Capital Craft and the 10 Standards it set for Future Beer Festivals
Pretoria is a Rather Whack Place
Pretoria is a rather whack place; it’s the capital of a nation that couldn’t quite cut it as the capital of a province, its name is mired in controversy so they simply gave it an additional one and nobody really knows how that works and if you’ve ever been to the Union Building gardens, you’ll find that Wi-Fi is emitted from the trees. Obviously Pretoria must go home, it’s drunk.
A drunken place can be a lot of fun though. The melting pot of vastly different cultures, tastes and music provided the perfect arena for the Capital Craft Festival. While Pretoria may be dealing with an identity crisis, the okes and okettes at Capital Craft Beer Academy certainly are not. We were all brought together by a single commonality, the love of infatuating vast ranges of beer.
Pretoria must go home, it’s drunk
With 3 stages, a rehydration fountain, and more beer than one could wish for, obviously Capital Craft is a must in any Gautenger’s Oppi’16 training. I’m proud to announce that I made it through this training session amid the 30 breweries, traditional drunken voice notes and pestering the police for selfies but there was so much more to it than what met the eye.
On arrival, one could tell that this wasn’t your daddy discovering those terrible 5 litre kegs in the bottle store and struggling for an excuse to use the back yard. This was a festival of the highest standard; there were no significant queues to get in, the token stand was highly staffed and the lavatories, at least for the men, required no waiting. Points are to be awarded to Capital Craft for their exceptional professionalism.
You also know it’s a seriously well organised event when you spot that one cop. If you’ve been around the festival scene, you’ll know the one; male, late-forties, incredibly large and looks ready to give anybody a beating if they step out of line. He’s either at every festival or SAPS have begun mass producing. Either way, when you see him, you know you’re in a safe space…so safe that they began confronting the hubbly smokers and telling them to remove their shishas…presumably because it’s an easy way to hide and consume illicit goods.
I would have been upset by that but I’ve just turned 27 and the idea of taking something that requires more than 5 minutes to set up is becoming increasingly unappealing in my developing laziness. Still the limitation of freedom at festivals has always been a thing; limiting bringing in of alcohol to maximise sales for your vendors or limiting use of glass bottles for safety. It’s no a stretch to limit potential drug use catalysts in an event which seemed otherwise somewhat family friendly, save for some utterances of Deep Fried Man.
Few people have ever put the question forward, “What do I want out of beer festival?” and are often happy to take whatever they get because the concept is so new that no standards have really been set. Consider that changed following this fest. Having attended Capital Craft, I’m comfortable in using it as my yardstick to set criteria for what a good festival is:
The 10 Standards or “The Richard Chemaly Beerfest Yardstick”:
Nobody likes to be kept waiting for anything, be it queues for beer, food, lavatories or tokens. Of course you can’t do much about the speed at which vendors serve their food/drinks but when last have you ever been to a festival and seen a long line of people queuing for pizza while the burger stand next door was desperate for support? You haven’t! There’s a reason for this. People prioritise spending their time more efficiently over getting the food they primarily want and seem to be happy to go for a second or third choice if it means less waiting time. The solution to keeping your queues short is to ensure that there are many vendors at your fest. From pulled pork to rolled up pizza, there were queues at Capital Craft but none were excruciatingly long and the variety was on point.
You cannot expect people to come out and have a good time if you’re only going to offer them limited products. I’ve been to festivals where if the one craft lager is terrible, your choice becomes a tossup between SAB and Brandhouse…not a lekker situation. Capital Craft had at least 30 breweries each with an average of 4 or so different products. Of course you’re going to be happy with that selection because it empowers you to make a selection. Being forced to choose because of a lack of choice is far less preferable than being forced to choose because there are so many options that you want to get one quick in order to sample the next sooner.
Included in the variety criteria but also one of its own. Nothing puts a crowd off like something terrible they’re forced to listen to. Inevitably, with different people, tastes differ. You’re always going to have people not enjoying an act that’s on offer so what do you do with them? Either you alienate them and tell them to just deal with it or you have various and simultaneous acts. With three stages on the day, if I wasn’t happy to listen to the folk band on the forest stage, I could go for some ska at the Hillbilly stage. Multiple stages are the answer to pleasing all the people all the time. Sometimes some are never pleased, but in those outlying cases their friends should just slap the narcissism out of them.
4: Protection from that guy:
I was going to label this security but security is something mothers left at home to worry about more than actual festival goers. What festival goers want, especially where liquor is involved is not to be bugged by that guy. You know that guy and you’ve probably been that guy before. Everybody has. That guy is the guy who gets really drunk and insists on discussing politics, religion or their own life ad nauseum. That guy is the friend you brought along but now regret introducing to your other friends. That guy is the idiot who thinks they’re hilarious and begin undressing. A festival needs enforcers to prevent you from being that guy and to kick that guy out when they emerge.
Disclaimer: “that guy” should be read in a gender neutral manner.
Side note: Don’t be that guy.
5: A Neutral Atmosphere:
Some functions market themselves as the event to get trashed at, drink all the beer and get you in a state that even if you Ubered home, you’d still be arrested for drunken driving. That’s not cool. It’s also not a festival organiser’s place to tell patrons what they should do. Festivals often miss the point that their function is to create the platform and let the people enjoy it in whatever way they want. Of course they have the power to set the tone but the tone should be along the lines of “Come to our festival. There’s all this cool stuff here for you to do whatever with” and not “Come to our festival where you will do …”. This nuance is often lost on egotistic organisers who make more work for themselves than what is necessary or helpful. Fortunately this was not the case with Capital Craft and I was made to feel comfortable regardless of which bands I chose to watch, beers I chose to drink and amount I chose to consume.
An obvious issue. South Africans are not famed for their deep desires to seek out bins before disposing of their garbage. While it is an ethical question whether organisers should cave to our terrible ways, the answer is invariably yes. One can mitigate the amount of litter but placing many bins around but it’s not going to do the trick entirely. You need okes to be around cleaning up during the festival. People who toss their garbage on the floor often advocate that they are creating jobs and as much as you may want to pick up a rock to justify the existence police and prosecutors, violence is never the answer. Rather create the jobs and have a clean festival than make a statement and have your festival look like trash. Have you ever been to a festival and seen how it looks right after the last band has played? You can have yours looking like that at the end, sure, but you certainly don’t want it looking that way during. Because Capital Craft undertook to keep things clean throughout, little obscured the green grass save for the odd bits.
In the South of Africa, people who can afford not to use public transport don’t love public transport. You need to be able to give them a place where they can put their rides. Kudus to Capital Craft for doing all the necessary to encourage public transport such as a party bus from Jo’burg and drop and go facilities for those who digg the Uber thing but they still understood that South African festival goers like the freedom of having their own cars on them. Parking is usually a joke when you go to a stadium, park in the street and “have to” pay a dude a hundred bucks up front to “watch your car” (If you’re lucky sometimes you would get another oke coming to you when the game is over telling you he looked after your car and you owe him an additional hundred bucks…best way to compound the frustration of your team losing). I always dread the parking at festivals which made the upfront twenty I paid to park in an official, cornered off section just outside the venue one of the most pleasurable experiences of the day.
Wolfpack in Parkhurst has the best marketing strategy. They serve your drinks on high quality branded coasters that you’re obviously going to steal and put in your house. When your choms come over to watch a game, once it’s over and the supplies run out, you’re going to see that coaster under your empty glass and likely suggest a trip to Wolfpack. Giving out a strong reusable quality branded glasses at a beer festival is a similar idea of genius. It minimises litter, decreases dependence on plastics and is just so much cooler to drink beer from a glass mug. When I adult hard enough to buy a house one day, I’m going to want every glass from each year of each fest on display in my bar. Branding of your event is essential especially if you’re going to repeat it year on year. Capital Craft Festival obviously has the added benefit/obligation of the association with the restaurant of the same name so the branding and name are strong.
9: Social Media:
I love me some social media. There is no better platform for a person to tell the world how much better their life is compared to everybody else. Successful social media agencies tap into that and make you regret every decision you’ve ever made in your life that’s lead you not to be at the event. FOMO is a powerful agent acting against the millennial generation and if you can exploit that, you’ve won. If your social media game is so strong that it empowers the people who are at the event to show off that being at your event makes them better than their friends who are not, you’ve got yourself Harvey Specter’s dream idea of a win-win situation. The only losers are those who don’t find themselves at your festival. I witnessed a dream team of social media agents with earpieces looking like they were working for the FBI but really they were just making sure the people at home knew that they were going to spend the next few hours in deep regret and contemplation.
10: Encourage Innovation:
While the festival clearly revolved around beer, the vendors were free to do amazing things. I tasted a great kegged G&T and watched bands performing sub-genres I couldn’t define. Generally I thought that this might take away from the notion of a beer festival but such innovation compliments it. While you want to maintain an identity with your festival, you also want to keep aspects of that identity fresh and exciting. Moreover, in the craft industry, you don’t want to stifle the art. If you’re going to limit your festival, you’re going to limit peoples’ potential to enjoy it.
I had me a time at Capital Craft Beer Festival followed by a delightful afterparty at the restaurant. Congratulations to Capital Craft for providing the platform for me to enjoy myself and setting up the checkboxes for what makes a good fest while simultaneously checking all of them…in Pretoria of all places.
Also published on Medium.