was successfully added to your cart.


Great Nebraska Beer Fest program: Behind the Scenes

By September 5, 2012Events
GNBF layouts with notes
Panoramic view at The Great Nebraska Beerfest

Panoramic view at The Great Nebraska Beerfest

For the last four years Nebraska Brewing Company has put on an excellent craft beer festival in Papillion, NE (a suburb of Omaha). The Great Nebraska Beer Fest has grown each year from 20 breweries the first year to over 80 this year. Maria and I had the pleasure of getting to know the owner’s and brewers quite well and attended last year’s event as sponsors when Maria loaned her DJ speakers to the seminar tent. The event was great and we had a blast.

Every year they try to make it better and once again Maria and I wanted to help out. As designers we thought the event program could use a little visual organization to help fest goers learn about the event and find the various breweries easier. We have been to our fair share of beer fests over the last two years and had a good idea of what an attendee need from a program.

Here is a behind the scenes look at the process we went through to design the 2012 Great Nebraska Beer Fest program:


Programs from various beer fests we have attended in the last two years.

Reference material.

Audience: We looked at the different types of people who would attend this event. There are a good amount of attendees that have been to previous beer fests and thus have a good idea of what to expect in terms of tasting beer, process for getting samples, pacing themselves, and knowing the types of beer styles they like and don’t like. We fall into this category and use an event program as a reference tool to: locate a specific brewery, find the ABV/IBU of a beer, learn more about the beers while waiting in line.

A growing beer fest should also have a good number of first time festers. These attendees don’t know what to expect and will be more likely to look at the program as an educational tool. They are looking for things like the background/history of this beer fest, how the tastings are structured, what to look for when choosing a sample, and learning about the different breweries in attendance.

Therefore we wanted to design a program that was both educational and easy to scan when looking up reference information. After looking through our collection of programs we found some things that we liked and some that we didn’t:

  • Big titles making it easier to scan
  • Easy to find/read map
  • Logos accompanying the brewery name


Lumped together text
  • Lack of ABV and IBU information
  • Hard to find brewery descriptions

With these elements identified we were ready to start experimenting with different layout concepts.


Some sketches for the GNBF program layout.

Some sketches for the GNBF program layout.

We started by sketching out ideas for how we could organize the brewery and beer information including calling out the ABV and IBU’s. Some of the ideas ended up putting too much emphasis on the ABV/IBU values and distracted from the description. We decided to use a unique style for this information but not make it bigger than the base text.

We also wanted to incorporate some sort of rating system that would allow an attendee to keep track of what they had sampled and record their thoughts about them. We tried a couple of options including a 1-100 rating score, smiley/frowny faces, 4 stars system, and even a simple check-box. In the end we used a check box concept on the main map to mark brewery tenst visited, but went with a more ambiguous system for taking notes on specific beers that allowed a attendee to create their own system. We provided examples and space for notes, but the attendee could mark it however they wanted.

Another we looked at was making the notes on how to taste beer more engaging, so we added some illustrations to grab the eye and educate new fest goers on things to look for when tasting craft beer such, as: color, smell, and the different flavors to look for.


Laying out the 2012 GNBF program.

Left: Creating a gridded layout helps keep elements consistent.
Right: Have to have a beer while working on beer program.

All of the breweries had varying levels of information. Some had long beer descriptions, some were short, some were bringing 10 beers, some were bringing 2, some didn’t have beer descriptions at all. This meant that the information wasn’t going be a standard size for each entry. Therefore we needed to create a system that would be consistent in style but flexible in it’s form. Last years program was an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper folded long ways so we started with that as our basis, but quickly realized we could fit more information on each page by switching to a layout that was folded the other way. We also decided to use Helvetica Neue LT Std typeface as our base font to keep the lay out clean and easily scannable as well as to help maximize space.

GNBF layouts with notes

The note taking areas of the program were designed to be flexible.

Once we had a good idea of the informational hierarchy we wanted, we had to figure the grid system for the book. Maria set up our layouts on the computer and we slowly filled in content as it came in. When we had the content in place, we made some adjustments like: decreasing the logo from a half width image to a quarter width, adding the note box for beer grading, putting beers descriptions into a two column layout instead of one full width column.

We went back and hand adjusted each page so that the beers fit perfectly into the grid so we wouldn’t break up listings onto separate pages. Finishing touches included laying out the cover art and adding the sponsors section. After that it was off the the printers. For those who couldn’t attend the event here is the finished product:


What do think? Anything we missed or you would like to see from a beer fest program?

Author Brian

More posts by Brian

Leave a Reply