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Home » Have Craft Beverage Festivals Become Extinct?

Have Craft Beverage Festivals Become Extinct?

  • 8 min read

Gone are the days of charging $100 for 4 solid hours of drinking, expecting to sell out in minutes. Events where friends would gather in this year’s thematic costume and pretzel necklace, mapping out the award-winners to sample first. Festivals so popular that sponsors were dripping off every brandable surface on the show floor. And meet-and-greets, takeovers and week-of promotions that supported local retailers while building brand awareness and goodwill.

Not trying to be doomsday here. The fact is the customer has changed but the [traditional] craft beverage festival has not.

As we write this, Oktoberfest in Munich is just finishing up. This 16-day-long celebration of German beer history and culture attracted a record 7.2 million guests, up from 5.7 million in 2022. But even an institution as revered as Oktoberfest isn’t immune to changes in the craft beer industry: less beer was consumed this year and 50% more non-alcoholic beverages were sold at the festival compared to last year. And that’s the largest beer festival in the world! At home, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Annual Conference and Trade Show in Las Vegas both recently witnessed marked decreases in sponsorships, exhibitors and attendees (we had booths at both events). And this trend isn’t just limited to craft beer – we’re seeing it across all areas of craft beverage.

What was the extinction event for festivals?

Dinosaur extinct image for events postWe use the term “extinct” to describe a widespread and rapid decrease in options. “Extinction events” are then the points in time thought to cause the nosedive. Conference organizers, service providers and tasting room owners alike might point the finger at COVID-19 for what appears to be a gloomy festival future. And they’re not entirely wrong. But even before the pandemic shut down normal life as we know it, there were four major trends killing interest in large-scale festivals:

  • Producers are less interested in participating
  • Drinkers are less interested in attending
  • Shoppers are less interested in competition winners
  • Brands are less interested in sponsoring

With interest in the traditional festival model waning, organizers must shift their mindset or watch their events become extinct. Similarly, your team must demand more from participation and sponsorship in order to effect meaningful change. The team at Market Your Craft has found successful craft beverage events share the following in common:

  • Modern, engaging theme
  • Balance between drinking and experiential
  • Charitable or give-back component
  • Hydration and non-alcohol options

If during your evaluation of an event sponsorship your team is able to check most if not all of these boxes, the festival has a good chance of meeting or exceeding objectives around participation, attendance, engagement, etc. But if choosing the right event isn’t an option, consider creating it from scratch. And while it’s significantly more involved than sponsoring existing events, there are equally significant upsides to controlling design, promotion, execution and budget. Not to mention brand awareness and overall profitability. Just remember to build contingency plans to account for the unforeseen!

Craft Beer Professionals Fall Virtual Conference logo for events post

There’s a lot more to cover on this topic, which is why we’re thrilled to be presenting at the 3-day Craft Beer Professionals Fall Virtual Conference next Wednesday, October 18, at 5pm EST. Won’t you join us?

Title: What’s next after beer festivals [go extinct]?

We look at the troubling trends in attendance; reduced brewery support; and growing consumer concerns around overconsumption as prompts for a new festival model. One that meets the [new] drinker where they are, with greater balance and overall engagement, focusing less on “getting your money’s worth” and more on the overall experience. Our goal is for brewery owners and managers to have a complete set of tools to evaluate participation in future beer festivals or to create an engaging event from scratch. Presentation attendees have access to our “Waking Up Your Events” Guide, with techniques to keep fans engaged and the proven techniques to build momentum and capture new sales for your brand.


Stream on YouTube:

Ontario Craft Brewers Conference logo for events postLater this month we travel east to continue the conversation around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and proven tools for marketing and selling your craft beverage. Attendees of the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference will enjoy two days packed full of keynotes (including Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association), panels and speakers on the opportunities and challenges ahead for craft beer. We’re excited to be presenting Thursday, October 26, at 12pm EST. If you’re in Niagara Falls for the show, be sure to stop by!

Title: Would ChatGPT recommend your brewery to new drinkers?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a moment due to its ability to answer questions as if you were talking to a human. But should brewery owners and managers be scared? Your business may be one of dozens or even hundreds of search results. We believe work done now to craft your unique brand story will position you for the eventuality that Artificial Intelligence will help new drinkers find your brewery. We then look at the tools available to help streamline the Marketing and Sales functions, freeing valuable resources to think more strategically about growing the business. Attendees have access to our Artificial Intelligence Guide, with checklists and blueprints for implementing your own AI strategy.


CBP Connects logo for events postWe’re also talking events at CBP Connects Charleston on Wednesday, December 6, at 10am EST. CBP Connects presented by Arryved POS are workshops across the United States offering collaborative and educational opportunities for Craft Beer Professionals. Thinking about attending in person? Register before October 15 for 30% off.

Title: Wake Up Your Events: Strategies for Winning New Guests

Are your events tired? Do breweries down the street crush it while you’re fully stuck in the Trivia Thursday rut? Have you run out of ideas on how to draw a new crowd to your tasting room other than BOGOs and weekly food truck schedules? And do drinkers pre-game at your place, only to spend a bulk of their evening (and dollars) somewhere else? Time to wake up your events! Stop suffering from schedule sleepiness! We believe events are some of the most underutilized tools for bringing your brand story and personality to life. During this interactive workshop, attendees will brainstorm engaging themes and create a blueprint to maximize attendance. Workshop attendees will also have access to 10+ Complimentary Guides, with storytelling techniques to keep fans engaged and the proven tools to build momentum and capture new sales in this environment.


The team at Market Your Craft is excited to meet in person at one of the upcoming events. Want to start a conversation with us in the meantime?


Brewer photo for challenges postBreweries, wineries, distilleries and functional craft beverages engage Market Your Craft on a variety of assignments: from strategy to tactics and everything in-between. We’d like to know what is the most challenging issue you’re facing right now and how we can help. What’s the one thing we can quickly help your team deliver?

Perhaps you’ve put off connecting your Point-Of-Sale (POS) system to an email service for sending newsletters to customers. Your team has wanted to participate in local events but hasn’t had the bandwidth to start the conversations. You’re wondering how and when is the right time to communicate with Retail accounts or your Distributor Reps. Or you could be both excited and confused about the prospects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) creating content for your social team.


We’re a team of experts with over 20 years navigating the craft beverage industry. That gives us great perspective on what works and what doesn’t. Plus the experience and best practices to back it up. After supporting some of the biggest brands in beer, wine and spirits, we pivoted to provide executives with the guidance and tools needed to propel business forward. One project, one engagement at a time. So chances are good we’re familiar with needs like yours, or we’re in a position to help you connect with others.

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