In response to the ongoing conversation regarding the change to pricing and format of this year’s Witchstock:
1. “All-Inclusive format”: The format of this year’s festival is “all-inclusive”, which means no tokens are required to sample a beer. This is by no means a new format for a beer festival, or wine and spirits for that matter. In fact, almost every beer festival we have been invited to outside of Ontario in the past two years has followed this open format, and in every case it has noticeably improved the flow, wait lines, and overall enjoyment of the event. Within this format there are no restrictions on the beer you choose to drink -- if you would like to hang out at the Cantillon booth for the entire time (which you could also do with a pocket full of tokens), you’re free to do so.
2. Drinking responsibly: Every booth is staffed with Smart Serve certified servers to ensure people are drinking responsibly. Just because a token isn’t required to sample a beer, doesn’t mean you’re not required to transact with a server. There were very few issues with overconsumption last year, and we don’t anticipate we’ll have issues this year. With that said, we must stress that anyone visibly intoxicated cannot legally be served.
3. The price: We understand $120 may be pricey but this is a very expensive festival to run. To say nothing of other expenses, the cost of importing beer specific to this festival is enormous. Last year the average person spent $105 on tickets and tokens (not including retail sales). We sold 650 tickets per session in 2017 and we didn’t cover our costs.
In an effort to make Witchstock a sustainable event we had to make some choices: increase price and increase attendance minimally, or significantly increase attendance and keep prices low. We chose to increase the ticket price, increase the number of international breweries attending, and add additional festival space in order to improve the experience. Of the other Canadian and International festivals we’ve participated in in the past year that follow the same format as Witchstock, ticket prices have ranged from $100 - $175 CAD.
4. Session length: Following the same format as last year, early entrance will begin 45 minutes before the session starts. This year’s early entrance will give all attendees access to a section of 18 Ontario brewers pouring some of their favourite beers. Early entrance means each session is 3 hours and 45 mins.
5. Capacity: Last year there was more than enough space for people to roam, and lineups (with the exception for tokens) were rarely an issue. This year, in addition to inside the brewery, we’ve added a large licensed area on the side of the brewery, and a tent across the entire back parking lot, which means we’re covered rain or shine. With the additional square footage we could theoretically sell 1,500 tickets per session, but we’ve all been to overcrowded festivals and they’re not fun. Our goal is to preserve the density and feel of last year’s event.
Tickets sales have already met our expectations for this year’s event, but are not sold out. We thank those of you who have purchased for the support and we're looking forward to seeing you all at Witchstock! Our goal is always to improve, and we’re confident those who attend this year’s festival will be extremely happy with the experience.