All spirits consumers know exactly why they like certain brands over others. Most go for taste first, but what else draws them? Some are interested in distilling processes, ingredients, sustainability, history, and the like. Others respond to brand messaging, and what better way to engage people first-hand—especially those who might be unfamiliar to the product—than by creating an unforgettable, interactive experience?
Music festivals have the ideal atmosphere to entertain people seeking something new, interesting, and fun. And they run the gamut of styles and genres. Two in Northern California have taken great strides to embrace the world of wine, beer, cider, and spirits from their inception: BottleRock Napa, which takes place annually on Memorial Day weekend, and Outside Lands, which transforms San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park into a wonderland for the senses each August. This year, OSL is happening August 10 to 12.
BottleRock Napa has three stages that are exclusively sponsored by alcohol beverage producers: JaM Cellars, Miner Family, and Lagunitas Brewing Company. Outside Lands has entire sections of its grounds dedicated to wine and beer (and, this year, cannabis), including Wine Lands (40+ wineries) and Beer Lands (30 breweries), each curated for festivalgoers to explore whatever their hearts desire.
Spirits producers, specifically Hendrick’s Gin and Reyka Vodka, have been getting into the game more recently, and have upped their offerings each year. “We believe being present at events and festivals where our audience is provides a great way to connect and showcase the unique personality and quality of Reyka Vodka,” says Sonia Lessuck, brand manager. “We always do something a little different to engage our audience and provide a fun experience for them.
“Reyka is made of Iceland, and the Icelandic people and culture are characterized as being creative, artistic, and charmingly offbeat,” she continues. “This is our tribe; resourceful explorers who appreciate high-quality, craft products and new, interesting experiences.”
“Each festival and, in fact, each artist, brings in a different consumer,” says Sean Heal, region marketing manager, West, William Grand & Sons. “We really started focusing on larger-scale activations about six years ago, using BottleRock as the catalyst to more involvement nationwide. We now partner with Outside Lands, Kaaboo, ACL, Panorama, Lollapalooza, Arroyo Seco, Pilgramage, and others. Not only have our brands seen tremendous growth since then, but the number of festivals that have popped up in the last five years has been incredible,” he adds. “We aren’t targeting a specific person, but are more focused on the experience that each festivalgoer has with our brand.”
For example, at BottleRock, Reyka offered a “Reyka Ice Haus” that served adult-style snow cones, including an Icelandic Mule for a spin on tradition. Hendrick’s had a three-story “Most Utterly Inefficient Cocktail Bar,” featuring jugglers, musicians, and other whimsical performers perched among its various landings, as bartenders on the ground level served up four specialty cocktails.
At Outside Lands this year, Hendrick’s will bring back its “Grand Garnisher,” a fully functional, cucumber garnishing machine complete with a Penny Farthing-powered motor. “It slices cucumbers, our most cherished cocktail garnish, in the most unusual way,” says Heal. Inspired by Rube Goldberg machines, it’s a deliberately complex contraption with a series of devices that are operated in linked progression—an ideal means to bring the brand’s apothecary-esque, surrealistic vibe to life.
“My favorite thing about these festivals is the diversity of music and the energy that’s created when the crowd is in tune with a specific artist,” says Heal. “And the level that both the food vendors and cocktail experiences have risen to is incredible.”
“Our goal is to share Reyka Vodka and its story with our tribe, and to communicate the charmingly offbeat culture and natural wonder of our island nation,” says Lessuck. “We’re looking forward to spreading our love of Iceland and quality cocktails with fun and unique experience as these festivals and more for years to come.”