Over the course of last year, sticker shock at craft beer event prices really started to wear on me. Every weekend seemed to tout a new beer-y happening with a price tag north of $50. And I believe that L.A. may have reached the limit on such expensive events that can be thrown in a year.
My reaction is partially due to festival fatigue that anyone who covers craft beer eventually encounters and that plain ol’ beer fans are probably feeling as well. I love picking up an impressively logo’d taster glass as I walk into a festival space and having the choice of multiple beers from multiple breweries but after six or seven samples, my palate gets tired. And if it is a timed session, the clock begins to tick and you can’t really linger too long on any one sample. The “must taste everything” part of my brain takes command.
Afterwards, the opportunities to recover become scarce. I almost could have scheduled just beer events most weekends of the year. But instead, 2014 was the first time that I skipped big events just to ensure that I could enjoy a festival or other beer outing the following weekend.
My choices of what to skip was made easier though by price. If I could get into a festival/dinner/release party as a member of the media, I would generally go, but if no pass was forthcoming, I took it as a sign to take a pass. Because by the time December (heck, even October) rolls around on the calendar, it can be hard to justify spending the time and money on yet another event. Eventually the beer budget is tapped out.
And no amount of brewer rock stars or imaginative beer and food pairings can save that.
Getting people to events becomes much harder. And guess which end of the price scale gets hurt by that? The top end. I know of a few events that were flat out cancelled last year due to lack of sales. I’ve been to events that had PR firms behind them that were not super well attended. Certain parties may still pull extraordinary crowds but a local brewery doing a beer dinner priced at $70 will be a tough sell from now on. Because it is already!
Not that the value isn’t there. From my experience, I have received much more in beer alone than paid for at most events that I have attended. But even with an improving economy you can’t spend money at every tap take-over, festival, bottle release and then be semi-expected to also be buying bottles and cans for home consumption and just go out to a bar for a lark.
In a way, it was easier when you only had a few breweries in our City of Angels. You would go to any and all events to not only support the locals but also because the calendar was open.
How to avoid this malaise?
- More options spread out over more days.
Make your festival a two day affair or publicize a leftovers night. And if you are preparing a beer and food pairing dinner, offer a la carte options as well. Some may blanche at a high price tag overall but won’t blink at a dessert and beer option. And instead of a VIP (or in addition), how about offering a discounted ticket (with a better name than discount) that offers less beer.
- Calendar management.
You can do two things. Stake out spots in advance. Plan your tap takeovers for the third Tuesday of each month. That will condition people to show up out of habit. Very Pavlovian. But first check around your immediate area to see if others have something going on that day. You may not avoid all scheduling conflicts but you can get out of the way of biggies like GABF.
- Do Less
Seems obvious but instead of planning more events publicize people just coming out for a night. Make it more about beer and a movie or beer and a concert depending on where you are located. Help people combine their entertainment so that they think of craft beer as part of their everyday life and not simply in connection with an event.
The times are a’ changin’ in Los Angeles and those who can both realize what the situation on the ground is and who can alter course to take advantage will be the winners in the end.
Peel the Label is an occasionally appearing post about the world of craft beer with no links, photos or graphics. Just opinion.