and contact CAMRA
  • “And finally – enjoy it, and make sure you have enough staff and don’t forget a food offer”.