Beer, Wine & Spirits: Bouncing around to tantalizing tasting conferences can help balloon your bar sales

Beer, Wine & Spirits: Bouncing around to tantalizing tasting conferences can help balloon your bar sales

Time was that stocking a wine cellar, beer list or back bar was as simple as hanging out your shingle and waiting for the sales reps to arrive. Sometimes it still is. But in today’s competitive environment, more often the victor in the libations game is the licensee willing to go the extra mile to find that one exceptional if obscure ale, exclusive and elusive single malt, or small-production and even-smaller-market Cabernet.

And finding those treasures can sometimes mean getting proactive in your search techniques.

How fortunate, then, that the field of beer, wine and spirits festivals is a fast-growing one, with a new event seemingly appearing every day. Want to carry more local beers? Pencil a regional brewfest into your day planner.

Getting excited about small-batch bourbons? Keep your eyes peeled for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. On the lookout for up-and-coming wines from a specific region? Drop a line to the country’s or district’s trade organization so that you’ll hear first about their next tasting tour.

It really is that simple, and since it’s a fair bet that the majority of your competition is not attending the same events, a day or two spent prowling the booths at a fine-drinks fest can easily put you in a position to be the first to stock the latest, hottest and most talked-about brands. The key, of course, is making sure that you go to the right festivals and tastings.

Where beer is concerned, two festivals, one in the heart of summer and the other in autumn, should be considered pivotal for any beverage director seeking to capitalize on the burgeoning premium domestic-beer market. The Oregon Brewers Festival— —takes place the last full weekend of July and features the cream of the crop of western American craft brewers, while the granddaddy of all domestic-beer events, the Great American Beer Festival— —in early October, regularly features in excess of 1,500 beers from breweries large and small.

For the more ambitious beer seeker, September’s European Beer Festival— —in Denmark will present more than 2,000 brews from some 450 breweries across the continent. Other fests and tastings, from across town to around the world, may be found at

For tracking the latest in wine, Master of Wine and Master Sommelier Doug Frost recommends the fast-approaching Telluride Wine Festival— —which he describes as a less-crazed version of the just-passed Aspen Food & Wine Classic— . For Pinot [3] Noir fans, Doug suggests exploring the merits of “swilling Pinot Noir for four days” at the International Pinot Noir Celebration— —in McMinnville, Ore., near the end of July. Other wine events may be researched at .

Finally, for more spirited research, WhiskyFest San Francisco in October and WhiskyFest New York in November—information for both available at www.maltad —present the class of the world of whisky in one convenient locale, while the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September— —brings out the best in bourbon.

To gauge what’s happening on the ground floor in innovative distilling, consider San Francisco’s Independent Spirits Fest— —this fall, and for more cocktailing ideas than you can shake a swizzle stick at, don’t miss Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in mid-July— .