This rant was started after reading about the sad Hunahpu incident earlier in the month. (You can read about this mess HERE).
Instead of doing a post-mortem on that particular event I think it is time we took a look at how many more overbooked one-offs do we need in the craft beer world before we all realize that the old model doesn’t work? And instead of trying to be the little Dutch boy plugging leaks with ticketing issues, tapped kegs, downed servers or rowdy patrons at these “events”, it is time to look at the supply and demand.
Now I know that some breweries produce these special limited releases for varied reasons. And that some of these specials become whales for varied reasons. And those whales beget the special once a year blow outs.
But once they become whales, the old way of doing things must be abandoned. Why? A, because it draws a MUCH different crowd. You begin to draw the hoarders, collectors and snobs in MUCH higher percentages. People specially planned and flew to Florida for Cigar City. Not to mention the curious onlookers and lookey-loos who follow the latest trends. And you end up creating an event that cannot possibly meet the expectations of a MUCH different crowd than the usual taproom day and becomes too much work to handle.
You can simply ignore the rest of this post and hire an event company to do the ticketing, security, admission and everything else and have your party in a big enough space to handle the crowds. And hope for the best. Or you can make more foundational changes.
Here are my Supply and Demand inspired recommendations:
1. Undersell tickets. If you have five bottles of beer to sell, sell three. If you have space for 5 people, sell three. You get the picture. I understand that sales are monitored for overflow now but now may be the time to really tighten the screws. If it is a special beer you will be able to sell it later. Or do a charity auction. You can send it to the White House, President Obama likes beer. If you are not choosing to increase beer production then you have to manually decrease the demand.
2. Spread out the celebration. Have a morning session and an afternoon session. Or a Saturday session and a Sunday. Then follow rule # 1. The goal being to thin the herd and make runs on the keg or bottle allocations less scary. If you saw the video from Cigar City, imagine if half that crowd was at home waiting for their Sunday session and not there. It is simply another manual lever for reducing demand.
3. Release the beer through other distribution channels. Preferably in intervals throughout the year. This is the supply side of the argument. Go ahead and have your big party once a year. But also, like a release valve, package some three months later and sell it through your distributor to great accounts. Put it on tap randomly at your taproom for regulars. Sell it separately to your mug club later in the year. It means making the event less of an event but that is how you also make the event more manageable.
Now some places choose to not grow to meet over pent up demand. Others want the press. Others believe that making more means that the beer will no longer be THE coveted one. If that is the path that a brewery chooses then good luck to you running an event. Because the love of craft beer ain’t going away. And as much as you learn about putting events on, you are still, primarily, a brewery first not an event company.