The craft beer week, when done right, is one of the most exciting tools in a region’s arsenal when it comes to hyping up beer. However, we’ve noticed that such celebrations fall short in certain areas (or are even ignored). This week, we asked the Fervent Few if the craft beer week is alive and well in their area. If they don’t have one, would they want one?
Zak Rotello: “My bar has participated as a supporting venue since the first Chicago Craft Beer Week. We put (almost) 100% Chicago beers on tap, and went heavy on the promo nights. Guess what: we got zero support—not even a poster or stack of coasters. Well, fine, we got listed on their website. But hey, we're not really in Chicago, so maybe I was overly ambitious. But even ahead of the planners’ decision to take the event statewide, we did our own Illinois beer month coinciding with the last one or two years of the event: only Illinois-brewed beer on tap all month, Illinois brewery events...still zero support. At that point, too many ‘beer bars’ were opening around us, tap takeovers and keep-the-glass nights were already failing to draw in any sort of meaningful crowd, and I just lost the zeal to participate. Why was I spending all my time and effort to promote brands that weren't mine, that didn't help build my business or create long-term relationships with my suppliers? I gave it up.”
Patrick Guo: “There is a Sydney Beer Week, but to me it doesn’t mean anything apart from the name, and is nothing special.”
Andrés Muñoz: “I don't remember if there's a beer week in Boston, but there are a few big festivals every year, and the events around them tend to do really well (from my experience).
Now in Wilmington, there's Cape Fear Craft Beer Week. One event does crazy well: the Ultimate Brewing Championship. Local brewers get random ingredients for their brews and face off in a blind tasting. I think the only real prize is bragging rights, but everyone seems to love it. Overall, it seems well-attended. Wilmington is definitely still a growing beer market, but the locals really dig it, so they turn out for most major events, not just beer week.”
Rob Steuart: “We have a state beer week for Western Australia. It's generally pretty good. At the start there were a few events, mainly just tap takeovers and some beer degustation dinners. The number of events has continued to grow, with more charity events and some higher-end restaurants getting involved, as well as the traditional craft beer haunts.”
Michael McAllister: “One of the visitors bureaus in our region of the state attempted a beer week a few years ago to some success, but it was not really continued in earnest. With the rise of taproom culture and brewery-organized beer festivals, it seems difficult to make such a week distinctive from taproom events, beer releases, and the more ubiquitous presence local craft beer has at non-beer events and festivals.
It would be interesting to see a city or state (perhaps a state brewers guild) focus a craft beer week on expanding the customer base of craft, and on diversifying the average craft customers. Events could be hosted in new and different retail and off-premise accounts that don't usually carry craft rather than going to the bars, restaurants, and stores that are already committed to the cause.”
Casey Street: “Beer weeks seem to be losing steam, and this is a good thing. In past years, beer weeks helped bring attention to local craft industries. Because of the immense growth in craft beer over the last decade, these events have become less necessary. Furthermore, the sheer number of craft beer events on any given day can be overwhelming. In the DC metro area, there is at least a beer festival every weekend within quick driving distance. There are tap takeovers every night, every week. Why have a dedicated beer week when every week is full of great beer events?
One way to bring some cachet back to local beer weeks may be focusing on the ‘local.’ Rather than fancy, out-of-state breweries headlining events, the local guilds can foster collabs among local breweries, special beer releases from locals, and things like that. Or, try and pull in nationally recognized breweries to do collabs with local spots.”
Chris Cohen: “Local beer weeks remain a key element for getting the masses excited about good beer for at least one week each year. Being so deep in the scene, we in the industry seem to have this idea that the general public is already into beer, or has been fully exposed to it. That's just not the case—there's so much more room to expand the audience, and an exciting beer week is essential for that.
Beer weeks are a time when local businesses go into event overdrive, and local press helps get folks (even those who aren't generally into beer) excited to try new things and visit new-to-them, beer-focused spots. That's certainly how it continues to work out for SF Beer Week. Admittedly, our scene here is particularly vibrant, but SFBW is one of the reasons! Also noteworthy is the fact that our beer week is not privately owned. SFBW is the biggest of several yearly events planned by our non-profit San Francisco Brewers Guild, which even has a full-time staff person. Beer weeks are still very relevant, and their role in the craft beer scene is safe. All that said, in my travels I've experienced well-organized, exciting beer weeks in some cities and poorly executed ones in others. If your local beer week feels like it's falling flat, it could be for any number of reasons beyond a lack of consumer enthusiasm about great beer.”
Matthew Modica: “These focus weeks are cute. They’ve evolved the same way the Peep has. They come around once a year, and the people who have been paying attention just discovered that microwaving them is an option, and now have the fullest satisfaction of the experience. The best option for these focused craft weeks is to go away, and for the brewery reps to be given the time to be business people instead of clowns above water. Make the right business decisions, do what’s right, and stop asking for people and their time to be your playthings. Not to mention that seltzer makes up 40% of ‘craft’ consumption, so let’s just all stick that fork in our eye.”
Neal Buck: “Wish I could help out with more responses, but I don't think my city has a beer week. If it does, I tune it out. Our regional beer festivals are terrible, so I'd expect a craft beer week here to be similarly unpleasant.
I did make it to Tampa for a day of Tampa Bay Beer Week this year, and that was great. Lots of great breweries participated by having interesting and special beers. I didn't attend any events because I was only in town for a day, but it looked like the area took beer week pretty seriously.”
Jaron Wright: “I think one of the reasons that SF Beer Week is so successful is that it has a wide array of events. I could fill each day by going to a super well-curated dinner, a tasting led by a brewer or expert, or a release of something expensive. I could also do some low-key trivia nights and tap takeovers, and attend less expensive releases that appeal to larger, non-beer-nerd audiences. I struggled to leave my neighborhood for SF Beer Week because there were so many good events within walking distance of my house.”
Paige Latham Didora: “I'm in Minneapolis and we don't have one. I believe there used to be one, and we have a cider week, actually. Instead, the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild throws three festivals annually. I'm not sure we really need to make a ‘week’ important again. Where I live, we need to spend more time and energy making beer better, not making it more popular.”
Nick Yoder: “It seems like some of the best beer weeks, or at least the ones that still have traction, are the accidental ones. A brewery puts on an event and then a beer week springs out of it. Think Hunahpu's Day and Tampa Bay Beer Week.
That's how our local beer week in South Bend started last year. Lots of local events culminated in Bare Hand Brewery's Double Thai Day.
It didn't really connect with me. A week dedicated to local beer just doesn't really do it for me. These are breweries I can visit just about any day, and most of them aren't all that great. I'm much more a fan of bringing in breweries from farther away and offering something special that celebrates craft as a whole, and not just local craft. That's where the Tampa model differs from many others. The locals are celebrated, for sure, but their friends are invited along to make it feel even more special.”
Do you have a week-long celebration of craft beer near you? Does it get you out of the house and into places you don’t normally go? Join the Fervent Few and chat about it with our growing community of Good Beer Hunting subscribers!