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—
For the more ambitious beer seeker, September’s European Beer Festival—
For tracking the latest in wine, Master of Wine and Master Sommelier Doug Frost recommends the fast-approaching Telluride Wine Festival—
Finally, for more spirited research, WhiskyFest San Francisco in October and WhiskyFest New York in November—information for both available at
To gauge what’s happening on the ground floor in innovative distilling, consider San Francisco’s Independent Spirits Fest—