Festivus Brews: How the Beer Industry is Embracing this Non-Holiday

celebrating festivus

The holiday season is diverse with traditions from many religions and cultures. One somewhat new tradition, Festivus, isn’t really a holiday, at all. It’s gaining steam in the beer community, though. From special recipes to all-out parties, the beer industry adapted Festivus into their marketing plans in unique ways.

What is Festivus?

December 23rd marks the annual secular celebration, Festivus. It was created as a way to push back against all of the commercialism that other holidays bring. While not widely known until a 1997 Seinfeld episode brought it into the popular mainstream, Festivus’ simplicity and theme attracts many fans. Must-have’s for the “non-holiday” include an undecorated metal pole instead of a lavish tree and the “airing of grievances.”

The beer industry responds

Part of Festivus’ allure is how it’s presented as a way for everyone to get together and reject commercialism, no matter your background or religion. Beer found its way into the celebration quite easily. Beer fits in at any event, even one marked by a jovial pushing back at the norm. Sitting around drinking the perfect pale ale with friends sounds like perfection. It’s even given many brewers ideas for concocting recipes for the occasion. Several small-batch breweries offer themed drinks in celebration of the holiday. The brewery, Northern Brewer, sells a DIY Festivus Miracle Holiday Ale Extract Beer Recipe Kit, complete with yeast, fizz drops and canned wort (which is optional).

Festivus beers and ales come in bottles, cans, and on-tap. One of the breweries seeing success with their Festivus brew is Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio. Sam McNulty, one of the co-founders, reveals how they came up with the seasonal brew.

“When brewmaster Andy Tveekrem was perfecting the recipe, and we tried the beer for the first time, we knew at first sip that this was going to be a winning brew. But how to set it apart from all the other Christmas beers crowding the shelves and draft towers? My business partner, Mike Foran, is a massive Seinfeld fan and came up with the idea of naming it for the ‘rest of us.”

That’s how their Festivus Holiday Ale was born.

More than ale

This holiday can be more than creating the perfect brew. Market Garden Brewery takes the holiday further. They throw a big party on December 23rd, complete with the airing of grievances, feats of strengths, and a Festivus pole. This is an addition to their Festivus-themed beer recipe, which gained overwhelming popularity over the years.

“Each year, we’ve had to add brewing capacity just to keep up with holiday ale sales increases. Every year we brew more than we think we’ll sell, but every year we’ve run out of it too early,” says McNulty.

Tips for others considering a Festivus marketing plan

It’s tempting to latch onto the idea of Festivus as your next big holiday. But, it’s important that small businesses understand its true essence. It’s not really about purchasing anything at all. After Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the lead-up to Christmas sales, most consumers are tired from shopping.

However, Festivus offers a chance for consumers to get away from the noise, kick back, and celebrate all things simple. It’s a break in the chaos before Christmas and New Year’s. For many, it’s a little silly, too. Festivus is for Seinfeld fans, those who don’t celebrate any traditional holidays, or anyone who just needs to complain and enjoy a new kind of ale. It gives people the space to air their grievances and have fun while doing so. In a world where not everything is always merry and bright, Festivus brings that joy for us when we need it most.


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