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Why the Kawartha Craft Beer Festival went Virtual in 2020

Kim Cranfield is constantly creating and adapting.

The founder and creator of the Kawartha Craft Beer Festival (and former Marketing Director of the largest craft brewery in Peterborough & the Kawarthas), she established the festival in 2015, growing it from a one-day event attended by 1,500 people to a two-day celebration drawing 5,000 attendees.

But due to COVID-19, Kim had to get creative with this year’s version of the KCBF: Would they cancel it? Would they wait it out and see if they could host it as usual? Or would they try something new and innovative?

Kim and KCBF’s creative pivot to bring the festival to people’s homes on June 19 -20 was a smashing success.

Below is a Q&A with Kim Cranfield, Owner of South Bay Marketing and Events:

PKED: How has the response been to the virtual event this year?

Kim: We’ve had a great response to the virtual festival this year and ended up around 230 beer orders. People were really excited for a version of the event to take place and were thrilled that they could enjoy it in a smaller way at home this year.

We found people were really excited to experience the new beer styles they haven’t been able to try before and really enjoyed the simplicity of ordering all from one location.

PKED: Was it difficult to make the call to go virtual? When did that planning take place and how long did it take to launch a virtual beer festival?

Kim: It was a difficult decision to cancel the event originally, but as soon as it was canceled our thinking shifted to what we could do on the beer fest weekend that would celebrate what would have been the Festival. It grew from a small idea into what it became over a matter of weeks and with a few weeks of planning, it all came together. We have amazing vendors that we work very closely with, so they were fantastic in coming on board quickly to help out in any way they could.


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PKED: Tell us about the beer packages people can/could order and what has been the most popular packages?

Kim: We have a few different options in order to showcase all the beer available from our vendor breweries. In order to do that, we offered:

  • 5 packs of ciders/coolers
  • 8 pack of beer
  • 15 pack of beer
  • 30 pack of beer
  • 45 pack of beer
  • 60 pack of beer

We found our most popular was the 15 pack, with people wanting to try something from each brewery.

·PKED: Any advantages, unique opportunities that have come from pivoting to virtual?

Kim: Without the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) rule changes allowing restaurants to sell take-home beer, this would not have been possible. That was the change that allowed us to turn the festival virtual this year and ensure the safety of our guests.

The opportunities that came from going virtual was letting people taste all the different beers they were interested in as they could do so safely at home and try them over a long period of time.

PKED: What breweries participated this year?

Kim: We had the following breweries this year: Bancroft Brewing Company, Bobaygeon Brewing Company, Boshkung Brewing Company, Brock Street Brewing, Chronicle Brewing Company, Fenelon Falls Brewing, Highlander Brewing Company, Old Dog Brewing, Perth Brewing Company, Publican House Brewery, The Second Wedge Brewing Company, Signal Brewing, Smithavens Brewing Company, Waterloo Brewing and William Street Brewing Company.

We also had Founders, Nova Scotia Spirits Company and Shiny Apple Cider participating this year.

We were able to get a few new brews from the participants that had not previously been available, we also had many options that aren’t available in Beer Stores or LCBOs, which our customers were really excited about.

PKED: What is the state of the craft beer industry in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?

Kim: Many breweries are re-working plans right now, as are many businesses during these unprecedented times. I’m not sure of many new breweries that will be opening, but I think there will be a lot more collaboration, breweries working together to develop new beer styles, cross-sell and reach new markets to expand sales.

PKED: Any other comments or upcoming events?

Kim: We are so thankful for the support of the community for supporting the festival this year and we can’t wait to see everyone in 2021. We also wanted to thank our bands this year, Buck Twenty and Practically Hip who gave great performances on beer fest weekend.

The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival will be presenting the Best of Canada series where consumers will have the opportunity to try the best beers across Canada in a similar way to our June beer festival. Keep an eye out for more details on the August event and down the road for a fall and winter version of the series.  

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