Behind the Brews: Yolo Brewfest

Amid the pours and pints, behind the brews and bites, quietly working to keep the beer and fun flowing will be a group of workers responsible for organizing and running the Luna Vista Rotary’s Yolo Brewfest. You might think putting an event that’s all about beer would be a non-stop party… and you’d be right… at least about the non-stop part.

“We don’t really get to enjoy that much, we enjoy the aspects of running the events, but it’s non-stop,” says Scott Scoville. “Event management can be kind of stressful, and there’s always something that goes wrong.”

Scoville is a co-founder of Beers in Sac and along with his wife Rebekah, who is also the company’s marketing manager, are in charge of organizing this celebration of craft beer. Scott and co-founder Ted Rozalski started Beers in Sac as a mobile app aimed at marketing the Sacramento region’s emerging craft beer scene. The company has since evolved to include event planning.

“We sort of got our feet wet and we realized that this is something that Sacramento needs and it’s something that we’re interested in doing,” says Scott. “The learning curve was steep. We had not worked in the industry before; we didn’t even know to tap a keg.”

Yolo Brewfest
Luna Vista Rotary and Beers in Sac are teaming up for the Yolo Brewfest

While Beers in Sac was learning how to tap a keg, the Luna Vista Rotary Club was realizing its signature fundraising event had potential to grow. “We were probably as big as we could possibly be,” says Club President Duane Ewing. “We’d done a very good job bringing people in from Woodland and Davis, but we weren’t real successful in Sacramento and other areas.”

“The Rotary reached out to use about a month before (last year’s) event took place. We couldn’t do much for them at that point,” says Rebekah. It may have been too late for last year, but a perfect time to start planning for this year. “I went to the event last year and had my notes out.”

And so the planning and reconfiguring of the Yolo Brewfest began.

THE CHANGES

“We’re sort of revamping the whole thing,” Rebekah says. “We like to think of this as a new and improved event this year. “

“We went through a redesign of the website; we had a new logo design. We changed the name from Yolo Micro Brewfest to just Yolo Brewfest,” adds Scott. Another big change was moving the event from the Yolo Fairgrounds to downtown Woodland. What remain are the celebration of beer, and the showcasing of Yolo County’s farm-to-fork offerings.

Downtown Woodland, CA the home of this year's Yolo Brewfest
Downtown Woodland, CA the home of this year’s Yolo Brewfest

With a new look and new location in place Beers in Sac need one more thing—beer. “Of all the events we’ve done this was the biggest challenge, to get breweries to commit to this,” says Scott.

THE CHALLENGE

Why so challenging?

First, summer is beer festival season. Breweries are receiving dozens of festival invitations every week. With a limited amount of beer and staff they have to pick and choose which events they attend.

Second, this particular event had seen a decline in attendance over the years which meant convincing the brewery owners that taking part would be worth their time.

One selling point, pre-sale tickets are already outpacing previous years. Beers in Sac is also offering some extra incentive. It will pick up and deliver beer, will help set up and tear down booths. It offers trained volunteers to pour for the breweries and vendors that need the extra help and has even started to clean jockey box lines after the event is over.

“The beer industry is built off of trust and relationships… We feel like they (the breweries and vendors) are providing something for us and we need to go above and beyond to make it worth their while.”

This effort appears to be working. Beers in Sac already has more than two dozen breweries committed for this year’s Yolo Brewfest. Those include regional favorites like Yolo Brew, Sactown Union, Fountainhead and Sudwerks. It also includes several big names in California craft beer like Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada.

LOGISTICS AND MARKETING

With logistics like where each brewery and vendor will be stationed and securing all the proper Alcohol Beverage Control permits figured out, what remains is making sure the guests show up. “This is where we really hit the ground running on the marketing side to let people know about the event,” says Scott.

And as Rebekah points, “In this last generation marketing has changed a lot and in particular the craft beer scene and those we want to market to for this event.” That’s why you’ll now find the Yolo Brewfest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A few days prior to the Brewfest, the Beers in Sac team will start picking up beer and setting the stage for the event. As for the day of something will come up; it always does.  But the Scovilles say they have the right people in place to handle just about anything.

Once the last beers are poured and the final sips are taken the Beers in Sac team will take a moment to reflect. The Yolo Brewfest is one of the last of the season, which means the focus will soon shift to next year.

LOOKING AHEAD

“We walk away from an event that appears successful to the public and we’re breaking it down; we could have done this differently, we can improve this area,” Scott says. “I feel like that’s something we’re always looking to try to do to create a better event-goer experience and also a better vendor and brewery experience.”

“It’s not always easy, but it’s coming together quite nicely,” Ewing says.  “This year is going to be quite special, and I can only imagine it improving over the next few years.”

The Yolo Brewfest takes place September 3rd in downtown Woodland. Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward helping fund the SquareOne project aimed at creating a technology-based mentor-led learning environment at the Woodland Library. You can read more about SquareOne and find ticket information by visiting yolobrewfest.com.

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