If you had your eyes peeled at Beavertown Extravaganza 2017 you may have spotted a few flyers about Billies’ Craft Beer Festival in Antwerp this December. I chatted to the organisers to find out more.
Let’s start with the big one: why did you decide to host a beer festival in Antwerp?
About 4 years ago we started our craft beer bar ‘Billie’s Bier Kafétaria’ in Antwerp. It has always been our idea to bring the better craft beers to the people and introduce them to a broad audience.
With our bar we are always looking for what is still missing. For example, we were the first in Antwerp who organised tap take over/meet the brewer events and we were also the first in organising bus trips to beer festivals in Belgium and abroad.
From the beginning it has been our dream to organise a big craft beer festival with national and international craft breweries. In Antwerp no one else was organising a similar event which left a vacuum for trying something new. We heard a lot of our customers at the bar complain about the fact that if they wanted to go to a festival with their favourite craft breweries, they had to go to several different ones which resulted in travelling a lot, which we all know costs a lot of money. So why not bring them all together in one event?
With so many beer festivals out there, why is this one so popular amongst brewers?
We noticed a great response with the brewers, which is quite an honour. I think the fact that it takes place in Belgium, for many brewers still the most important country when it comes to beer, is an important advantage. Next to that, we were able to meet a lot of brewers throughout the years and with many this resulted in a certain form of likewise respect and friendship.
What makes a good beer festival?
In our opinion a good beer festival has a lot of diversity and only the very best the craft beer scene has to offer. It has to be an environment that invites people to come together and enjoy and discover the better craft beers. Secondly, the atmosphere is also a very important factor to us. We’re concerned with creating a safe, enjoyable event that people will want to come back to. Therefore one of our priorities is to treat beer with respect. We want to attract people that are interested in the art of it, in the process, in the craft. Slightly higher ticket prices help keep away a crowd that is just looking to get drunk.
Not just the ticketing is an all-in formula, the entire festival should be an all-in event: having high quality food, music, and entertainment options is utterly important to us.
What makes your beer festival stand out amongst others?
I guess our brewers line up. We have 50 of the very best craft breweries from all over the world. We work with an all-in formula, which is unseen in Belgium and the Netherlands. People can enjoy about 200 different beers a day, and the beers on Saturday are completely different from the ones on Sunday (= 400 beers spread over the full weekend). Our visitors know that every beer that has been announced will be put on tap.
We think a lot about the comfort of our visitors. An all-in formula will do away with waiting lines at the token stand. Once the visitor has entered the festival grounds he can walk freely from one brewer to another and refill his tasting glass as easy as it gets. In short: at BCBF it’s all about the experience and the comfort of the visitor. that’s why our slogan is: ‘’No Crap, Just Craft.
How will this year’s event differ from in year’s past?
This is our first edition so it’s quite hard to answer this question. However, we look forward to having other editions in the future, where we will keep trying to innovate, keeping in mind the expectations of our visitors.
How many breweries will be in attendance this year?
50 breweries from all over the globe.
What does Billies Craft Beer Fest have to offer to a guest that’s new to craft beer?
For only €63 they can discover the very best craft beers in all different styles for 7 hours long. Our all-in formula means there is nothing holding you back to try something new. A lot of festivals use a token system, which we have nothing against. However, for a lot of people it means that they are less likely to have a beer from a brewer they don’t know. This might be an interesting way of getting people who are new to craft beer to experience it full hand.
Is the festival family friendly?
Yes and no. Of course to us everybody is welcome, but we know that with our all-in formula €63 is a lot of money if you’re not a beer drinker. Next to that, it remains an event about alcoholic beverages, so we wouldn’t exactly call it a child-friendly environment.
Walk us through the different pieces of the festival — what can guests expect?
All-in ticket for €63, or a combi ticket for €120 (Saturday and Sunday) for which they can unlimitedly enjoy about 200 different craft beers each day.
The Beer Tents/Areas:
A lot of work has gone into the conceptual design of the festival. Billie, a French Bulldog who resides (and in a way ‘owns’) Billie’s Bier Kafétaria, is our mascot, so you’ll see his happy face returning in the artwork and decoration a lot.
There will be a DJ playing atmospheric music.
50 national and international breweries from all over Europe, New Zealand and the US. (Voodoo, Cascade, Superstition, Founders, Yeastie Boys, Beavertown, Magic Rock, La Pirata, Browar Artezan, De La Senne, Brussels Beer Project, Fuerst Wiacek and many more).
There will be two tattoo artists present at the festival. Anyone interested can (between certain hours) immortalize a Billie on his or her body! Or if you don’t like Frenchies, you’re allowed to get something else as well…
There will be 4 food trucks present at the festival grounds (Asian cuisine, street food, pasta and falafel).
What are some tips that you’d give to guests of the festival?
Just lay back, relax and enjoy. As we have some very exclusive kegs we would suggest to be there from the start.
What takeaways did you have after visiting the Beavertown Extravaganza this year that you hope to implement into your festival?
The good vibe and atmosphere. Kudos to the organisation, this festival was very well organised!
What are some tips that you’d give to guests travelling from abroad to the festival?
Definitely that they try our 4 Antwerp Craft Breweries (‘Bieren Cabardouche’, ‘Inglorious Brew Stars’, ‘de Vleesmeesters’ and ‘de Keukenbrouwers’).
Our venue is easiest to reach by public transport, although we do have a big parking lot.
Get your tickets here: https://www.billiescraftbeerfest.be