By Jake Endres, co-founder
This Saturday, we hosted our very first beer festival, Propagation. This festival represented a lot of new things for us and is an important first step towards the future. With 24 hours hindsight, I think that things went very well, and I hope everyone that attended feels the same way. How did this event come to fruition, and what do we hope to accomplish? Let's unpack everything.
First, Propagation is not just a first festival for us--it's also a marked departure from most beer events. To be straightforward, this different kind of beer festival came about as a result of the pandemic, but the scale and unique aspects will probably stay the same next year.
Obviously, the time is not great for beer festivals. In 2020, nearly everyone halted festivals, and we still aren't back to normal yet. With the pause of the last year, I think a lot of breweries took a look at how things were running in the past and reevaluated their approaches. Festivals are a messy affair that are a lot of work and risk for the host, and a significant commitment from participating breweries. Aside from all the beer involved, there's shipping, flights, hotels, menus, staffing, and more. The work and low amount of profit margin can make you wonder why anyone wants to do it.
What if things could be simpler? A year ago, I started thinking about what I would personally like to see in a beer festival. We've participated in plenty, but never hosted one. With the risk and workload involved, I was thinking of ways to minimize the hassle for everyone, keep a tight budget, and not compromise on the experience.
Fast forward to this year, and our GM suggested the idea of a different kind of beer festival, one that was focused more on mixed fermentation beers and lagers rather than the typical IPA/kettle sour/stout focus. We've been brewing a lot of these beers and they don't get as much attention, so the idea resonated with our staff. After discussions, it turned out that the restrictions on distancing and safety concerns dovetailed with some of the ideas I had on how to keep things simple. Our management team worked together and came up with these parameters:
Limited tickets. The first obvious decision was to keep things small. First, due to social distancing we were not going to have a big festival, but we also wanted to feature a short but sweet list of breweries and offer a more intimate experience.
All bottles and cans. Since this festival featured a lot of mixed fermentation beers that are bottle conditioned anyways, this made a lot of sense, and since the festival was small, we didn't need multiple kegs from each participant. This kept costs down, eliminated any need for keg returns or one way kegs and finicky jockeyboxes, and allowed us to give away leftover beer to our staff and volunteers.
Beer served by our staff. We weren't going to ask breweries to travel to attend, but it's always better when guest breweries don't have to physically pour anyways. There's more time to have fun, talk about your beer, and enjoy some yourself. Even when travel resumes, we plan on serving all the beer ourselves.
Complete menus. We had placards at each serving station with simple beer lists, but we had detailed menus at every guest table. The beers we featured were very nuanced and many had a lot of thought and care put into the process and ingredients, so we wanted people to know as much as possible about what they were drinking. Here's the menu if you're curious: