Interview with the SF Brewers Guild

Brian-Stechschulte-PortraitExecutive Director Brian Stechschulte sits down with Eventbrite to talk brews, beer fests, and ticketing.

The San Francisco Brewers Guild was formed in 2004 to restore and preserve San Francisco’s brewing heritage–and to unite those who make local beer with those who love it. Using Eventbrite to organize and manage big events like SF Beer Week and Brews on the Bay, the guild has doubled the size of its events over the past three years. Eventbrite’s Festival Marketing Specialist, Sarah Hoffman, sat down with Executive Director of the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, Brian Stechschulte, to learn how they put on–and pull off–such great events, and how they’ve grown so quickly in such a short time.

Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’m excited to talk to you about SF Brewers Guild and your local events.

Yeah, me too. It’s been a really great year for our events and for craft beer, so I’m happy to chat.

Awesome, so let’s jump right in. As Executive Director the SF Brewers Guild, what are your main responsibilities?

So my primary responsibility is to promote the San Francisco Brewers Guild and our members, and a big part of how I do this is through events. Our major events are SF Beer Week, and Brews on the Bay, which bring in 1,500 and 3,000 people. These two events not only fund all of our promotional material like maps and our website and design work, but also pay for what I do, which is get out and spread the word about our breweries, and work with a lot of the nonprofit companies in the area that want to serve local beer.

Can you tell me a little more about these two events?

Brews on the Bay is a celebration of the SF Brewers Guild that features all of our members in one single event. It takes place on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, which is a Word War II era merchant marine ship that now serves as a floating museum. The event is a fundraiser for the ship and the SF Brewers Guild. The 360 degree views from the deck of the ship, from the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown San Francisco are spectacular. The breweries bring out some very special beers in addition to their flagships.

SF Beer Week is pretty huge in terms of the number of breweries that participate, and has become one of the premiere beer festivals in Northern California. When we started it in 2009, it didn’t have the kick-off party, but in 2010 the guild put on the Opening Gala, because they wanted a public-facing event that would set the tone for the entire week. That event was about 1500 people at first. But as the years went on, and the event grew, it required a bigger space. And with the bigger space it required more ticket sales and a better strategy for getting people in the gates quickly and processing them. And that’s where Eventbrite comes in.

How did you decide to go with Eventbrite?

Well, I know some of the board members liked that you’re a local company. But more importantly, you guys do what you do well–which is ultimately what it comes down to. As our events kept growing, there was a lot of pressure to keep it going–keep it going right–and running properly.

So how do you ‘keep it going right?’ What does it take to throw a great event?

Typically a great beer festival means having enough ice, bathrooms, beer, and making sure everyone gets in quickly. If you do those four things properly then you’re going to have a great event–or you’ll hear about it on social media. But ticketing is actually the most stressful thing about running a beer festival. Eventbrite really dials down the stress of ticketing for us. They’re great at what they do.

Well that’s always nice to hear.

Well, you know, I’ve heard horror stories of beer festival organizers who’ve used ticketing platforms where their servers just can’t handle it, or they have bottlenecks with hundreds of complaints and it’s a huge disaster.  We’ve never had that issue with Eventbrite. On the tech side of things, things just work really well. With our last onsale, in the first 15 minutes I saw how quickly the tickets were going, and they were going very rapidly without any issues.

That’s fantastic. Have you gotten any feedback on the registration experience on the guest side?

No. But I look at no feedback as good feedback. We know registration is going to go smoothly, because of the technology you guys offer, along with the support and advice. The online side has worked flawlessly.

And how about the offline element? How would you rate your check-in process?

Well, we have the challenge of scanning tickets, checking IDs, and wristbanding, and the Eventbrite team is really in tune with that. We’ve worked together for a few years now and have everything dialed in. Eventbrite is always there to give us advice about the number of scanners and lines we’ll need to keep the flow of people going. We’re always trying to figure out ways to improve that process and it’s worked really well.

Have you taken advantage of Eventbrite’s reporting at all?

Yes, I really like Eventbrite’s data. This year, we looked at the regional statistics of our audience and saw that we had people from 26 different states and two countries attend beer week. We shared that out, which supported the national attention SF Beer Week has gotten. I think it’s definitely helped us reinforce our brand, popularity, and will help bring people back for next year.

Speaking of sharing, have you seen high engagement from beer week participants with Eventbrite’s social media integration?

I know it’s led to sales. 10% more in fact, which I’m happy to have.

Over the past three years of working together on events, would you say Eventbrite has grown with you?

Yes. You guys are continually evolving your technology, support, and the website–and that’s great. I can easily publish or re-publish a page, have designers change the headers, and we’re good to go. Your account and Customer Support team is super attentive, and responds to email really promptly. Just knowing that I have someone there who is knowledgeable about events and about our business is huge. Based on how seamlessly it’s all gone in the past, I’m confident in Eventbrite’s abilities to handle our current and future needs.

We love that! Alright, and now for the $60,000 question: Do you think you would you recommend Eventbrite to other Guild directors?

Definitely–and I have. When people have trouble with their registration or entry, I tell them to look at Eventbrite. The bells and whistles you guys offer are great, but at the end of the day it’s key to have a stable site, seamless ticket sales, and ticket scanners that just work. Everything has got to work, and that’s what Eventbrite does best.

Ok, one more just for fun (and for me)! What’s a great local brew to enjoy on one of those rare, sunny San Francisco afternoons?

I don’t have a single go-to beer for a sunny day in San Francisco, but my choices at the moment are Magnolia’s Kalifornia Kolsch, Speakeasy’s Metropolis Lager, and Bitter American by 21st Amendment Brewery.