Is the Calgary International Beerfest the Best Beer Festival In the World? What It Takes to ‘Put On’ Beerfest.
- April 9, 2019
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There’s nothing quite like a beer festival. The energy and the community are unlike any other experience. We love attending beer festivals. We love organizing beer festivals. We love travelling around the world to ‘research’ other beer festivals. It’s a great way to meet people and always a great time.
Every year when we are putting on one of our festivals, I’m lucky enough to run into old friends I haven’t seen in a while. I’m usually busy but always make a point to stop for a minute and catch up. Invariably, someone will ask me to go have a sample with them, to which I respond, “Can’t now. How about I bring some beer to your office on Monday morning?’ To this, they usually reply, ‘But I’ll be working.’ Then we have a good laugh as they realize that’s what I’m doing at that very moment.
This has happened enough times that it got me thinking about the fact that most people don’t really know what it is I do (Hi Uncle Fred!), or what it takes to put on an event like the Calgary International Beerfest.
At Alberta Beer Festivals, we are incredibly proud of the events we organize, and since our biggest event, the Calgary International Beerfest, is coming up the first weekend in May, I thought I would share a few insights about the vast amount of effort and planning that goes into putting on a festival of this size.
Believe it or not, the planning for this year’s festival began before last year’s festival ever took place. Implementing ideas for events of this size is a lot like trying to stop a train – it takes way longer than you usually want it to. People will make great suggestions just before and at the festival – and we’ll put them in what we call the Parking Lot Folder, and try to implement them the following year, or in some cases years. Some of the big ideas that we’ve implemented over the past few years that have improved people’s show experience are: expanded Cooking with Beer and Brew Master Seminars, adding the Distillery District to the event to feature Alberta’s growing distilling industry, an After Party at the Big 4 each night of the event, exclusive VIP washrooms, and so much more.It takes 6 full time staff, along with over 15 part time staff and interns 12 months of planning and working to put together the event.
Our jobs might be a lot easier if we just let every exhibitor who wanted into the show in. The problem with that is, it would not match our mission to host an event that celebrates the community or the industry that we love. We take pride in what we do, and we actively partner and seek out like-minded brewers, distillers, eateries, and industry leaders. My business partner tries to meet with every single exhibitor to get to know what their goals are for the event, share our ideas and vision, then work with them to help them build their business using our events. It’s a long and arduous process – but one that has led to us developing many friendships in the industry built on mutual trust.
Getting the Doors Open
When you’re at the show, take a moment to look around. Make note of all the ‘things’ you see – tables, chairs, posters, banners, cups, beer, spirits, food, electricity, sinks, draping, volunteers, cleaners, ice, scanners, seminar areas, distillery district, large screen TVs, the token areas, the staff, the map, the tokens, the on-site liquor store, the cask stage, the liquor license, approval from Fire/Police/Health, Distillery District…. now realize that each of those ‘things’ not only had to be built, called, printed, designed, brewed, distilled, cooked, scheduled, loaded, moved, set-up, plugged in, hung, prepared, approved, but they had to be done so that everything would come together in the same place at the same time for the over 43,000+ people who attend the show every year – and done in a way so that each of them could get a great experience. It isn’t easy. A team of 45 ABF Captains set up their respective areas at the festival, and they are joined by 200 volunteers, and over 1000 exhibitors, plus Stampede security/ushers/cleaners/catering/managerial staff and other staff so that by the time you walk through the door, everything is in place. It’s actually a pretty cool thing to see it all come together – 300,000 square feet of empty hall transforming itself into one of the biggest and best beer festivals in the world – then 3 days later – disappearing into memory.
The more I think about it, the more I should take it as a compliment that people think it couldn’t be that hard to put on a festival. Must mean we are making it look easy. And to be honest, before I started organizing festivals myself, I probably had little to no clue what it took. When people come, all we really want is for them to have a great time. They sample the amazing beers, spirits, ciders, meads, food and more. They find a new favorite. They listen to great local artists. They watch the playoffs on the big screen. They play games. They learn something in one of the seminars. But probably the most important thing, at least in our opinion, is that they come together as a community to have a great time. We wanted to build a festival the city could be proud of – and now, along with the Calgary International Beerfest, we have our other incredible festivals such as the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival, Calgary Mashing, Edmonton Mashing, the Jasper Beer & Spirit Retreat, and the Banff Craft Beer Festival, we have 6 incredible festivals Albertans can be proud of.
For tickets to our spring festivals, visit:
CALGARY INTERNATIONAL BEERFEST – MAY 3rd & 4th
Get Tickets At: https://www.showpass.com/2019-calgary-international-beerfest/
EDMONTON CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL – MAY 31st & JUNE 1st
Get Tickets At: https://www.showpass.com/2019-edmonton-craft-beer-festival/
And keep up to date with everything happening in the Alberta beer community by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @ABBeerfestivals
To get the most out of your Beerfest experience, download the JustBeer APP for an interactive map, times of important highlights at the festival, a full exhibitor list, and keep track of your favorite beers at the event. www.justbeerapp.com
And if you want to join the team and volunteer –email our amazing volunteer coordinator Dawn at:
Thanks and hope to see you at one of our events soon.