Free beer anyone? Markets look after your traders!

Love it when people queue for beer

Microbreweries need to appear at as many events as they can afford to so to get in touch with people directly. It doesn’t always work when the product is just standing on the shelf, mostly because the big boys dominate fridge space, but also because most people are too scared to take the leap and try something new.

Blue Bird Garage

The ideal kind of event is the local market where the big brands won’t appear and we, as the promoters of craft beer, can get up close and personal. This last weekend, we joined a number of small breweries at the Blue Bird Garage Barrel & Brew, Beer & Wine Festival in Muizenberg. It’s an awesome venue and as it was our first event out Muizenberg way, we were very excited to have the chance of introducing the Camelthorn Brewing Company’s range of beers to the locals. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Is jy mal?

Microbreweries just don’t have the budget to give away beer. All the monies earned go back to the brewery where it’s used to make more beer, buy more bottles and keep the dedicated staff that give so much of themselves fed and with a roof over their heads. So when we arrive at an event and see that we have to provide free tasters to the public, alarm bells start ringing all the way back to the bank manager’s office.

Funky people enjoying

We were told in our brief that we were going to be pouring tasters, as is usual at most events – we provide a small taster so that our customer who has already committed themselves to purchasing a beer can choose which beer they prefer. But, at the BBG B&B W&B Fest it was different. There was a R30 entrance fee which entitled you to free tasters from each of the breweries or wine farms represented – not bad value you’d say, but really bad business for us.

Our beer babes

Customers were able to sample beer from Mitchell’s, Birkenhead, Napier, Darling, Boston, Camelthorn, as well as spirits from Wilderer and Jorgensen’s Distillery and wine from a whole host of wine farms. 15 suppliers were giving away free stock, and so, as a result, the only real sales happening at the event were the food vendors who were mass-feeding all the well-oiled folk who were really enjoying themselves. Wouldn’t you with free booze?

Happy traders, happy people

It was really an awesome market and there was a great vibe, but we just couldn’t afford to be there a second day as we wouldn’t have been able to recover the losses from the first day. A real pity and an opportunity lost.

So be aware if you are arranging an event, as in a market or a festival that will feature microbreweries and micro-distilleries, we will attend gladly and add to the atmosphere of the day, but none of us can afford to do it for free. And if we do have to give away stock, then reduce the stand fees, otherwise you’ll end up with pissed off traders and pissed customers. Neither of which are a good idea!



Filed under Beer Office, Festivals, Markets

4 responses to “Free beer anyone? Markets look after your traders!

  1. Jenny

    Wow – so you didn’t know in advance that you would have to give away free samples? OF course, from a customer point of view I was expecting something for my R30 – I hate when you pay to get into these festivals, only for the privilege of paying for everything else once you’re inside! I do think a lot of people bought beer and wine though – it would take some serious lightweights to get drunk on one tiny sample from eash stall!

    • Rouvanne

      Hey Jenny – thanks for stopping by.

      As I mentioned, we were briefed, but didn’t really understand the extent to which we were going to be providing tasters. Microbreweries give lots of free stock at events, markets and festivals – we don’t have a problem with that as it always leads to a sale – but charging door fees does lead to the public having the expectation that they will receive free samples at all of the stands while those fees, and the stand fees, go to the market organiser, and not to the brewer.

      To put it into perspective, we sold 15 pints (7.5l) but used up the rest of two 20l kegs on tasting stock, while we would normally sell anything from 150l at a normal market to 650l at a brew festival.

      As for the lightweights, there were 15 beers on offer, 7 spirits and a number of wines available – it all adds up. Not bad value for R30. The BBG market did change it for the 2nd day by only allowing you to choose 5 to sample from the list of 15, but by then we’d already lost too much to chance a second day at the event.

      So remember the next time you’re offered a sample and do enjoy it, support your local artisan brewer/distiller/baker and we’ll ensure that the wheels of commerce continue to go round and round.

  2. Hi Rouvanne, Tiny here, this is a very valid post. The wine industry has been doing this for years now and the result is that people see these type of events as a cheap way to get pissed. While there are no doubt serious beer lovers at the event. But I question the value to the various brands of a non targeted event – as you know everyone loves ‘free’ booze but how many paying clients will you walk away with?

    If it is simply a brand awareness event and the costs written off then no problem, but whenyou need to at least cover costs then these events are fast becoming non starters for the smaller producer. These events only benefit the customer and the organsisers while the producer is left standing.

    I have a few ideas around getting the products out there without the huge costs lets get together over a pint and discuss them


    • Rouvanne

      Hey Tiny – thanks for stopping by!

      We don’t mind giving the tasters in the right place and to the right people. It’s all in the name of marketing. But one has to draw the line when the tasters don’t match the sales. And that’s not because the beer isn’t enjoyed! People love it – just even more when it’s free!

      Look forward to getting together with you to chat – when are you ‘free’? Hahaha!

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