More than just a craft beer fest
We caught up with the Co-Founder of Hop Culture magazine, Kenny Gould, to hear about what it takes to create the ultimate craft beer experience.
Earlier this year, Hop Culture magazine - an online magazine for the new generation of craft beer drinkers - created a new type of beer festival, Juicy Brews. Their first launch on the 1st of October took place in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and more recently on the 3rd of December in Manhattan, NYC. Curating the greatest craft beer event is no easy task, but Kenny and his team have a solid handle on things, knowing how to master good times while supporting all members of the beer lovers community.
If you’re bonkers about beer, brewing your own batch or planning to organise an event that actively contributes to a new craft revolution, tune in.
Where did the impetus for Juicy Brews begin?
We wanted to create a whole new experience for beer drinkers and brewers within the craft beer industry. One that promoted beer tourism among its audience but supported independent brewers and local communities. The craft beer industry is based on innovation, and we didn’t think the current festivals were up to par with the industry itself.
In the past, it felt like many beer festivals have been focused on getting a bunch of people in a room, buying brewers' craft beer as cheap as possible, moving stock and hiring volunteers that don’t know a lot, if anything, about beer. In Pittsburgh, we knew that people were lining up at the breweries like the Dancing Gnome Brewery, but not lining up for experiences within the craft beer industry.
Juicy Brew was an opportunity to bring something different.
From Pittsburgh to New York, what made you decide on the Big Apple for a craft beer festival?
Hop Culture has two offices - one in Pittsburgh and one in NYC. When my cofounder Travis Smith - who is based out of NYC - saw how much fun we had in Pitts, he was pretty jealous, so we had to throw one in NYC too [laughs].
The real story is that when Travis and I first started the magazine, we attended beer festivals around the city to see how things were done. We couldn’t find the type of festival we wanted to be at and noticed that people weren't travelling to New York for craft beer experiences. We wanted to bring our experience with the craft beer industry to New York.
What are your top 3 national beer festivals you have enjoyed attending in the past?
Wake Fest by J Wakefield Brewing, The Festival by Shelton Brothers Festivals and there are some great elements to The Extreme Beer Fest by Beer Advocate.
What is special about the Juicy Brews festivals?
We focus on supporting independent brewers as well as providing the ultimate experience for consumers. Hop Culture offers a service as a platform for innovation within the craft beer community, and Juicy Brews promotes collaboration amongst stakeholders: breweries, consumers and industry leaders.
By talking to breweries, we found out that breweries wanted to be paid for beer supplied events, not just expected to donate. It’s a huge financial burden for brewers to host their stalls so to support the brewers we put them up in hotels, created local events within the NYC community and actioned Tap Takeovers. We had great feedback from all the breweries.
Tiny Basket, a collab DIPA conjured up with our buds at @magnifybrewing, is up for grabs tomorrow, 10/18. . . . Tiny Basket is absurdly hopped with Ella, Motueka, and Waimea hops. Mango, Peach, Rainforest, and dank resin emanate from this 8.3% beauty. . . . 75 cases, extremely limited draft. See you tomorrow!
During the festival, breweries meet and go on to collaborate. One fantastic example from Pittsburgh is the creation of a Double IPA called Tiny Baskets, which was the outcome of a collaboration between Magnify Brewing Company (Fairfield, NJ) and Dancing Gnome (Pittsburgh, PA).
From talking to consumers, we’re even brainstorming about designated areas for beer trading at future festivals.
We heard you had custom beer cups made? Tell us more.
From our Pitts fest we heard that people wanted custom glassware; Sam Taylor is the awesome designer who designed our legendary cups.
By the end of the NYC festival, did you achieve everything you had hoped to?
Yes, from our experience at previous festivals we heard that people were interested in speaking to brewers, gaining access to beer that they couldn’t get every day, and valued a vast variety of beer options. So, we created our experience around that.
Each time we run an event we test the hypothesis that “this specific festival will be the greatest possible craft beer experience of its time”. After each festival, we reanalyze to make sure we’re continually improving.
What did you learn from your first Juicy Brews beer festival that you were able to bring to NYC?
We offered a coat check which allowed us to check everyone in before the doors opened, minimising time waiting in line.
We also introduced a cool new tech feature, which allowed attendees to scan the barcode on beers with their smartphone and find out about the different breweries. It was our first time trying it, and it worked great!
It sounds like your festival inspires the true lovers of craft beer - how do you make sure you are attracting the right audience?
Like attracts like, so we attract a very grassroots crowd. Our audience is authentic and not acquired by spending large amounts of money on paid advertising. We aim to create high-quality content and rely on our audience to share what we are up to with other people. It’s a slower growth strategy but leads to a highly engaged audience.
How do you build a grassroots following?
To me, building grassroots following is about forming relationships with people who connect with what we do and who we are. There is a poem called Masks written by my favorite poet Shel Silverstein which sums up this idea around forging your identity:
If you hide who you are and what you’re trying to do, people will pass you by.
Everything that we do from our glassware to our magazine, shirts, to the way we carry ourselves in the world is an expression of personality. We have a large platform but are not hiding who we are. We are interested in promoting the independent craft industry, supporting local communities and using craft beer as vehicles for social and economical change.
We can get serious but we also just want to help people have an awesome time.
What is some advice for people in the industry who are hoping to create a successful event?
Make it good, and get a good lawyer.
Tell us a bit more about Hop Culture Mag and its mission?
Hop Culture Mag launched in Jan 2017. My cofounder Travis Smith and I are both passionate about craft beer lovers. We wanted to democratize how the media was covering the craft beer industry by providing high-quality photography and high editorial to provide opportunities for others to become part of this great industry. We would love to branch out all over the world.
Where can people find you?
What is to come in 2018?
Hop Culture is uniquely distributed among craft beer stakeholders. With future events, we want to blend those transitional spaces to encourage people to interact, experiment and innovate.
February: Juicy Brews, Columbus, Ohio
March: Farmhouse to Table, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
March: Juicy Brews, Tucson, Arizona
March: Hotel Party, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
April: College Reunion, Durham, North Carolina
April: West Fest, Oakland, California
May: Magnifest, Fairfield, New Jersey
- read more about these dates
Did you find this Drinkers & Shakers handy? Want to know more from your industry influencers and leaders or think you've got a story that needs to be shared? Email Lucy below and let her know three things that make you or your teammate stand out.