With the Vail Cascade Resort sale and rebranding announcement at the end of 2015, the future of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival was in doubt. Nearing the end of 2016, the 16-year-old event has restructured, found a new home, redesigned its website and communication strategy and is looking ahead.
“The fundamental mission of the Big Beers Festival is education,” said Bill Lodge, founder of the event. “We want people to learn about what is out there and to try new things. We also want to give back to our community and support the brewers who are living their dream.”
In 2015, that mission was at risk of ending, with no home and a business structure susceptible to legislative change. The first step seemed clear: Find out if the attendees and participants of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival would support change. If not, the event would celebrate 16 years of amazing people and events and close down. If supported, many changes would be necessary in order to move forward.
Survey responses following the 2016 Big Beers Festival weekend were overwhelmingly unanimous: “Move it, change it, but please don’t end it” was the consensus. So the work began. Where would be the new home? How should the event be positioned to be the most resilient going forward?
“Bill and I agreed that the event would have the best chance of moving forward successfully into the future if we created a nonprofit organization that would be led by a board of directors,” said Laura Lodge, event coordinator.
In this manner, the mission of the founders would continue beyond their immediate involvement, in addition to providing the support of others knowledgeable in the industry. The nonprofit status has the additional advantage of being a more secure business model to continue the event as it was originally conceived.
Thus the Big Beers Educational Foundation was created, a Colorado 501(c)(6), with the mission statement: “To provide education for and about the brewing industry.” As a nonprofit, the organization no longer needs to partner with a nonprofit to hold the event, as Big Beers had with the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for 16 years. The change also provides the option to create other events or directions within the scope of the mission statement.
The new location was finalized in the spring, and the work of re-creating the Big Beers festival in Breckenridge began.
“Many different locations were considered, with proximity to (Denver International Airport), event space and access to the mountain being primary issues,” Laura Lodge said. “We really did some soul searching to define what the Big Beers experience really includes.”
Once defined, the town of Breckenridge and Beaver Run Resort went the extra mile to show they could partner for years ahead. Creating a permanent foundation and reintroducing the event on a more professional level are happening, as well.
“The need for education about and within the beer industry, especially when combined with the ability to offer support to our community, are more important than just ‘here and now,’” Laura Lodge said. “We want to continue and expand upon this mission in a way that will continue beyond us for years to come.”
For more information about the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, visit bigbeersfestival.com or contact Lodge at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO …
What: Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival.
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, through Saturday, Jan. 7.
Where: Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, 620 Village Road, Breckenridge.
Cost: Reserved seminar seating is $15, commercial tasting tickets are $75 and culinary pairing events are $75 to $125; VIP packages are also available.