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Having an ale of a time
YES, you would expect to find beer at a beer festival. But unlike most other such events, Beerfest Asia 2016, in the spirit of inclusivity, offers more than 500 varieties of both craft and commercial beer. And for those who haven't yet developed a taste for the yeasty beverage, there's hard liquor too.
Ian Lim, senior manager (festivals) for organiser Sphere Exhibits, says: "I think other festivals might be afraid that it'll dilute the overall message, but we don't want to be too elitist. It's a good mix of the traditional, the modern and the different. So, if our visitors want to start the evening off with a few beers and then move on to their preferred spirits, we want to facilitate that."
Beerfest Asia, conceptualised in 2008, is based on similar concepts around the world such as the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado which began in 1982.
Reaching out to consumers
Mr Lim, 35, explains: "We looked at a few different beer festivals and there just wasn't anything like it here. We loved the idea that people could gather in a single location to try out hundreds of beers in a relaxed setting with entertainment and food as well. We did have trade shows then but festivals like this are better for the exhibitors because they can reach out to consumers as well."
Another new addition this year is the "Electronic" tent, named for the kind of music to be played - partly to give the 35 exhibitors present more space for their booths and to appeal to a new demographic - the 20-somethings.
Mr Lim points out: "When we first started this festival, it attracted more mature audiences but over the past couple of years, younger visitors are making up a significant portion of our visitors. So we wanted something familiar like electronic dance music to appeal to them."
The pre-existing "Rock" and "Blues" tents will remain. So will the tribute bands that have become part of "the festival's DNA itself".
One of the bands is "Killer Queen, which covers the cult rock classics of Queen", adds Mr Lim. "Music like that appeals to different age groups."
But that doesn't make it a music festival per se, because ultimately, it's all about the beer.
The four-day festival, presented by UOB, will feature another returning component this year, the Asia Beer Awards which last took place in 2013. A judging panel of 20 professionals and amateurs from all over the world will judge 15 categories of beer.
"There has been growth in the local beer industry, and we've been seeing many more brewpubs like 1935 and tap bars like Taps and Thirsty, but I don't think it's reached its peak just yet. If you look at the more formalised way of qualifying beers, there are about 200 different categories so we still have a way to go," Mr Lim notes.
Last year's edition saw 32,000 visitors and Mr Lim is hoping to see an increase to 34,000. To make that happen, the festival will feature over 500 varieties of beers and ciders, up 25 per cent from last year's 400.
Mr Lim says: "That was the key challenge actually; bringing in new and different beer that people might not have tried before. It involves a lot of careful consideration, legwork and powers of persuasion where the distributors are concerned.
"But, that's the important thing about running a yearly festival. You have to give your visitors a new and yet, familiar experience so they keep coming. You don't want people who attended last year to be jaded with what's on offer, so you have to keep updating and refreshing individual elements while retaining the original 'flavour' of the festival."
Though the festival will remain an annual affair in Singapore, the focus now is on taking this concept overseas, "within a seven-hour flight radius", adds Mr Lim. "It should happen over the next couple of years."
- Beerfest Asia will be held on June 16 to 19 at the Marina Promenade. Tickets start from S$15 and are available from Sistic. Please visit www.beerfestasia.com for more information