Opinions divided over Ballarat Beer Festival revenue row

THE beer was strong and so are the opinions swirling about in the wake of last weekend’s Ballarat Beer Festival.

The third annual event was attended by more than 6000 people but the debate has centred around how revenue is split between organisers and stallholders at the event. 

Several brewers voiced their concerns with The Courier this week, but now others have come out in defence of the event as a great promotion for craft beer.

Brew Cult’s Steve Henderson said the event was more about promotion than actual sales and he was happy to wear a loss if it occurred.

“If I make a small loss, that’s fine,” he said.

“The most important part is putting my product in front of customers for the first time and giving them a good experience.

“Then, the next time they’re in a bottleshop they’ll say: ‘hey, that’s that beer we had at the beerfest, that was good’.”

Mr Henderson said he did not expect to make much from this year’s event but would hopefully break even.

“Granted, it’s not cheap to be there, with a liquor licence, a food safety licence, the bar, the beer itself, site fees – it all adds up,” he said.

Others, like Renn Blackman of True South, agreed it was not a cheap event for brewers to attend.

“All in all they (the organisers) are doing good things, but a bigger cut for brewers would be nice,” he said.

Jamie Cox of Kooinda Boutique Brewery said brewers who did not like the festival should stop signing up instead of complaining.

“To me it’s clearly the stand-out beer festival in Australia – that we participate in anyway,” he said.

“Most of the festivals run on a similar system, however I don’t think the amount of work and the professionalism and the way that the festival runs can be compared.”

Mr Cox said he was still tallying Kooinda’s sales, but expected to record about $9000 worth of drink sales from the day – which would leave about $3000 after costs.

He said he was aware of other brewers’ concerns about the split of profits but no one was forcing them to take part.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of the guys who had a moan about it after the festival,” he said.

“It’s kind of one of those things, you go into these festivals hoping to break even or make a bit of money. 

“You definitely don’t think it will be a big payday for your business.

“It’s mostly about promoting your product.”

Mr Cox said Kooinda had stopped attending other craft beer events that weren’t worthwhile for business, but planned to come back to the Ballarat festival next year.

In a letter to The Courier published today, the directors of the Ballarat Beer Festival said any myth the event was a “money-making machine” was “laughable”.

“The Ballarat Beer Festival is far from a river of gold for the organisers,” they said.

“Profit is not what drives us. We do this event for love and for the fierce pride we have in Ballarat, the region, and the industry.”

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