Scroll Down

Just why? Why on earth would you give yourself more work?

Norwich City of Ale Logo

Why would you create a Beer Week that could benefit pubs and other breweries, more than it does your own company?

Well, we know 30+ breweries in one area that decide each year to throw their hats in the ring and work together for the mutual good. They think it’s worth the investment of time and energy, and they can’t all be acting from purely altruistic motives… Or maybe they can.

Either way, they’ve created a great model, one you might like to consider for your location.

So, here we’ve given what we think are compelling reasons for creating a town or city-wide Beer Week. Then we look at Norwich, City of Ale, Britain’s original Beer Week. Lastly, with thanks to Phil Cutter and David Holliday, directors of the City of Ale, we give some tips for creating a great town or city Beer Week festival.

Reasons to create a Beer Week

  • It’s a festival – so a chance to sell more beer.
  • Planning the whole thing with customers and potential customers. Building street cred.
  • Approaching new accounts and upselling to current accounts. Why wouldn’t you?
  • Growing the market. Not just targetting greater share of a declining market – too depressing.
  • Stimulating more pub visits. Since pubs are the centre of the universe.
  • Ensuring pub visits are focussed on beer. Not on any other nonsense.

Britain’s Original Beer Week

The idea started in the pub over a pint. Of course it did.

First, there was a discussion about pub rents, licensees going out of business and pubs closing. Next, it was, “Something needs to be done about it.” That was followed by, “Actually, we should do something about it.”

It had to be something positive – not a ‘use it or lose it’ campaign, but an activity to showcase and celebrate the brilliant pubs in the city, and the wonderful brewers in the region.

City of Ale 2022 launch at The Waterfront, Norwich.

That’s what the founders of Norwich City of Ale decided back in 2010, as they hatched the plan to encourage more people into pubs.  They were the dynamic duo Dawn Leeder, beer aficionado and Phil Cutter, of the Murderers pub.

The idea of a Beer Week came to fruition in May of the following year. It was a beer festival, sure, but it was wildly different from other beer festivals. Rather than being confined to a marquee or large event venue, this Beer Week festival was city-wide. That was a first in Britain.

Dozens of pubs signed up to be on the ale trails, and committed to stocking at least two beers from participating Norfolk or Suffolk breweries. Activities were planned. Marketing paraphernalia was produced. A launch party was organised. Invitations were issued.

The 11 day ‘Beer Week’ was widely embraced. That was not only by pub goers and beer lovers, but by also by businesses and attractions in the city, which benefitted from the additional visitors.

Pubs were given the chance to showcase their hospitality to numerous new visitors. Breweries gained listings with new customers, and brewers got involved in tutored tastings and other beer-based events. Local people discovered pubs in which they had never before stepped foot, and drinkers from further afield were attracted to the city.

Since that first Festival, Norwich City of Ale has grown and flourished, and other cities and towns have adopted the model.

This year, 2023, the City of Ale festival runs for a month, from 25th May to 25th June, with more than 30 breweries from the region, and 59 local pubs (the biggest number yet) taking part. View the map here.

Tips For Creating a Town or City-wide Beer Week

  1. What’s the Purpose? Articulate the reason for creating the Week and what you want it to achieve.
  2. Be inclusive – invite breweries from the region and pubs from the town / city to join in.
  3. Hold a meeting; share the vision; get buy-in; agree timings.
  4. Fathom out what needs to be done; develop a budget.
  5. Determine financial / in kind contribution needed from each participating pub and brewery.
  6. Make applications for grants; look for funding from sponsors or outside sources.
  7. Settle on ground rules (eg pubs must have beers from one or more participating breweries on the bar for the duration of the festival).
  8. Hold regular meetings (this is a shared enterprise); tap into expertise in the room.
  9. Create pub-to-pub Beer Trails; set up incentives for drinkers to complete the trails.
  10. Construct a website featuring the Trails; sort the social platforms.
  11. Encourage pubs and breweries to create activities and events specially for the Week.
  12. Do great marketing and PR.
  13. Evaluate.
  14. Don’t forget, in your efforts to create a fantastic festival overall, to do something inventive to support your brewery, your beers, your customers, your team for the Week.

Crisp team members at the launch of the City of Ale Festival, Norwich as part of Beer Week.

Written by Frances Brace, Red Flame Communications

Our Malts
Read More
View All

Back to top